Gaudete Academy's 2012 production
When we think of Midsummer Night’s Dream, our first thoughts are often of lovers running helter-skelter, falling in and out of love; fairies making mischief for the mortals; some guy with a donkey’s head, and another guy in a dress. All of this miraculously combines to make one of Shakespeare’s most enduring and endearing comedies. But while our heads are full of the coolest way to apply glitter to a fairy’s face (or how to remove that glitter three months later), we forget what the play is about.
Many recent production of Midsummer’s tend to focus on the ridiculous nature of the play. One director’s note even blatantly stated that the play had no content at all! But Shakespeare, even in his early comedies, never wrote without a purpose. There are many meanings in Midsummer’s, not the least of which is the nature of love—from puppy love to bad romances to the nuptial bed.
And Shakespeare wraps all of these ruminations on what love isn’t and what love is in a dream.
This is not insignificant. Dreams aren’t just nonsense—although that one about the Cheese Man might be—rather they’re our subconscious working out of the difficulty part of our dreams. No wonder, then, that the young lovers (who barely know themselves, let alone whom they love!) shift their allegiances continually. No wonder, then, that Bottom who thinks so highly of himself dreams that he’s beloved of a Queen.
But we should probably remember this, too:
Do wish that your wildest dream can come true
But never forget—nightmares are dreams, too.
Suddenly a guy running around with an ass’ head makes a lot more sense, huh? As does the continual actor’s nightmare that the Rude Mechanicals experience, and the fickle love that the lovers’ express. Where, then, can we find any waking sanity? Shakespeare gives us the reunited King and Queen of the Fairies, Oberon and Titania to represent the war of the sexes…and the reconciliation, too. And for our purposes, Quince will help Flute/Thisbe’s waking nightmare at the end of Pyramus and Thisbe.
Because one of the best things about a dream is that you always wake up.