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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

College Bound Reading List

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare is one of my favorite Shakespearean dramas. It’s a romantic comedy that features three interlocking plots connected by a wedding celebration, a woodland rendezvous under the light of the moon, and a nighttime realm inhabited by fairies.

To get the most enjoyment out of this play, you will have to suspend your disbelief with the understanding that magic and superstition were an important part of the Elizabethan view of life. Many people in Shakespeare’s day believed that mischievous fairies and evil creatures came out at night. An old Scottish prayer expresses a common fear of the time: “From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties, and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord deliver us.”

In this enchanting tale, Shakespeare was the first writer to portray the faerie folk as small, cute, and mischievous, but free from demonic qualities. Written around 1595, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” also contains some of Shakespeare’s most beautiful early poetry. “How now, spirit! whither wander you?” (Puck to Fairy) “Over hill, over dale, through bush, through brier, over park, over pale, through flood, through fire: I do wander everywhere, swifter than the moon’s sphere; and I serve the fairy queen, to dew her orbs upon the green.” (Fairy to Puck)

As typical of Shakespeare’s works, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” includes its share of mix-ups and misunderstandings, but everything turns out well in the end and it even includes a hilarious play-within-a-play. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is fun to read and it’s even more fun to watch if you ever have a chance to see it performed live on stage.

In 1826 Felix Mendelssohn composed an overture for concert performance that was inspired by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” In 1842, King Frederick William IV of Prussia commissioned Mendelssohn to write incidental music for a stage production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Among the pieces in the incidental music is the popular “Wedding March,” which is often used today as a wedding recessional.

Recommended Resources:

http://nfs.sparknotes.com/msnd/ (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” made easy with “No Fear Shakespeare” which puts Shakespeare’s language side-by-side with a modern English translation. It’s online and it’s FREE.)

http://www.sparknotes.com/shakespeare/msnd/quotes.html (FREE online SparkNotes Study Guide for “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”)

Did You Know…? The Shakespeare Made Easy series makes it easy to read and study Shakespearean plays! Each play is presented with Shakespeare’s original version on the left-hand page, accompanied by a full-length modern rendition on the right-hand page. All of Shakespeare’s original lines are complete and unabridged. Footnotes at the bottom of each page define Elizabethan terms, paraphrase meanings, explain puns and other expressions. Helpful background information places each play in its historical perspective, and other features improve student comprehension of what each play is about. These invaluable teaching-study guides also include quizzes and discussion questions to spark class participation, or to use as springboards for essays and term papers.

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