Introduction to Shakespeare

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Introduction to
Shakespeare and
A Midsummer
Night’s Dream
William Shakespeare
Born 1564, died 1616
Lived during the Renaissance (cultural “rebirth”)
Patrons: Queen Elizabeth I, then King James I
Left family in Stratford-on-Avon & went to London
to make a living as actor, poet, playwright
Married Anne Hathaway and had 3 children:
Susanna, Hamnet (died age 11) and Judith
Wrote 37 plays and over 150 sonnets (poems)
The Globe Theatre
Built in 1599, burned down in 1613,
rebuilt in 1614, closed in 1642
by the Puritans.
Shakespeare’s most famous plays
premiered here.
Built across the river from London
proper - outside city limits.
Open air, daytime performances.
Flag flew on performance days.
Inside the Theater
EVERYONE came, from
nobles to “groundlings”
People came to “hear” a
play
emphasis on
language
No curtain
Minimal set and props
Acting was not a
respected profession
Men played all parts
Repertory - same
group of actors
Othello:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUKGesWwT6
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Set up for Midsummer:
Genres and Conventions
Types of plays
Comedies
Tragedies
Histories
Structure:
Divided into five acts
Written mostly in verse (poetry)
Minimal stage directions
Tragedies and Comedies
Tragedy
Comedy
Named after hero of high
birth (royal or
aristocratic)
Hero has a tragic flaw
Ends in death
No title characters, can
be high or low born
Mistaken identities, mixed
up plans, chaos
Ends in marriage
A Midsummer Night’s Dream was
written c. 1594, early in Will’s career
On “Midsummer Night” ….
Fairies and sprites were especially powerful
People had especially vivid dreams
People were more susceptible to both love and insanity
(perhaps because love was considered a form of insanity!)
“Dream” could mean
A fantasy
A nightmare
The work of fairies
A way to work through problems
Four Groups of Characters
Rulers
Four Lovers
Mechanicals (Common Working
Men)
Fairies
Their lives intersect - chaos
ensues.
Two Worlds
Athens
Ruled by Theseus
Daytime
Order
Reason
Law
Symmetry
Magic Forest
Ruled by Fairies
Nighttime
Chaos
Passion
Anarchy
Asymmetry
9
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