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Transcript: My favourite read — a classic comedy
I’ve chosen Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream as my favourite book. Perhaps I’m to bend the rulesdie Regeln umgehenbending the rules here: it is, after all, a play. It’s good to read Shakespeare’s plays, but even better to see them performed on stage — if the pandemic ever allows it.
This five-act comedy is set in Athens and a nearby forest. Shakespeare’s forests can be fun, chaotic, dangerous, magical or a combination of these — but they’re never boring.
This time, it’s a busy forest, with three groups of characters. First, the lovers: Lysander and Hermia have escaped to the forest from Athens; Demetrius, the man whom Hermia’s father has ordered her to marry, has followed Lysander and Hermia to prevent them from marrying; and Helena, who’s hopelessly in love with Demetrius, but absolutely miserableunglücklichmiserable because he’s in love with her lifelong friend, Hermia. It’s complicated — or, as Lysander puts it: “The course of true love never did run smooth.”
Also in the forest are six workmen to rehearseprobenrehearsing a play they hope to perform at the wedding of the dukeHerzogDuke of Athens. One of the men stands out from the rest: Bottom, a weaverWeber(in)weaver and a good-hearted show-off (ifml.)Angeber(in)show-off who likes to be permanently centre stageim Mittelpunktcentre stage.
The forest is also full of fairies, including Oberon, the king of the fairyElf, Elfefairies, and Puck, his mischievousverschmitzt, schelmischmischievous servantDiener(in)servant. Instead of helping the lovers, their magic makes them to quarrelstreiten, zankenquarrel by mistake.
Oberon has also quarrelled, with Titania, his fairy queen. He tells Puck to use magic that will make her fall in love with the first thing she sees when she wakes up — which happens to be Bottom. And thanks to Puck’s prankStreich, Schabernackpranks, Bottom now has the head of a donkeyEseldonkey.
Oops! In the end, all wrongs are put right and everyone returns to the city for a tripledreifachtriple wedding: the duke and his fiancéeVerlobtefiancée, Hermia and Lysander, Demetrius and Helena. They then settle down to watch the workmen perform their play. But because they’re terrible actors, the tragedy they’ve prepared quickly becomes a comedy — to the amusement of their audience.
When the characters are rudegrobrude to each other, it sometimes adds to the fun, especially when Hermia and Helena forget that they’re friends and to swapaustauschenswap ferociouswütend, wüstferocious insultBeleidigunginsults. There are darker moments, too, but by the end of the play, we’re left with a magical sense of well-being and a classic, 400-year-old happy ending.
There’s magic in the story and magic in the poetry. The lyrical language we hear from the fairies does as much to create our midsummer night’s dream as the twists and turnsüberraschende Wendungentwists and turns of the love stories.
Recently, the Bridge Theatre in London switched the roles of fairy king and queen so that Titania made Oberon fall in love with Bottom. Her affair with a donkey became his gay affair with a donkey. Wonderfully comic it was, too. Well, as it’s a dream during midsummer night, anything can happen.
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