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He found the work to be "a delightful fiction"  but when staged, it is reduced to a dull pantomime. He concluded that poetry and the stage do not fit together. She notes that prior to the s, all stage productions of this play were adaptations unfaithful to the original text.
In —, Samuel Taylor Coleridge made two points of criticism about this play. The first was that the entire play should be seen as a dream. Second, that Helena is guilty of "ungrateful treachery" to Hermia. He thought that this was a reflection of the lack of principles in women, who are more likely to follow their own passions and inclinations than men. Women, in his view, feel less abhorrence for moral evil , though they are concerned with its outward consequences.
Coleridge was probably the earliest critic to introduce gender issues to the analysis of this play. Kehler dismisses his views on Helena as indications of Coleridge's own misogyny , rather than genuine reflections of Helena's morality. In , William Maginn produced essays on the play. He turned his attention to Theseus' speech about "the lunatic, the lover, and the poet" [a] and to Hippolyta's response to it.
He regarded Theseus as the voice of Shakespeare himself and the speech as a call for imaginative audiences. He also viewed Bottom as a lucky man on whom Fortune showered favours beyond measure. He was particularly amused by the way Bottom reacts to the love of the fairy queen: Maginn argued that "Theseus would have bent in reverent awe before Titania.
Bottom treats her as carelessly as if she were the wench of the next-door tapster. He viewed Oberon as angry with the "caprices"  of his queen, but unable to anticipate that her charmed affections would be reserved for a weaver with a donkey's head. In , the philosopher Hermann Ulrici wrote that the play and its depiction of human life reflected the views of Platonism.
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In his view, Shakespeare implied that human life is nothing but a dream, suggesting influence from Plato and his followers who thought human reality is deprived of all genuine existence. Ulrici noted the way Theseus and Hippolyta behave here, like ordinary people. He agreed with Malone that this did not fit their stations in life, but viewed this behaviour as an indication of parody about class differences.
In , Charles Knight also wrote about the play and its apparent lack of proper social stratification. He thought that this play indicated Shakespeare's maturity as a playwright, and that its "Thesean harmony"  reflects proper decorum of character. He also viewed Bottom as the best-drawn character, with his self-confidence, authority, and self-love. He argued that Bottom stands as a representative of the whole human race. Like Hazlitt he felt that the work is best appreciated when read as a text, rather than acted on stage.
He found the writing to be "subtle and ethereal", and standing above literary criticism and its reductive reasoning. Also in , Georg Gottfried Gervinus wrote extensively about the play. He denied the theory that this play should be seen as a dream. He argued that it should be seen as an ethical construct and an allegory. He thought that it was an allegorical depiction of the errors of sensual love, which is likened to a dream. In his view, Hermia lacks in filial obedience and acts as if devoid of conscience when she runs away with Lysander.
Lysander is also guilty for disobeying and mocking his prospective father-in-law. Pyramus and Thisbe also lack in filial obedience, since they "woo by moonlight"  behind their parents' backs. The fairies, in his view, should be seen as "personified dream gods". Gervinus also wrote on where the fairyland of the play is located. Not in Attica , but in the Indies.
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His views on the Indies seem to Kehler to be influenced by Orientalism. He speaks of the Indies as scented with the aroma of flowers and as the place where mortals live in the state of a half-dream. Gervinus denies and devalues the loyalty of Titania to her friend. He views this supposed friendship as not grounded in spiritual association.
Titania merely "delight in her beauty, her 'swimming gait,' and her powers of imitation". In her resentment, Titania seeks separation from him, which Gervinus blames her for. Gervinus wrote with elitist disdain about the mechanicals of the play and their acting aspirations. He described them as homely creatures with "hard hands and thick heads".
They are not real artists. Gervinus reserves his praise and respect only for Theseus, who he thinks represents the intellectual man. Like several of his predecessors, Gervinus thought that this work should be read as a text and not acted on stage. In , Charles Cowden Clarke also wrote on this play. Kehler notes he was the husband of famous Shakespearean scholar Mary Cowden Clarke. Charles was more appreciative of the lower-class mechanicals of the play. He commented favourably on their individualisation and their collective richness of character.
He thought that Bottom was conceited but good natured, and shows a considerable store of imagination in his interaction with the representatives of the fairy world. He also argued that Bottom's conceit was a quality inseparable from his secondary profession, that of an actor. In , Henry N.
A Midsummer Night's Dream - Wikipedia
Hudson, an American clergyman and editor of Shakespeare, also wrote comments on this play. Kehler pays little attention to his writings, as they were largely derivative of previous works. She notes, however, that Hudson too believed that the play should be viewed as a dream. He cited the lightness of the characterisation as supporting of his view.
He also argued that Theseus was one of the "heroic men of action"  so central to Shakespeare's theatrical works. Clapp and Horace Howard Furness were both more concerned with the problem of the play's duration, though they held opposing views. He also viewed the play as representing three phases or movements. The first is the Real World of the play, which represents reason. The second is the Fairy World, an ideal world which represents imagination and the supernatural. The third is their representation in art, where the action is self-reflective.
Snider viewed Titania and her caprice as solely to blame for her marital strife with Oberon. She therefore deserves punishment, and Oberon is a dutiful husband who provides her with one. For failing to live in peace with Oberon and her kind, Titania is sentenced to fall in love with a human.
And this human, unlike Oberon is a "horrid brute". Towards the end of the 19th century, Georg Brandes —6 and Frederick S. Boas were the last major additions to A Midsummer Night's Dream criticism. To Boas the play is, despite its fantastical and exotic trappings, "essentially English and Elizabethan". Summing up their contributions, Kehler writes: The 20th century brought new insights into the play. In , Elizabeth Sewell argued that Shakespeare aligns himself not with the aristocrats of the play, but with Bottom and the artisans. It is their task to produce a wedding entertainment, precisely the purpose of the writer on working in this play.
He counted among them fantasy, blind love, and divine love. He traced these themes to the works of Macrobius , Apuleius , and Giordano Bruno. Bottom also briefly alludes to a passage from the First Epistle to the Corinthians by Paul the Apostle , dealing with divine love. Dent argued against theories that the exemplary model of love in the play is the rational love of Theseus and Hippolyta.
He argued that in this work, love is inexplicable. It is the offspring of imagination, not reason. However the exemplary love of the play is one of an imagination controlled and restrained, and avoids the excesses of "dotage". Dent also denied the rationality and wisdom typically attributed to Theseus.
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He reminded his readers that this is the character of Theseus from Greek mythology , a creation himself of "antique fable". He can't tell the difference between an actual play and its interlude. The interlude of the play's acting troop is less about the art and more of an expression of the mechanicals' distrust of their own audience. They fear the audience reactions will be either excessive or inadequate, and say so on stage. Theseus fails to get the message. Also in , Jan Kott offered his own views on the play.
He viewed as main themes of the play violence and "unrepressed animalistic sexuality". The changeling that Oberon desires is his new "sexual toy". As for the Athenian lovers following their night in the forest, they are ashamed to talk about it because that night liberated them from themselves and social norms, and allowed them to reveal their real selves.
In , John A. Allen theorised that Bottom is a symbol of the animalistic aspect of humanity. He also thought Bottom was redeemed through the maternal tenderness of Titania, which allowed him to understand the love and self-sacrifice of Pyramus and Thisbe. He emphasised the "terrifying power"  of the fairies and argued that they control the play's events.
They are the most powerful figures featured, not Theseus as often thought. He also emphasised the ethically ambivalent characters of the play. Finally, Fender noted a layer of complexity in the play. Theseus, Hippolyta, and Bottom have contradictory reactions to the events of the night, and each has partly valid reasons for their reactions, implying that the puzzles offered to the play's audience can have no singular answer or meaning.
In , Michael Taylor argued that previous critics offered a too cheerful view of what the play depicts. He emphasised the less pleasant aspects of the otherwise appealing fairies and the nastiness of the mortal Demetrius prior to his enchantment. He argued that the overall themes are the often painful aspects of love and the pettiness of people, which here include the fairies.
Zimbardo viewed the play as full of symbols. The Moon and its phases alluded to in the play, in his view, stand for permanence in mutability. The play uses the principle of discordia concors in several of its key scenes. Theseus and Hippolyta represent marriage and, symbolically, the reconciliation of the natural seasons or the phases of time. Hippolyta's story arc is that she must submit to Theseus and become a matron.
Titania has to give up her motherly obsession with the changeling boy and passes through a symbolic death, and Oberon has to once again woo and win his wife. Kehler notes that Zimbardo took for granted the female subordination within the obligatory marriage, social views that were already challenged in the s. In , James L. Calderwood offered a new view on the role of Oberon.
He viewed the king as specialising in the arts of illusion. Oberon, in his view, is the interior dramatist of the play, orchestrating events. He is responsible for the play's happy ending, when he influences Theseus to overrule Egeus and allow the lovers to marry. Oberon and Theseus bring harmony out of discord.
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He also suggested that the lovers' identities, which are blurred and lost in the forest, recall the unstable identities of the actors who constantly change roles. In fact the failure of the artisans' play is based on their chief flaw as actors: Also in , Andrew D. Weiner argued that the play's actual theme is unity. The poet's imagination creates unity by giving form to diverse elements, and the writer is addressing the spectator's own imagination which also creates and perceives unity.
Weiner connected this unity to the concept of uniformity, and in turn viewed this as Shakespeare's allusion to the "eternal truths"  of Platonism and Christianity. Also writing in , Hugh M. Richmond offered an entirely new view of the play's love story lines. He argued that what passes for love in this play is actually a self-destructive expression of passion. He argued that the play's significant characters are all affected by passion and by a sadomasochistic type of sexuality. This passion prevents the lovers from genuinely communicating with each other.
At the same time it protects them from the disenchantment with the love interest that communication inevitably brings. The exception to the rule is Bottom, who is chiefly devoted to himself. His own egotism protects him from feeling passion for anyone else. Richmond also noted that there are parallels between the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe , featured in this play, and that of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. In , Ralph Berry argued that Shakespeare was chiefly concerned with epistemology in this play.
The lovers declare illusion to be reality, the actors declare reality to be illusion. The play ultimately reconciles the seemingly opposing views and vindicates imagination. The mood is so lovely that the audience never feels fear or worry about the fate of the characters. In , Marjorie Garber argued that metamorphosis is both the major subject of the play and the model of its structure. She noted that in this play, the entry in the woods is a dream-like change in perception, a change which affects both the characters and the audience.
Dreams here take priority over reason, and are truer than the reality they seek to interpret and transform. He was certain that there are grimmer elements in the play, but they are overlooked because the audience focuses on the story of the sympathetic young lovers. He viewed the characters as separated into four groups which interact in various ways.
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Among the four, the fairies stand as the most sophisticated and unconstrained. The contrasts between the interacting groups produce the play's comic perspective. In , Ronald F. Miller expresses his view that the play is a study in the epistemology of imagination. He focused on the role of the fairies, who have a mysterious aura of evanescence and ambiguity.
He in part refuted the ideas of Jan Kott concerning the sexuality of Oberon and the fairies. He pointed that Oberon may be bisexual and his desire for the changeling boy may be sexual in nature, as Kott suggested. But there is little textual evidence to support this, as the writer left ambiguous clues concerning the idea of love among the fairies. He concluded that therefore their love life is "unknowable and incomprehensible". It is the tension between the dark and benevolent sides of love, which are reconciled in the end.
Lamb suggested that the play may have borrowed an aspect of the ancient myth of Theseus: The woods of the play serve as a metaphorical labyrinth, and for Elizabethans the woods were often an allegory of sexual sin. The lovers in the woods conquer irrational passion and find their way back. Bottom with his animal head becomes a comical version of the Minotaur. Bottom also becomes Ariadne's thread which guides the lovers. In having the new Minotaur rescue rather than threaten the lovers, the classical myth is comically inverted.
Theseus himself is the bridegroom of the play who has left the labyrinth and promiscuity behind, having conquered his passion. The artisans may stand in for the master craftsman of the myth, and builder of the Labyrinth, Daedalus. Even Theseus' best known speech in the play, which connects the poet with the lunatic and the lover may be another metaphor of the lover.
It is a challenge for the poet to confront the irrationality he shares with lovers and lunatics, accepting the risks of entering the labyrinth. Also in , Harold F. Brooks agreed that the main theme of the play, its very heart, is desire and its culmination in marriage. All other subjects are of lesser importance, including that of imagination and that of appearance and reality. She argued that the play is about traditional rites of passage , which trigger development within the individual and society. Theseus has detached himself from imagination and rules Athens harshly.
The lovers flee from the structure of his society to the communitas of the woods. The woods serve here as the communitas , a temporary aggregate for persons whose asocial desires require accommodation to preserve the health of society. We create unique experiences for individuals and every group to be cherished for years. Let us help with private itineraries, vendor resources, site selection, transportation, dining and more!
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