So far, in the last year and a half, I have read 15 of the Arden Shakespeare Collection and 'A Midsummer's Night's Dream' has the worst introduction of them all. The writer spends so much time with the history of the play's productions that the work itself suffers. In an introduction the work is the key, not its history. Analysis of plot, character development, metaphysics, key phrases, the characters' relationships to one another and to the text, motives, etc, are crucial, for me, before I read the play. I have nor seen that many of Shakespeare's plays, but I find reading them rewarding and exciting. But first, before I get started reading the text, I need a warm-up that smoothes me into the play. The writer of this intro, Chaudhuri, holds the key components of Dream at a distance, while going on and on about where it was produced, who produced it, the actors who played certain characters, its translation into movies, TV, opera, while staying completely away from the text. I want to know about the characters in the play and their interrelationships with one another, an analysis of crucial scenes and how they move the plot forward, how key phrases reveal the inner depths of the characters' motives; in short, a body of knowledge that helps me along as I read the play. Its production history should be in the last few pages of the introduction, not take up more than half of it. I have gone ahead with the reading of Dream without the aid of a good intro and it is moving along nicely but an in-depth intro would have been so helpful.
No descriptions, no images, nothing. And nevertheless the visual impact is powerful. I can almost see the virgin nature, feel the warmth of the season, a primal age in which you can rest outside. Shakespeare succeed in represent a distant time, so distant that we can almost touch in friendship the old pagan divinities and spirits of nature.
In a forest, unbeknownst to a company of actors and to fugitive lovers, their destiny is woven along the conflicts of Oberon with Titania, sovereigns of the fairies. They have traveled to that forest close to Athens to be at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. Where another writer had been tempted to tell the story of Theseus, Shakespeare instead presents another totally different and unforgettable tale in the borders of myth. Through magic and confusion, askewed love is tried to be straightened; but in the way to it instead get funnily misshapen. The image of a queen treating a donkey as a king is so delicious xD
When the day arrives the story changes a bit. I felt like it was not needed, maybe it is a matter of comparison to the night, making it less strong. Or maybe I have to read it again. But sure enough this is a great book (I'd not see it in theater, to be honest I don't like that art) Shakespeare is a genius indeed, one that makes me happy to know enough English to read him.
The AmazonClassics edition is limpid. There is X-Ray to be sure about the characters; and not footnotes nor prologues to bother the readers. What to me is of the uttermost importance for the work of a genius for whom his plays were meant, among many qualities, to entertain the public.
When looking at classics this is one of the first one many people read. And for good reason. Shakespeare wrote a great tale of a love triangle, a fun-loving fae, and fae-king in love, and one night of errors ending well. Although I'm of the opinion that what happens off-page is a little dirtier than what happens on page :-P
I know a lot of people who started with Romeo and Juliet and got turned off... I wish they'd give it another shot. This play is fantastic.
Re-reading the play this time, I couldn't stop thinking of of The Magic Flute.
Like Mozart's opera, Shakespeare's play may have a silly plot composed of fanciful, seemingly arbitrary elements, yet, through the power of absolute artistic mastery, the framework of what might otherwise be nothing but a second-rate masque is transformed, by the unwearied attention of genius--and in Shakespeare's case, sublime poetry--into a work of great resonance, an archetypal myth.
Bough this Calla edition of "A Midsummer Night's Dream"... twice -- first time, upon opening the book the binding that holds the pages became unglued from the spine -- completely -- returned and tried another and the same thing -- quite disappointed as you can imagine...but I figure that after two exact same defects, must be a production/batch issue.
5 stars for paper material, illustrations, as Calla editions deliver in this department -- the problem would be with the binding/construction which gets a 1 star -- maybe they didn't actually try to open their books to see how the spines perform?
I've checked other Calla editions and this issue seems limited to this title & also "A House of Pomegranates" -- beware of this potential issue if ordering these two books.