A Midsummer Night’s Dream- performance rehearsal & Shakespeare Sonnets 18, 65 & 73

Hi All,

Scroll to the bottom of this blog for audio files for today’s tutorials and lecture (which was mainly a workshop).

But before you go there, please listen to this amazing discussion about the nature of BEAUTY- a topic so close to Shakespeare’s heart- here spoken about by the late Irish poet John O’Donoghue. Don’t miss this recording- it is amazing:

John O’Donohue — The Inner Landscape of Beauty from On Being with Krista Tippett in Podcasts. https://itunes.apple.com/au/podcast/on-being-with-krista-tippett/id150892556?mt=2&i=1000348956762


Here is a transcript of this discussion:


We had a wonderful (if somewhat disorganised) rehearsal of Peter Quince’s play-within-a play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The disorganisation actually amplified the humour and the intention behind the performance. We discussed at length why Shakespeare actually includes such plays within his plays, as a metaphor, perhaps, of one of his core ideas that All the World’s a Stage and We are Merely Players….  There are in fact many levels of meaning behind this concept ranging from a satire on contemporary drama (Shakespeare was spoofing contemporary bad theatricals!) through to philosophical reflections on the nature of heroism and its negative impact on true love (Antony and Cleopatra, Romeo and Juliet, Troilus and Cressida, Othello, Hamlet…. ).

For more wise words on this fathomless topic please see the following link:


Here also is a good focussed summary answer to the question on what is the significance of the play within the play in MND? This answer can be found in eNotes.com on MND:

Shakespeare used the “play within a play” conceit a number of times in his plays, including the tragedy of Hamlet. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the play within a play is Pyramus and Thisbe, performed for the wedding parties at the play’s end. Though the play is a tragedy from Greek mythology about two doomed lovers, the production in Shakespeare’s romantic comedy ends up being a farce and is usually performed with a great deal of physical and visual comedy. The significance of the tragic love story being played for laughs is to emphasize the happy ending of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which several pairs of lovers encounter challenges to their relationships but overcome them through devotion and good humor. Also, the play within the play calls attention to itself as a form of artifice, the “rude mechanicals” that show theatre’s artificial constructs and tricks, and audiences are engaged in watching the play’s characters play an audience watching a play: a form of “metadrama” but also an intriguing way of breaking the fourth wall said to separate the audience from the world of the play.

Lecture on MND; 2 Tutorials on Sonnets 16, 65 & 73


Further Blog Topics for Week 9:

CRITICAL: Write a short review of the play within a play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream that you experienced in class today. Be polite to the actors and try to explain what you think the function is of this comic episode at the end of the play.

CRITICAL: Write a short exposition of any one of the sonnets we studied in class today. Say what you think Shakespeare is trying to express and whether what he is saying still has relevance to our own times.

CREATIVE: Try to write a Shakespearean sonnet using the exact form of one of the sonnets we have studied today, but using references to contemporary 21st Century people, places and events.

CREATIVE: Write a paragraph that describes vividly three of things that for you fall in the category of BEAUTY. In other words, say what for you is BEAUTY. (This topic of course relates closely to Shakespeare’s ideas in his sonnet 65).




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