Shakespeare 2019 Week 3: The Play within a Play- All the World’s A Stage


Today we homed into this aspect of Shakespeare’s subversive and controversial writing. Shakespeare loves to dramatize the way in which we all spend so much of our energy play acting, both to ourselves and to others. Where is the real “me” we may all well ask- and Shakespeare seems to be challenging us with this question at all times.

So today we read and began to perform those sections of the play that present a stage world within the stage world of the play. Quince, Bottom, Snug and the rest hamming up a performance which mirrors ironically the world in front of which they are performing.

Before we started on the play itself today we looked at poems by Mary Wroth and Thomas Wyatt who thematically (from both ends of the 16th Century) expressed their sense of the pain of love.

So please listen in to our talks and discussion on these topics. And find here also the slides we used for our talk:

Lecture Week 3

Find also the white board images below (click to enlarge) and scroll to the bottom of this blog for New Blog Topics for this week. 


For your interest, I worked with Clemente students a few years back and with them put on a performance of scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream which included the play within a play section. We had a write up in the Sydney Morning Herald for the performance. Unfortunately the picture that went with the article is no longer available. But here is the article itself on the performance:

THEY call it “the University of the Homeless and Marginalised”.

Yesterday, eight people who have dealt with the hell of homelessness performed a dramatised reading from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Mission Australia Centre in Surry Hills – the first graduates of a 13-week course in English and Australian literature, endorsed by the Australian Catholic University.

For Anissa Chatt, who played Bottom in the celebrated “wall scene”, the reading had poetic symbolism. Like her fellow “actors”, she knows what it is like to hit rock bottom – to have been homeless and face the wall of public indifference.

“There’s generally a sentiment out there that if someone is homeless, it must be their fault,” explained Chatt, 24. “There must be something wrong with them. They can’t be intelligent people. They can’t have anything to contribute to the community.

“Pretty much everyone I’ve met on this course does have something to contribute. They’ve got brains and this is their chance to show it.”

Chatt is not what most would associate with homelessness. Articulate and funny, she attended St Scholastica’s College in Glebe and has held corporate jobs. But she has been homeless twice, first as a schoolgirl when she left home after “a family breakdown” and more recently when it was confirmed she has a congenital immunological disorder.

But if Chatt is not “typical”, neither were her fellow students. Fifteen started the course, taught by the university’s Professor Michael Griffith, based on an American model. There were refugees, chronic gamblers, victims of domestic violence or sexual abuse, drug and alcohol addicts. Seven dropped out.

Those who survived studied texts by Patrick White, W.B. Yeats, and Tim Winton for 12 weeks before a final week preparing for yesterday’s reading under the eye of professional actor and director John Gibson, who has worked at the centre for the past year teaching performing arts to the homeless. “[All] these people have … faced their own dramas, some of which are horrific. What this course has done is give them a sense of dignity”.

New Blog Questions- week 3:


1/ Use either Mary Wroth’s song “Love what art thou?”  or/and Thomas Wyatt’s “My galley” to write your own poem about the pain of love (It Hurts!).


2/ You all now have a taste of Bottom. Write a brief sketch of a situation in which a character like Bottom tries to take control of all the events… and describe how you try to deal with him.


3/ Watch two versions of the play within a play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and write a brief critical appraisal of which version you like best.


4/ From all you are hearing about Shakespeare, what kind of person do you imagine him to be? Write a brief paragraph on this topic.


5/ How many productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream have there been in Sydney during the last 10 years. Can you find any really interesting reviews on what kind of audience reaction there has been to any of these productions.


6/ Create a mini-digital kit that will provide us all with some useful resources for studying A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Annotate the resources you chose saying why you think they will help our understanding.


7/ Create a topic of your own- either critical or creative.


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