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Choisya
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Re: (Possible Spoiler) A psychological interpretation of the themes.

I guess anything we do not agree with, have not previously heard of or do not care to acknowledge, can be classed as 'babble'. 'Oedipalised' is a neologism commonly used by psychologists, psychoanalysts and others. Pre-oedipal here means innocent, 'before the fall' as it were - before the age/stage of psychosexual awareness, which fairies are generally associated with. In MND fairies are juxtaposed with the post-oedipal (oedipalised) world of adult humans. We can, of course, if we wish, think of the fairies as like adult humans with human desires but I think that many people would associate them more with innocence and give them child-like qualities.

You will find various reputable Minoan scholars here:-

http://www.sacred-texts.com/cla/moc/moc13.htm

There are several Caves of the Fairies in Crete (Chania, Omalos), centre of the Minoan Culture and these have links with both Greek and Celtic culture. Like the Minoan, the Celtic culture is matricentric and is thought to have reached Northern Europe via Greece and central Europe around 500BC. Livy writes about the Celts in Etruria. From the website article:

'Additionally in modern Greece 'the memory of the spirit groups still survives. Nymphs and Nereids haunt mountains and valleys, oceans and streams, and are ruled over by the "Queen of the mountains", the "Queen of the shore", or primitive forms of the owl-headed Athene or the beautiful and blood-thirsty Artemis. They are, in short, exceedingly like our fairies, who obey the commands of Queen Mab. Some of the Celtic goddesses exist in groups:

"Proximæ (the kinswomen); Dervonæ (the oak spirits); Niskai (the water spirits); Mairæ, Matronæ, Matres or Matræ (the mothers); Quadriviæ (the goddesses; of cross-roads). The Matræs, Matræ, and Matronæ are often qualified by some local name. Deities of this type appear to have been popular in Britain, in the neighbourhood of Cologne, and in Province. . . . In some parts of Wales 'Y Mamau' (the mothers) is the name for the fairies." 1 The "seven Hathors" of Egypt who presided at birth were similarly "mothers" and "fates". The "Golden Aphrodite" of Greece was chief of the "deathless fates". Demeter's priestesses, the earthly representatives of her nymphs, conducted a religious ceremony at weddings, as a Cos inscription shows. 2 Fairies in our folk-tales are so fond of pretty children that they endeavour to steal them, and, when they are successful, substitute changelings. The Greek Nereids have, according to modern folk-belief, similar propensities.'







Everyman wrote:
That is just the sort of psychobabble that I have come to expect from Psychology Today.

To link an "oedipalized" (a non-word, that) world with traditional marital desire is to misunderstand one (or both) concepts.

I know of no reputable Minoan scholar who posits that the Minoan culture had any concept of fairies, so what is the legitimacy of writing of "the transformative fairyland, which can be read as both Celtic and Minoan"?

And who is to say that fairy land is "pre-oedipal"? Why can't fairies, particularly Shakespearean fairies, have the same Oedipal desires that humans have?

But I appreciate the opportunity for a good belly laugh at the absurdity of some Shakespearean "analysis."


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Choisya
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Re: Act I: The Court : Escape into the surreal

Are they not all going into the forest to 'escape' though? And both forest and fairyland are good places to escape 'to seek new friends and stranger companies' (Act I:i). It also takes the audience out of the present and into an unknown, surreal, contrasting world. Everything is juxtaposed/contrasted in MND and the first contrast (motif) is that all these people start out to go to one place but for very different reasons.



Everyman wrote:
What I find interesting is that most of the people who go into the forest aren't going there because of anything particular about the forest other than that it isn't Athens. We can make conclusions about the difference between the forest and the city, but for completely different reasons.

Hermia and Lysander go there simply as a meeting place on their way to aunt's. Yes they are escaping the city, but they are intending to go to another residence, perhaps in some sort of town; they have no intention seeing the forest as anything other than a convenient meeting place.

Quince and friends are going to the forest to escape being overseen and overheard by groupies or paparazzi. They aren't leaving the city because of any concern with strict laws, confining circumstances, or anything of that sort; it's just a convenient private rehearsal area.

Helena and Demetrius go in pursuit of love. Demetrius would prefer that everybody stay in the city, because then he would have more of a chance of Hermia giving in and marrying him.

So it appears that whatever character we put on the forest is one that we are putting on it, not one that the human players are seeking from or in it.


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Choisya
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Re: Court versus the Woods : Escaping patriarchy

[ Edited ]
Yes Samantilles, and the woods also seeem to be a place where women can escape from patriarchal influence and own their own bodies under the 'Laws of Nature':

Hermia Act I:i:

'So will I grow, so live, so die my lord
Ere I will my virgin patent up
Unto his Lordship, whose unwished yoke
My soul contents not to give sovereignty'.

Hermia is given the right to choose with whom she wishes to share her body but the right lies only between her father and her husband - in both cases she becomes their property. If she refuses she must 'abjure for ever the society of men' and 'endure the livery of a nun...to live a barren sister all [her] life'. (Theseus ActI:i.)

Similarly, her father, Egeus, does not allow Hermia to love Lysander by her own choice but speaks as if Lysander has stolen her love:

'Thou hast by moonlight at her window sung
With feigning voice verses of feigning love
And stolen the impression of her fantasy'

So he begs

'...the ancient privelege of Athens,
As she is mine I may dispose of her:
Which either shall be to this gentleman [Demetrius]
Or to her death, according to our law..'

But she and Lysander flee to the woods [the Laws of Nature] 'and thence from Athens [patriarchy] turn away our eyes/To seek new friends and stranger companies'.

Will their sojourn in the woods change the ancient laws of patrimony or will Midsummer magic enable them to marry......Read on:smileyhappy:







samantilles wrote:
In addition to the comparision of Theseus's Court to the Forest as reality vs fantasy, I also see a direct comparision to the Laws of Man versus the Laws of Nature. Demitrius claims his right to Hermia based on his rank in society, a man-made and respected rank. Lysander claims his rank is just as good as Demitrius, and to top it off, he actually is in love with Hermia. But natural attraction has no worth in the law of man, only that of the rights of the patriarch, Hermia's father, Egeus. The Law of Man is determined to overrule the natrual attraction between Lysander and Hermia in the Court, and so the lovers must leave the court of man to pursue their love. The forest does not fall under the jurisdiction of man, and so the forces of love are the only law required. In the forest, a man is not determined by his rank in the city, nor a daughter required to adhere to the wishes of her father. All artificial worthiness is shed from the men. When the four enter the forests, which will reign supreme: the natural attractions of the lovers or the law of man?

Message Edited by Choisya on 02-08-200705:54 PM

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Re: (Possible Spoiler) A psychological interpretation of the themes.

First of all, Choisya, the post you are responding to was not criticizing you or anything you had said, but was entirely addressed to the author of the article and the article itself. I hope you did not take it personally.

As to your interpretation of the article, I have to say that it differs somewhat from mine on the following points.

I guess anything we do not agree with, have not previously heard of or do not care to acknowledge, can be classed as 'babble'.

Perhaps as you use the term, but not as I used it. I read many, many things daily that I have not previously heard of, agree with, or do not care to acknowledge, but virtually none of it would I classify as babble. I read an article just the other day arguing that bestiality which is non-harmful to the animal should not be a criminal activity, but should come under the personal privacy protections of the Constitution's liberty right, and while I had never contemplated the question before, prefer not to acknowledge the possible legitimacy of bestiality, and certainly disagree with the article, it was not babble at all, but a responsibly presented, rationally crafted argument. I reserve the term "babble" for writing which deserves the term (and indeed I am not averse to applying the term even to an argument that might agree with.)

'Oedipalised' is a neologism commonly used by psychologists, psychoanalysts and others

I am familiar, of course, with Oedipal, but the apparent invention Oedipalised is not in any dictionary I have been able to find, nor in the OED. I assume it means the state of being Oedipal, (though of course Freud completely slandered Oedipus in assigning his name to the complex). Do you find any of the characters in MND to qualify as clinically oedipal? I certainly don't.

Pre-oedipal here means innocent, 'before the fall' as it were

Pre-oedipal is not recognized in DSM-IV, so I don't know exactly what the accepted clinical definition of the condition is (assuming there is one), but your definition doesn't seem to coincide with the articles a quick search found.

"The case loads of contemporary psychotherapists consist primarily of persons suffering from so-called pre-oedipal psychopathology: borderline syndromes, schizoid phenomena or narcissistic character disorders." I would not personally have equated these conditions with innocence, nor with MND's fairies.

"A great deal of work has been done on describing the formal cause of pre-oedipal psychopathology. Although there is no agreement among the authors as to differential diagnosis and psychodynamics of these conditions, certain overall outlines of the formal cause are agreed upon.
"Persons suffering from pre-oedipal psychopathology generally are able to function quite well in their work life and in interpersonal relations which are not too intimate, and yet they are prey to attacks of intense oral rage which is directed against others or themselves. Their object relationships vacillate between superficiality and clinging dependency and manipulative demandingness. They have little tolerance for stress and are hypersensitive to criticism. They exhibit an outward calm, while inwardly feeling chaotic and inferior, especially with respect to persons in authority. They tend to suffer from any combination of two or more neurotic, seemingly psychotic, psychosomatic or sociopathic symptoms and they tend to complain of diffuse free-floating anxiety, of a pervasive sense of emptiness and of existential despair or of a vague feeling that things are not as they should be with them."

Again, I certainly don't see Shakespeare's fairies in this light. Do you?

There are several Caves of the Fairies in Crete

Those are, of course, the names that locals (sometimes not averse to the tourism benefits of such names) call the caves, but there is no indication I am aware of that the Minoans believed in fairies as we use the term. Some translators of Homer did use the term "fairy" to describe Calypso when Odysseus first came across her, but Calypso was not a character we would call a fairy.

The article you referred me to does refer to the nymphs and nereids of Greek mythology as "exceedingly like our fairies," but they have little in common with the fairies as Shakespeare presents them, and in any case those were Greek, not Minoan, quasi-deities.

Many in the "New Age" movement have adopted a belief in angels, fairies, and similar supernatural entities, and in many cases try to link those to the ancient civilizations, for reasons that are significant to them. But having scanned the website which you linked to, I do not find any reputable scholarly evidence that claims that the Minoans or Cretans believed in fairies as that term would have been understood in Shakespeare's day.

It is, I believe, quite important in looking at ancient cultures not to be misled by inept translations (such as, for instance, calling Calypso a fairy) or by trying to fit the beliefs of other cultures into our theological or philosophical frameworks. It is much easier, of course, to use terms familiar to us to describe ancient deities or beliefs, but that often represents a misuse of terminology that only leads to confusion, not to clarity.
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Re: Act I: The Court : Escape into the surreal

Are they not all going into the forest to 'escape' though?

They are escaping Athens, for their own reasons, yes. But they are not specifically escaping to the forest; it would make no difference to them whether their destination were the seashore, a nearby barn, a temple, or some other destination as long as it was outside Athens. Thus, I think it is most accurate to say that they are intentionally escaping Athens, but not intentionally escaping to the forest. It is not anything unique or special in or of the forest that they are specifically seeking.

They are going there, in short, not because it is the forest, but because it is not Athens. The difference, I think, is significant.
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Re: Act I: The Court : Escape into the surreal

Everyman,
I am interested in your thoughts on why the motivation of the characters going into the forest is so significant. I tend to believe that what leads the characters to the forest isn't very important, it's what happens to them when they get there that is significant. However, I can see some relevance in your comments if you are viewing "escape from reality" as a major theme of the play, for both the characters and the audience.




Everyman wrote:
Are they not all going into the forest to 'escape' though?

They are escaping Athens, for their own reasons, yes. But they are not specifically escaping to the forest; it would make no difference to them whether their destination were the seashore, a nearby barn, a temple, or some other destination as long as it was outside Athens. Thus, I think it is most accurate to say that they are intentionally escaping Athens, but not intentionally escaping to the forest. It is not anything unique or special in or of the forest that they are specifically seeking.

They are going there, in short, not because it is the forest, but because it is not Athens. The difference, I think, is significant.


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Re: Act I: The Court : Escape into the surreal


squidblob wrote:
Everyman,
I am interested in your thoughts on why the motivation of the characters going into the forest is so significant. I tend to believe that what leads the characters to the forest isn't very important, it's what happens to them when they get there that is significant.

I agree with you. I was initially responding to the point being offered that (oversimplifying) the court stood for law and order, and the forest for freedom, and that by going from the court to the forest the characters were intentionally choosing to make that transition. My point was exactly your point, that their motives in going to the forest weren't relevant, and, as you say, what happens to them there is what matters.

But it does, I think, make a difference in how we approach the action whether we think they went to the forest specifically because of what they thought it offered, or whether they went there not expecting anything particularly different to happen there and then unexpected things did happen.

If I understand you correctly, were are in agreement on that.
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aristotle and SHSP



LibbyLane wrote: Aristotle says that "poetry is a more philosophical and more serious thing than history; poetry tends to speak of universals, history of particulars."

I have pages and pages of notes on this if anyone wants to be bored with more detail. I won't go into it now. :-)




Whenever you feel like it please post what you find relevant, and tell why, definitely. This is what makes the discussions rich, we discover connections we wouldn't otherwise think of.

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Choisya
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Re: Act I: The Court : Escape into the surreal

[ Edited ]
Everyman wrote:
it would make no difference to them whether their destination were the seashore, a nearby barn, a temple, or some other destination as long as it was outside Athens.

Surely it makes a difference because, from Shakespeare's point of view and from the point of view of his Elizabethan audience, the seashore, barn etc. are not magical places but forests are? When the characters say they are going to the forest the audience is complicit in the understanding that something magical will happen there and that sets them up for Bottom & Co and the fairy scenes - a foreshadowing. At the end of Scene I the audience 'suspend their disbelief' and anticipate the surreal world which has been promised by the author/characters - 'and thence from Athens turn away our eyes,/To seek new friends and stranger companies'. It is also Midsummer, when Elizabethans expected strange things to happen, especially in forests.

A modern Director could, of course, have the following scenes take place anywhere, which would make your point but I think the Elizabethan audience would expect a magical place and Shakespeare deliberately provided one which was in tune with their beliefs. Just as he provided the arcadian Forest of Arden in As You Like It and the supernatural idea that Birnam Wood might move in Macbath.

What point do you think is made if, as you say, it does not matter to where the characters are escaping?




Everyman wrote:
Are they not all going into the forest to 'escape' though?

They are escaping Athens, for their own reasons, yes. But they are not specifically escaping to the forest; it would make no difference to them whether their destination were the seashore, a nearby barn, a temple, or some other destination as long as it was outside Athens. Thus, I think it is most accurate to say that they are intentionally escaping Athens, but not intentionally escaping to the forest. It is not anything unique or special in or of the forest that they are specifically seeking.

They are going there, in short, not because it is the forest, but because it is not Athens. The difference, I think, is significant.

Message Edited by Choisya on 02-09-200705:16 AM

Message Edited by Choisya on 02-09-200705:17 AM

Message Edited by Choisya on 02-10-200708:01 PM

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Re: (Possible Spoiler) A psychological interpretation of the themes.

This discussion makes me think of the conflict between the mesolithic hunter-gatherer societies and the neolithic farming societies that I've been reading about in a fabulous book called "After the Ice" written by an archaeologist whose name I can't remember. The hunter-gatherers lived in fairly egalitarian societies with a close relationship to nature. Their religions were relatively benign. The new farming societies were rigid, hierarchical, and their religions tended to involve fear and sacrifice. In the play, the forest world gives the characters a kind of freedom that living in the court--the counterpart here of the farming society--does not permit them. Bottom, et. al. perhaps seek a freedom that their social position has up until now denied them. Though Shakespeare certainly keeps them in their place--it is Bottom who has the head of an ass, not Lysander or Demetrius. But on the other hand it is human culture that has given the ass a negative connotation. I suspect that we maintain a deep and subtle longing for the relative simplicity of the hunter/gatherer lifestyle--a kind of mesolithic memory. This also reminds me of the fearful attitude of the New England Puritans towards the forest--look at "Young Goodman Brown" for instance. They projected all of their fears of evil and of human freedom onto the forest, whereas in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" evil is not an element. I am starting to wander too far afield...that's a bad pun, for which I apologize.
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Re: (Possible Spoiler) A psychological interpretation of the themes.

Let us not forget that "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is a comedy and deserves to be responded to in the comic spirit.
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Re: Act I: The Court : Escape into the surreal

I agree--after all, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is not a work of realism. Or, you could view this psychologically in terms of unconscious motives--what the characters consciously seek is not what they unconsciously desire.
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Re: Act I: The Court : Escape into the surreal

I think you misunderstand my point.

It makes a huge difference to Shakespeare that it was the forest rather than the seashore. The magic he wants to create can best -- perhaps only -- take place in a forest, for a variety of reasons I've thought some about but aren't relevant here.

But for the motives of the characters as they were leaving Athens, it didn't matter that it was the forest they were going into. Hermia and Lysander would have been just as content to meet by the seashore as in the forest, as long as they had an agreed meeting place outside Athens where they could start their journey to his aunt's. The players would have been just as content to meet to practice in a meadow, in somebody's barn, or anywhere else they could have gotten away from Athens and the prying eyes of others.

There is no question that Shakespeare needed them in a forest rather than at the beach or in a meadow. But that's his need for his dramatic purposes and what he has in mind for the characters. The characters didn't need the particular qualities of a forest to accomplish the goals which they left Athens intending to accomplish until Shakespeare changed their plans.




Choisya wrote:
Everyman wrote:
it would make no difference to them whether their destination were the seashore, a nearby barn, a temple, or some other destination as long as it was outside Athens.

Surely it makes a difference because, from Shakespeare's point of view and from the point of view of his Elizabethan audience, the seashore, barn etc. are not magical places but forests are? When the characters say they are going to the forest the audience is complicit in the understanding that something magical will happen there and that sets them up for the next scene - Bottom and Co. At the end of Scene I the audience 'suspend their disbelief' and anticipate the surreal world which has been promised by the author/characters - 'and thence from Athens turn away our eyes,/To seek new friends and stranger companies'. It is also Midsummer, when Elizabethans expected strange things to happen, especially in forests.

A modern Director could, of course, have the following scenes take place anywhere, which would make your point but I think the Elizabethan audience would expect a magical place and Shakespeare deliberately provided one which was in tune with their beliefs. Just as he provided the arcadian Forest of Arden in As You Like It and the supernatural idea that Birnam Wood might move in Macbath.

What point do you think is made if, as you say, it does not matter to where the characters are escaping?




Everyman wrote:
Are they not all going into the forest to 'escape' though?

They are escaping Athens, for their own reasons, yes. But they are not specifically escaping to the forest; it would make no difference to them whether their destination were the seashore, a nearby barn, a temple, or some other destination as long as it was outside Athens. Thus, I think it is most accurate to say that they are intentionally escaping Athens, but not intentionally escaping to the forest. It is not anything unique or special in or of the forest that they are specifically seeking.

They are going there, in short, not because it is the forest, but because it is not Athens. The difference, I think, is significant.

Message Edited by Choisya on 02-09-200705:16 AM

Message Edited by Choisya on 02-09-200705:17 AM




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Re: Act I: The Court : Escape into the surreal

A modern Director could, of course, have the following scenes take place anywhere, which would make your point but I think the Elizabethan audience would expect a magical place and Shakespeare deliberately provided one which was in tune with their beliefs.

.........................

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Re: Act I: The Court : Escape into the surreal

When the characters say they are going to the forest the audience is complicit in the understanding that something magical will happen there and that sets them up for the next scene - Bottom and Co.

I wonder. We're talking London audiences here for the most part. Did they automatically see going to the forest as going somewhere where magic would necessarily happen? If they went to Sherwood or the New Forest, would they automatically expect to become involved with fairies and magic potions?

I agree that the awayness aspect of leaving the city would say to them that something different is going to happen. No question about that. But I don't have any reason for thinking that they would automatically think magic. On what do you base that assumption?

There are other plays where characters go to the forest and there is no magic. In the Forest of Arden, for example, there is certainly a different feel and approach to life than in the city, but there are no fairies or supernatural elements. Rather, in that case the question is more of a savage forest, not of a magical forest: Jacques says " If this uncouth forest yield any thing savage, I / will either be food for it or bring it for food to / thee." (Although, interestingly, at the denouement scene Orland does contend of Rosalind still in boy's dress that "this boy is forest-born, / And hath been tutor'd in the rudiments / Of many desperate studies by his uncle, / Whom he reports to be a great magician, / Obscured in the circle of this forest." But of course, as we know there is no magician and no magic, but just Rosalind dressed up as a boy and manipulating everybody (who may or may not be in on the secret, but that's for the discussion of that play, not here.)

There are forests in many of the other plays, but I don't offhand recall another magical forest. Even the traveling forest of Birnam Wood isn't magical in the least, but very much human-caused.

In Macbeth, the magic of the three witches takes place on the heath, not in a forest, and the magic appearance of Banquo's ghost takes place in the castle. In Hamlet, the magic, if you want to call it that, of the ghost takes place within the castle.

When Othello is charged with enchanting Desdemona, he is charged with doing so within the city "I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver / Of my whole course of love; what drugs, what charms, / What conjuration and what mighty magic, / For such proceeding I am charged withal, I won his daughter."

In the Merry Wives of Windsor, Mistress Quickly refers to "meadow-fairies," and the "fairies" appear not in the forest but in the middle of the city.

The other principal magical play of S's, the Tempest, isn't set in a forest at all but on an island and in a cave.

It doesn't appear from this either that when forests are involved in S there is necessarily magic, nor that when there is magic in S there is likely to be a forest. So while I agree that the apartness aspect of going to the forest would have alerted the audience to the possibility, or perhaps even the probability, that something different was going to happen, I don't see that the audience should have known at that time, during the first act, that what was going to happen there was going to be magical or supernatural.
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Re: (Possible Spoiler) A psychological interpretation of the themes.

Nice post, Lynx. I do think that the aspects of the forest are crucial to the play, and you've pointed out some nice aspects of that.

I think we need to be careful, though, not to muddle everything into a stew, but to look carefully at the separate parts. What did/does the audience seeing the play for the first time expect, as they are watching Act 1, to result from the retreat into the forest? What is their vision of forests at that point?

What is the intent of each of the parties in going into the forest, and what did they expect to find/accomplish there (in contrast to what actually happened to them).

And so on.


Lynx wrote:
This discussion makes me think of the conflict between the mesolithic hunter-gatherer societies and the neolithic farming societies that I've been reading about in a fabulous book called "After the Ice" written by an archaeologist whose name I can't remember. The hunter-gatherers lived in fairly egalitarian societies with a close relationship to nature. Their religions were relatively benign. The new farming societies were rigid, hierarchical, and their religions tended to involve fear and sacrifice. In the play, the forest world gives the characters a kind of freedom that living in the court--the counterpart here of the farming society--does not permit them. Bottom, et. al. perhaps seek a freedom that their social position has up until now denied them. Though Shakespeare certainly keeps them in their place--it is Bottom who has the head of an ass, not Lysander or Demetrius. But on the other hand it is human culture that has given the ass a negative connotation. I suspect that we maintain a deep and subtle longing for the relative simplicity of the hunter/gatherer lifestyle--a kind of mesolithic memory. This also reminds me of the fearful attitude of the New England Puritans towards the forest--look at "Young Goodman Brown" for instance. They projected all of their fears of evil and of human freedom onto the forest, whereas in "A Midsummer Night's Dream" evil is not an element. I am starting to wander too far afield...that's a bad pun, for which I apologize.

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Re: Act I: The Court : Escape into the surreal

In English and particularly Celtic folkloric tradition woods and forests are commonly depicted as places where fairies and elves dwell.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enchanted_forest

I do not agree that Arden is not 'magical' - it is arcadian, another place, therefore a magical place outside of the audience's experience. The witches first pronounce that Birnam Wood will move and that is a supernatural reference even though what subsequently happened was human wrought. The Tempest, yes, is a cave but caves were other magical places. There were forests all around London in Shakespeare's day, the nearest being Epping Forest, a royal forest bounding on NE London and used for hunting by Elizabeth I, so particularly apt for MND. Arden is an actual district of Warwickshire (where Stratford on Avon is) and was heavily wooded in Elizabethan times. Rosalind's references to the boy being 'forest born' and being tutored by a 'great magician' would be of significance to an Elizabethan audience because they actually believed in witches, magic etc and would therefore be much more alerted to the import of these things than we are. I believe that to them any references to forests/woods (and caves) would signify 'the other', a magical, supernatural place.

But of course there is nothing to stop us in our times making other assumptions about what is to happen or to entirely discount the supernatural elements of the plays.





Everyman wrote:
When the characters say they are going to the forest the audience is complicit in the understanding that something magical will happen there and that sets them up for the next scene - Bottom and Co.

I wonder. We're talking London audiences here for the most part. Did they automatically see going to the forest as going somewhere where magic would necessarily happen? If they went to Sherwood or the New Forest, would they automatically expect to become involved with fairies and magic potions?

I agree that the awayness aspect of leaving the city would say to them that something different is going to happen. No question about that. But I don't have any reason for thinking that they would automatically think magic. On what do you base that assumption?

There are other plays where characters go to the forest and there is no magic. In the Forest of Arden, for example, there is certainly a different feel and approach to life than in the city, but there are no fairies or supernatural elements. Rather, in that case the question is more of a savage forest, not of a magical forest: Jacques says " If this uncouth forest yield any thing savage, I / will either be food for it or bring it for food to / thee." (Although, interestingly, at the denouement scene Orland does contend of Rosalind still in boy's dress that "this boy is forest-born, / And hath been tutor'd in the rudiments / Of many desperate studies by his uncle, / Whom he reports to be a great magician, / Obscured in the circle of this forest." But of course, as we know there is no magician and no magic, but just Rosalind dressed up as a boy and manipulating everybody (who may or may not be in on the secret, but that's for the discussion of that play, not here.)

There are forests in many of the other plays, but I don't offhand recall another magical forest. Even the traveling forest of Birnam Wood isn't magical in the least, but very much human-caused.

In Macbeth, the magic of the three witches takes place on the heath, not in a forest, and the magic appearance of Banquo's ghost takes place in the castle. In Hamlet, the magic, if you want to call it that, of the ghost takes place within the castle.

When Othello is charged with enchanting Desdemona, he is charged with doing so within the city "I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver / Of my whole course of love; what drugs, what charms, / What conjuration and what mighty magic, / For such proceeding I am charged withal, I won his daughter."

In the Merry Wives of Windsor, Mistress Quickly refers to "meadow-fairies," and the "fairies" appear not in the forest but in the middle of the city.

The other principal magical play of S's, the Tempest, isn't set in a forest at all but on an island and in a cave.

It doesn't appear from this either that when forests are involved in S there is necessarily magic, nor that when there is magic in S there is likely to be a forest. So while I agree that the apartness aspect of going to the forest would have alerted the audience to the possibility, or perhaps even the probability, that something different was going to happen, I don't see that the audience should have known at that time, during the first act, that what was going to happen there was going to be magical or supernatural.


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Re: Act I: The Court : Escape into the surreal

I am not disputing that in Elizabethan days fairies were seen as living in forests, as well as many other places.

The question at issue is whether, when Lysander says to Hermia

If thou lov’st me then,
Steal forth thy father’s house to-morrow night,
And in the wood, a league without the town,
Where I did meet thee once with Helena,
To do observance to a morn of May,
There will I stay for thee.

the audience would have been likely to say "ah, they're meeting in a wood, there will be magic and fairies there," or whether they would have been more likely to say "ah, they're going to steal away from the town to go to the aunt's house."

Not that you or I could prove either one, but personally I think it's a stretch to think that at that point in the play they would have been thinking that they would be seeing magic, fairies, or the like simply because the meeting place was in a place in the wood which they would both recognize.

But if you want to think they would, that's fine by me.

What do others think?
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Re: Act I: The Court : Escape into the surreal

I believe that to [an Elizabethan audience] any references to forests/woods (and caves) would signify 'the other', a magical, supernatural place.

I suggest that that's quite a stretch.


Henry IV, Part 2 – Act 4, Scene 1.
Archbishop Of York
What is this forest call'd?
Hastings
'Tis Gaultree Forest, an't shall please your grace.
...
Hastings
Now, what news?
Messenger
West of this forest, scarcely off a mile,
In goodly form comes on the enemy;
And, by the ground they hide, I judge their number
Upon or near the rate of thirty thousand.


Titus Andronicus – Act 2, Scene 3.
Aaron
To back thy quarrels, whatsoe'er they be.
Bassianus
Who have we here? Rome's royal empress,
Unfurnish'd of her well-beseeming troop?
Or is it Dian, habited like her,
Who hath abandoned her holy groves
To see the general hunting in this forest?
Tamora
Saucy controller of our private steps!

Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 5, Scene 1
SILVIA:
Amen, amen! Go on, good Eglamour,
Out at the postern by the abbey-wall:
I fear I am attended by some spies.
EGLAMOUR:
Fear not: the forest is not three leagues off;
If we recover that, we are sure enough.

Titus Andronicus, Act 2 scene 1
Aaron:
A speedier course than lingering languishment
Must we pursue, and I have found the path.
My lords, a solemn hunting is in hand;
There will the lovely Roman ladies troop:
The forest walks are wide and spacious;
And many unfrequented plots there are
Fitted by kind for rape and villany:
Single you thither then this dainty doe,
And strike her home by force, if not by words:
This way, or not at all, stand you in hope.

Among many others.
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Re: Act I: The Court : Escape into the surreal

I do not agree that Arden is not 'magical' - it is arcadian, another place, therefore a magical place outside of the audience's experience.

That is using magical in a totally different senses. In that sense, many, many places can be magical -- castles, bedchambers, gardens... In fact, that sort of magic doesn't matter where it is, but what goes on there.

Those are totally different senses of magic than the magic of the forest in MND.
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