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Frequent Contributor
cheryl_shell
Posts: 156
Registered: ‎12-08-2006
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Fairy Tales

Many people who read A Midsummer Night's Dream wonder how they should interpret the fairies. Did Shakespeare's audiences believe in such magical creatures? Or was it just a fun fantasy for them?


Here is one article that sheds a little light on the subject: ScaryFairies

If any of you have knowledge or ideas to contribute on this topic, please do so!
Distinguished Wordsmith
Everyman
Posts: 9,216
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Fairy Tales

For another view on Puck, Kipling's "Puck of Pook's Hill" is an interesting read. I love the opening sentence: "The children were at the Theatre, acting to Three Cows as much as they could remember of Midsummer Night's Dream."

The Theatre, you soon find, is not, as you might have thought, a building, but "lay in a meadow, called the Long Slip....in the middle of the bend [of the mill stream] lay a large old Fairy Ring of darkened grass, which was the stage."

Nor is the Three Cows a pub, as one might think from the capitalization, but actual cows who "had been milked and were steadily grazing with a tearing noise that one could hear all down the meadow..." Quite appropriate, considering that Shakespeare's own audiences crunched on nuts and other goodies during the course of the plays.

The children remembered their lines perfectly; "Una never forgot a word of Titania -- not even the difficult piece where she tells the Fairies how to feed Bottom with 'apricocks, green figs, and dewberries' and all the lines end in 'ies.'"
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Laurel
Posts: 5,747
Registered: ‎10-29-2006
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Re: Fairy Tales

Thanks, E. I shall fly to Kipling.



Everyman wrote:
For another view on Puck, Kipling's "Puck of Pook's Hill" is an interesting read. I love the opening sentence: "The children were at the Theatre, acting to Three Cows as much as they could remember of Midsummer Night's Dream."

The Theatre, you soon find, is not, as you might have thought, a building, but "lay in a meadow, called the Long Slip....in the middle of the bend [of the mill stream] lay a large old Fairy Ring of darkened grass, which was the stage."

Nor is the Three Cows a pub, as one might think from the capitalization, but actual cows who "had been milked and were steadily grazing with a tearing noise that one could hear all down the meadow..." Quite appropriate, considering that Shakespeare's own audiences crunched on nuts and other goodies during the course of the plays.

The children remembered their lines perfectly; "Una never forgot a word of Titania -- not even the difficult piece where she tells the Fairies how to feed Bottom with 'apricocks, green figs, and dewberries' and all the lines end in 'ies.'"


"Truth must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for fiction is the creation of the human mind, and therefore is congenial to it." ~~G.K. Chesterton
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LibbyLane
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Registered: ‎01-27-2007
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Re: Kipling

I'm loving Puck of Pook's Hill! Thanks for the recommendation. The first chapter or so is a great source for information on the older view of "fairies" and where they came from, too.
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Everyman
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Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Kipling



LibbyLane wrote:
I'm loving Puck of Pook's Hill! Thanks for the recommendation. The first chapter or so is a great source for information on the older view of "fairies" and where they came from, too.



Glad you're enjoying it. It's not a book for all tastes, but for those who like it, it's great fun. And, as you say, an interesting approach to a concept of fairies.
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I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
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Choisya
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Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Re: Fairy Tales and the Celts

[ Edited ]
It is generally cited (by Matthew Arnold and others) that the Fairies to which Shakespeare referred in his plays were those from Celtic mythology because these were the tales most associated with Elizabethan England. Countries steeped in Celtic mythology are Ireland, Wales and Scotland - all countries where England was in dispute during Elizabeth's reign. They are even more pertinent to Midsummer Night's Dream because several of the play's references allude to the failure of Elizabeth I (The Virgin Queen) to marry and to bear children. There were floods and famine at the time MND was written and the juxtaposition of fairies and royalty is an allusion to the 'curse' which Elizabeth had supposedly brought upon England by her barren-ness. Her war with Ireland, where magical tales of fairies and 'the little people' abounded, was also thought to have brought bad luck to England. The Tudors were themselves Celts, from Wales, and were redheaded, like Titania, so the juxtaposition is even more relevant - and politically daring.




cheryl_shell wrote:
Many people who read A Midsummer Night's Dream wonder how they should interpret the fairies. Did Shakespeare's audiences believe in such magical creatures? Or was it just a fun fantasy for them?


Here is one article that sheds a little light on the subject: ScaryFairies

If any of you have knowledge or ideas to contribute on this topic, please do so!

Message Edited by Choisya on 02-03-200708:54 PM

Frequent Contributor
Posts: 1,101
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: Fairy Tales and the Celts

Thanks, Choisya: this is very interesting indeed.


Choisya wrote:
The Tudors were themselves Celts, from Wales, and were redheaded, like Titania, so the juxtaposition is even more relevant - and politically daring.

cheryl_shell wrote:
Many people who read A Midsummer Night's Dream wonder how they should interpret the fairies.
Inspired Contributor
Choisya
Posts: 10,782
Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Re: Fairy Tales and the Celts : A description of Fairies.

I rather like this description of Shakespeare's Fairies (from The Fairy Mythology of Shakespeare by Alfred Nutt which traces the descendance of Irish, Welsh & Gaelic-Scottish fairies through the Arthurian Legends):-

'I may note here, according to the latest, and in this respect the best, editor of the Midsummer Night's Dream, Mr. Chambers, what are the characteristics of the Shakespeare fairies. He ranges them as follows:

(a) They form a community under a king and queen.
(b) They are exceedingly small.
(c) They move with extreme swiftness.
(d) They are elemental airy spirits; their brawls incense the wind and moon, and cause tempests; they take a share in the life of nature; live on fruit; deck the cowslips with dewdrops; war with noxious insects and reptiles; overcast the sky with fog.
(e) They dance upon the green.
(f) They sing hymns and carols to the moon.
(g) They are invisible and apparently immortal.
(h) They come forth mainly at night.
(i) They fall in love with mortals.
(j) They steal babies and leave changelings.
(k) They come to bless the best bride-bed and make the increase therefore fortunate.

This order of characteristics, I make little doubt, would occur to most well-read Englishmen, and enotes what impressed the fancy of Shakespeare's contemporaries.'

He goes on to say that one important difference between the fairies of Ireland, Wales and Scotland is 'that the Irish fairies are by no means necessarily or universally regarded as small in stature', which I found surprising in view of the common phrase 'the little people' which Irish folks give to fairies, leprachauns etc. It makes sense, though, of the fully grown fairies we see in Midsummer Night's Dream (although in recent years I have heard of them played by dwarves).
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