Re-Reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I had been waiting to read A Midsummer Night’s Dream, part of my homework for the Globe Education Academy.  Call it saving the best for last.  (Well, last of the plays that I have already read.  I’m saving Taming of the Shrew for last since it’s the play we’ll be focusing on this summer.  I figured that since the play will be new to me, saving it for when I’m done teaching Romeo and Juliet would let me focus on it a bit more.)

My first introduction to Midsummer was watching my peers perform it during high school.  It was the first of Shakespeare’s plays that I had ever seen performed, even though by that point I had a few of his plays under my belt.  Our director had changed the setting to the 1960s, which may have played a role in how much I enjoyed it.  Fast forward to my sophomore year at UC Davis.  I vividly remember sitting on the couch in my apartment, A Midsummer Night’s Dream in hand.  I was so absorbed by the book that when I started laughing out loud I didn’t notice my roommate’s confused expression–at first.  “Are you laughing at Shakespeare?” was all my roommate–a science major–could ask.  I nodded, muttered “Mmmhmm,” and returned to my reading.  Needless to say, when I discovered that I’ll be watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream live at Shakespeare’s Globe this summer, I did a dance of joy.

This past Saturday morning found me bookless.  I had just finished Cheryl Strayed’s Wild (my book club’s latest selection).  Adam watched me walk through the house, scanning bookshelves, pulling out books, creating a small collection in my arms.  I finally returned to the couch with just three: Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  

I could see the thought form in his mind: “Those are three very different books.”

He left me to my decision, and found me later curled up with Shakespeare’s best.

I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve seen it performed, or maybe because I’ve read it before, or maybe because I’ve been immersed in Shakespeare’s language for weeks, but this time reading the play was different.  I caught more nuances.  I laughed at parts that I don’t think I found amusing before.  I completely shunned the textual notes/explanations provided by the Arden Shakespeare version and just enjoyed the story. 

I also repeatedly thought back to the first workshop that I attended for the Globe Education Academy.  The way that the Globe practitioners have created activities to get students to jump right into Shakespeare’s language and understand the plot and characters of the play are really quite ingenious.   I was surprised that I still remembered large amounts of the text because of that workshop.  This isn’t because I’m great at memorizing.  Quite the opposite is true, I think.  I completely credit their presentation of the text and the fact that they made Shakespeare come alive.  I hope that I’m doing that for my students with Romeo and Juliet, and can’t wait to get a little better at doing just that this summer in London.

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