Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be!

I simply love Midsummer Night's Dream. Although it is written in an english so old that some words don't appear in dictionaries anymore, it is still one of my favourite book. Probably because of the fact that the whole book is based on the theme of love, relationships and the "Dream-Reality" concept. I'll just give the sypnosis of the story adapted from Wikipedia:

The play features three interlocking plots, connected by a celebration of the wedding of Duke Theseus of Athens and the Amazonian queen Hippolyta, and set simultaneously in the woodland, and in the realm of Fairyland, under the light of the moon.[2]

In the opening scene, Hermia refuses to comply with her father Egeus's wish for her to marry his chosen man, Demetrius. In response, Egeus quotes before Theseus an ancient Athenian law whereby a daughter must marry the suitor chosen by her father, or else face death. Theseus does not want this young girl to die, and offers her another choice, lifelong chastity worshipping Diana as a nun. (The word 'nun' in this sense is an anachronism.)

Hermia and her lover Lysander decide to elope by escaping through the forest at night. Hermia informs her best friend Helena, but Helena has recently been rejected by Demetrius and decides to win back his favour by revealing the plan to him. Demetrius, followed doggedly by Helena, chases Hermia. Hermia and Lysander, believing themselves safely out of reach, sleep in the woods.

Meanwhile, Oberon, king of the fairies, and his queen, Titania, arrive in the forest outside Athens. Titania tells Oberon that she plans to stay there until after she has attended Theseus and Hippolyta's wedding. Oberon and Titania are estranged because Titania refuses to give her Indian changeling to Oberon for use as his "knight" or "henchman," since the child's mother was one of Titania's worshippers. Oberon seeks to punish Titania's disobedience and recruits the mischievous Puck (also called Hobgoblin and Robin Goodfellow) to help him apply a magical juice from a flower called "love-in-idleness" (a.k.a. pansy), which makes the victim fall in love with the first living thing seen upon awakening. He instructs Puck to retrieve the flower so that he can make Titania fall in love with some vile creature of the forest. Oberon applies the juice to Titania in order to distract her and force her to give up the page-boy.

Having seen Demetrius act cruelly toward Helena, Oberon orders Puck to spread some of the elixir on the eyelids of the young Athenian man. Instead, Puck accidentally puts the juice on the eyes of Lysander, who then falls in love with Helena. Oberon sees Demetrius still following Hermia and is enraged. When Demetrius decides to go to sleep, Oberon sends Puck to get Helena while he charms Demetrius' eyes. Due to Puck's errors, both lovers now fight over Helena instead of Hermia. Helena, however, is convinced that her two suitors are mocking her, as neither loved her originally. The four pursue and quarrel with each other most of the night, until they become so enraged that they seek a place to duel each other to the death to settle the quarrel. Oberon orders Puck to keep the lovers from catching up with one another in the forest and to re-charm Lysander for Hermia, to prevent them all from killing each other.

Meanwhile, a band of lower-class labourers ("rude mechanicals", as they are famously described by Puck) have arranged to perform a crude play about Pyramus and Thisbe for Theseus' wedding, and venture into the forest, near Titania's bower, for their rehearsal. Nick Bottom, a stage-struck weaver, is spotted by Puck, who transforms his head into that of an ass (donkey). Titania is awakened by Bottom's singing and immediately falls in love with him. She treats him like a nobleman and lavishes him with attention. While in this state of devotion, she encounters Oberon and casually gives him the Indian boy. Having achieved his goals, Oberon releases Titania and orders Puck to remove the ass's head from Bottom. The magical enchantment is removed from Lysander but is allowed to remain on Demetrius, so that he may reciprocate Helena's love.

The fairies then disappear, and Theseus and Hippolyta arrive on the scene, during an early morning hunt. They wake the lovers and, since Demetrius doesn't love Hermia anymore, Theseus over-rules Egeus's demands and arranges a group wedding. The lovers decide that the night's events must have been a dream. After they all exit, Bottom awakes, and he too decides that he must have experienced a dream "past the wit of man." In Athens, Theseus, Hippolyta and the lovers watch the mechanicals perform "Pyramus and Thisbe." It is ridiculous and badly performed but gives everyone pleasure regardless, and afterward everyone retires to bed. Finally, as night falls, Oberon and Titania bless the house, its occupants, and the future children of the newlyweds, and Puck delivers a soliloquy to the audience.

Shakespeare explains a key concept of love which struck me. In the play, where Demetrius is still under the effects of the love potion while everything goes back to normal again. He said "Are you sure we are awake? It seems to me that yet we sleep, we dream". Think about it. Isn't love like a dream to you? When you are in love, nothing else matters except the one you love. I had similar feelings like that. Nothing, not even your best friend mattered to you. You're living in a world of your own, a world where you and whoever you love are the only residents there. It feels fantastic. It's a great feeling to love and be loved.

However, when that someone breaks up with you or you decide that you don't love that someone anymore, it brings you back to reality. And you come down crashing. Hard. Suddenly you're back in a world where everything seemed so crystal clear to you again. Don't believe me, think about what I've written when you're in a relationship and if it falls apart (Hopefully not), after the relationship. Then when you fall back in love again, the whole process repeats itself.

The amazing thing is, MSND is timeless. It does not just wear away with time. What Shakespeare wrote still happens in our lives. I don't know how Shakespeare does it, but what he wrote shocked me, despite it being simple quotes such as:

"Love is perjured everywhere"

"Love looks not with the eye but with the mind"

"Love is said to be a child, because in choices he is so oft beguiled"

"The course of true love never did run smooth"

A few hundred years down the road, all of these which I mentioned still revolves around our lives. People change throughout the ages, I think, but these priniciples and points of view still stands. All these questions and themes about Love intrigues me everytime I read it. Love is such a mysterious thing, and we humans often tend to fall deep into her traps. If only I can put all of these into my lit essays. It would do soooo much help.

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