At some point during your high school English experience, you’ll probably be required to read one of Shakespeare’s plays, and just as probably it will be one of his tragedies. Plays in general are not always easy to read—after all they were written to be performed and not simply read—and Shakespeare isn’t exactly a walk in the park to read. But with a little practice, these plays can be incredibly enjoyable, especially the delightful, and sometimes sadly overlooked, comedies. So allow me to return to my promise of fairies.
Like many of Shakespeare’s comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream abounds with confusion. In the city of Athens resides the fair Hermia, smitten with one Lysander, and he equally enamored of her. Now, if there were no problems, no obstacles in the lovers’ path, then we would have no play, so the unlucky couple is forbidden to marry by Hermia’s father, Egeus, who wants her to wed Demetrius. Demetrius is quite set on winning Hermia, but while he is on the hunt he is also being hunted by another fair lady named Helena, who is quite madly—and I must stress the “madly” here—in love with him—a phenomenon that certainly never occurs in modern day high school life.
With lives at stake, circumstances land the four in the woods, which are teaming with feuding fairies on midsummer’s night. Filled with love potions gone amiss, a motley troupe of players, and the infamous trickster Puck, the forest is not the safest of places to wander, especially if you are someone who doesn’t enjoy a good laugh.
If you dare to begin your own wanderings here, I suggest you try reading some of the passages aloud. Give life to the words, whether they are the pleading cries of Helena or Puck’s repartee, the back and forth of the king and queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania, or the attempts of the players to prepare a play. Enjoy the magic of one midsummer gone awry.