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Elizabeth Cullingford, Chair CAL 226, Mailcode B5000, Austin, TX 78712 • 512-471-4991

Professor Douglas Bruster publishes Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

Posted: March 24, 2011
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Excerpt from the editor's Introduction: 

'A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Shakespeare’s most popular comedy. The reason seems clear: Dream strikes many as simple and delightful, fully in keeping with its Duke’s plea for an entertainment to “beguile / The lazy time” (5.1.40-41). It gives us various pairs of lovers, human and supernatural alike, a complicated love quadrangle in a magical wood, passion-inducing drugs, a frustrated father, naughty troublemaker, and inept actors--one of whom is transformed into an ass and doted upon by a Fairy Queen. With all this playfulness, though, Dream offers troubling paradoxes. Once seen as full of light comedy, for instance, it currently strikes many as a dark play. Possessing an almost perfect dramatic structure and unity of theme, Dream also has many things that do not fit well into its larger whole. Located in the human and fairy worlds of ancient Greece, the drama has nonetheless been taken as a guidebook to the culture of Elizabethan England. Its story explores adult themes like erotic desire and shows how jealousy and violent passion structure society itself. These are grown-up subjects. Yet many productions are pitched to children and present its nighttime actions as harmless. These contradictions reveal the richness of the play’s material, which Shakespeare molds into “something of great constancy” (5.1.26). As we will see, Dream is popular not despite its paradoxes but because of them.' 

About the Editor

Douglas Bruster is a Professor of English at the University of Texas at Austin. He is author of numerous books on Shakespeare and early modern English drama, including Drama and the Market in the Age of Shakespeare, Quoting Shakespeare, Shakespeare and the Question of Culture, and To Be or Not To Be. In addition to A Midsummer Night's Dream, he has edited Thomas Middleton and William Rowley's The Changeling and the early English morality plays Everyman and Mankind. His essays have appeared in such journals as Shakespeare Quarterly, Comparative Drama, and Renaissance Drama. Bruster has taught at Harvard University, the University of Chicago, and the University of Paris, and recently delivered an invited lecture at the University of Bologna.

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