Shakespeare in the Park
“Shakespeare in the park"- A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare’s influence over humanity cannot be under-estimated, which is why we are interested in using his works as a literary backdrop for the theoretical and practical side of The Non-Prophet Festival. Our approach to Shakespearean comedy, inspired by Prof. Seth Lerer from The Teaching Company.
Contexts, Overviews, Form
1. A survey of the transitions from the classical and medieval comic traditions to those of the Renaissance, especially those relevant to Shakespeare’s comic theatre.
2. To reflect on the central features of Renaissance courtly life, especially its public and performative nature.
3. To examine some of the key techniques and thematic concerns of Shakespeare’s comedies
4. Modern adaptations to reflect upon Irish culture in a Global context pre and post-Celtic tiger:
I. Class distinction between the aristocracy or very wealthy, the middle class, the proletariat and the poor.
II. In Marxist doctrine, capitalists as a social class antithetical to the proletariat.
1. The comic form of the Renaissance stage
I. Renaissance comedy’s debt to Roman comedy and New Comedy traditions
II. Central conceits:
i. Mistaken identity
ii. Rustic humour
iii. Language of romance and satire
III. Elizabethan stage’s emergence from medieval and renaissance stage:
i. The cycle play
ii. The wit plays of the Inns of court
iii. The court interludes
IV. The performative nature of courtly life.
V. Self-consciousness of professional theatre. It’s main themes:
iv. Impersonation and display
v. The necessity of family and dynastic continuity.
vi. The value of money
vii. Rural Ireland on the world stage
2. Renaissance dramatists and critics create a new concept of comedy:
• The nature of Renaissance comedy
• Comedy as a mirror of life and social correction.
• Types of comedy
i. Romantic comedy is the story of young lovers; it is the New Comedy marriage plot, set in a world of fantasy or imagination. It contrasts the country and the city or functions in the world of dream and vision
ii. Satiric comedy of social reform shows us characters who challenge hierarchical structure and belongs to Old Comedy traditions of caricature and burlesque
• Shakespeare’s comedies are mostly romantic but contain elements of social satire.
3. Shakespeare’s comedies: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew, Much ado About Nothing and darker comedies such as Measure for Measure as well as the lighter moments in the tragedies and histories:
I. What links many of these plays and their comic elements is a larger argument for comic theatre as the site of political restitution, domestic restitution, commodity exchange, and literary entertainment.
i. Political restitution: Many of the plots of Shakespeare's plays hinge on the successful replacement of an older generation with a younger and, in the process, the maintenance of the political order. Our intention would be to examine this political order.
ii. Domestic resolution: Shakespeare often asks what is the nature of marriage, and how do the modern worldly concerns of money, lineage, profit, social status, and professional identity shape the roles that men and women play both in public and in private? Is marriage a contract, a business arrangement, a social ritual, a theatrical performance, or a religious rite? In Shakespeare the new comedy plot isn't just about enjoyment but offers a profound political commentary as well. We would address these issues through adaptations dealing with these themes and through post show discussions make transparent to the audience our interpretations of Shakespeare’s works and their validity.
iii. Commodity exchange: what is the nature of theatre for money? Do you get your money's worth at the theatre and, if you don't, what is your recourse?
iv. Literary entertainment: what is the value of entertainment? Is it healthy for the body and the mind? Does it educate or manipulate? Is entertainment the mass conditioning of spectators, or is it a place where social and natural harmony can be restored?
II. Shakespeare’s comedies are comedies of spectatorship. They take as their theme and often embed within their plots, the audience’s experience of watching a play or watching themselves.
i. The Taming of the Shrew is a play within a play performed for a drunken Christopher Sly who plays along with the ruse that he has been in a drunken stupor for the last fifteen years. A Midsummer Night’s Dream has a play performed by the mechanicals – “hempen home-spuns” who reflect the ridiculous behaviour of the ruling class within the play.
ii. Twelfth Night and As you like it has boys playing women playing boys
iii. Henry IV, Part 1, has Hal and Falstaff play and exchange roles in a generational plot with elements of performance and spectatorship.
III. All these themes, techniques, literary and social issues are expressed in A Midsummer Night’s Dream to reflect upon the place of comedy in modern society with our adaptations touching on contemporary issues, juxtaposing Shakespeare’s England and Modern Ireland in the wake of the Celtic Tiger.
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