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Session 37 Notes

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Author: David O'Connor
Notes for David O'Connor's 4/23/07 optimistic lecture on Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, optimistic lecture

  1. I. The Green World
    1. The confines of civilization vs. the freedom that love requires
    2. Shakespeare’s complication of a traditional theme
      1. Theater and new identities: the clowns
      2. Transfiguration and wonder: the fairies
  2. The Place of Erotic Love within Freedom
    1. Hermia recognizes limits in the Green World:

      Lysander: Fair love, you faint with wand’ring in the wood; / And to speak troth, I have forgot our way. / We’ll rest us, Hermia, if you think it good, / And tarry for the comfort of the day.

      Hermia: Be it so, Lysander. Find you out a bed, / For I upon this bank will rest my head.

      Lysander: One turf shall serve as pillow for us both, / One heart, one bed, two bosoms, and one troth.

      Hermia: Nay, good Lysander. For my sake, my dear, / Lie further off yet; do not lie so near.

      Lysander: O, take the sense, sweet, of my innocence. / Love takes the meaning in love’s conference. / I mean that my heart unto yours is knit, / So that but one heart we can make of it: / Two bosoms interchained with an oath, / So then two bosoms and a single troth. / Then by your side no bed room my deny, / For lying so, Hermia, I do not lie. /

      Hermia: Lysander riddles very prettily. / Now much beshrew my manners and my pride / If Hermia meant to say Lysander lied. / But, gentle friend, for love and courtesy / Lie further off, in human modesty. / Such separation as may well be said / Becomes a virtuous bachelor and a maid, / So far be distant; and good night, sweet friend. / Thy love ne’er alter till thy sweet life end.” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream II.2.35-61)

    2. Helena’s childhood intimacy as a standard of human relationships:

      “Injurious Hermia, most ungrateful maid, / Have you conspired, have you with these contrived / To bait me with this foul derision? / Is all the counsel that we two have shared, / The sister’s vows, the hours that we have spent / When we have chid the hasty-footed time / For parting us – O, is all forgot? / All schooldays’ friendship, childhood innocence? / We, Hermia, like two artificial gods, / Have with our needles created both one flower, / Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion, / Both warbling of one song, both in one key; / As if our hands, our sides, voices, and minds / Had been incorporate. So we great together, / Like to a double cherry, seeming parted, / But yet an union in partition, / Two lovely berries molded on one stem. / So, with two seeming bodies, but one heart; / Two of the first, like coats in heraldry, / Due but to one, and crownèd with one crest.” (III.2.195-214)

    3. Marriage integrates the Green World into the civilized world

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