A Midsummer Night's Dream (Folger Shakespeare Library)
·Freshly edited text based on the best early printed version of the play
·Full explanatory notes conveniently placed on pages facing the text of the play
·Scene-by-scene plot summaries
·A key to famous lines and phrases
·An introduction to reading Shakespeare's language
·An essay by an outstanding scholar providing a modern perspective on the play
·Illustrations from the Folger Shakespeare Library's vast holdings of rare books
Essay by Catherine Belsey
The Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is home to the world's largest collection of Shakespeare's printed works, and a magnet for Shakespeare scholars from around the globe. In addition to exhibitions open to the public throughout the year, the Folger offers a full calendar of performances and programs.
Traditionally seen as one of Shakespeare''s more romantic and enchanting plays, A Midsummer Night''s Dream
has more recently been seen as a darker and more sinister play than generations of schoolchildren have ever imagined. The play has usually been seen as a comical tale with confused identities and the fickleness of youthful love, as the young lovers, Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena escape parental control and the "sharp Athenian law" of their elders by eloping into the forest outside the city. Unfortunately they stumble into civil war in fairyland, where King Oberon and Queen Titania fight over possession of a beautiful young Indian "changeling" boy. The appearance of the "rude mechanicals", a group of Athenian workers, including the weaver Nick Bottom, compounds the confusion. Chaos, confusion and "shaping fantasies" reign before the final settlement of the play, but underneath all the hilarity many critics have discerned more ambivalent attitudes towards coercive parental control, bestial sexuality and the destructive power of desire. These approaches in no way detract from the exquisite lyricism of many sections of the play, but make it a more complex and effective comedy than has often been appreciated. --Jerry Brotton
William Shakespeare was born in 1564 in the town of Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, England. The son of a successful middle-class glove-maker, Shakespeare attended grammar school, but his formal education proceeded no further. In 1582, he married an older woman, Anne Hathaway, and had three children with her. Around 1590 he left his family behind and traveled to London to work as an actor and playwright. Public and critical success quickly followed, and Shakespeare eventually became the most popular playwright in England and part owner of the Globe Theater. His career bridged the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I ; he was a favorite of both monarchs. Wealthy and renowned, Shakespeare retired to Stratford and died in 1616 at the age of 52.