Thursday, 19 June 2014

FOLKLORIC - A Midsummer Night's Dream

The program from Her Majesty's Theatre London January 10, 1900

When William Shakespear's Midsummer Night's Dream was printed in 1600 there were many enchanting forests in England. Sadly much of them have vanished now and England is the least forested place in Europe. Yet if you look you can still find remnants of a few places where it is not hard to imagine the Queen of the Fae frolicking on this longest day of the year.

A lesser known painting of Titania and Bottom, by Edwin Landseer.

I admit that it was Shakespeare who introduced to me to the folklore of the longest day.  Later I looked deeper into the subject and discovered a wealth of art and text about it and despite the ensuing years it retains all of the old magic which bewitched me as a child. Midsummer evokes modern and historic imagery, scents and sounds.

Beautiful table setting from HERE:

 Long evenings alfresco, Rose wine, music festivals in the park, the heady scent of incense and roses. Christina Rossetti's Goblin Market, The Secret Garden, Mermaids, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, Pirates and those Faery rings we accidentally come across which seem to appear overnight.




J.M. Barrie and one of the Davies boys
 playing 'Neverland' in Kensington Gardens
Arthur Rackham illustration for Undine, 1919
Midsummer Eve by Charlotte Bird 

Detail from Midsummer Eve by Charlotte Bird 

But it is Shakespeare's depiction of the night which is the best known and beloved.

Henry Meynell Rheam (1859-1920) - Titania welcoming her fairy bretheren

When we lived near London I watched many sunsets on this night from Richmond Terraces overlooking The Thames. In younger days I did dare to wander in the forest and enjoyed being spooked by the animals that lived there, imagining them to be one of the Faery Folk. Maybe they were.



A special place to be on this night is the Open Air Theatre in London's Regents Park and I had the pleasure of seeing The Royal Shakespeare Company perform A Midsummer Night's Dream there. There have been many illustrious actors grace the stage and the setting is always intimate and enchanting.

Diana Rigg and Helen Mirren in 1968
, and I remember when Toyah Wilcox played Puck. 
Benedict Cumberbatch plays Demetrius in 2001.
I'm very partial to Puck, especially when drawn by Arthur Rackham. 


But I probably love Bottom best of all. There is something 'Beauty and The Beast' about him. Awhile back I found a copy illustrated by Arthur Rackham at a charity book sale to aid a crumbling church. This is my favourite illustration of Bottom. 




I hope everyone is having a lovely summer and that some enchantment sneaks into your dreams on the longest day. Just remember that all is not what it seems on Midsummer Night!

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Puck delivers this epilogue:


If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.

And Robin shall restore amends.” (V, i. 440-455)


The Marriage of Titania and Oberon by John Anster Fitzgerald 


17 comments:

  1. Happy Summer to you. I've missed your lovely posts so it is especially nice to see this one celebrating Summer. I don't think Puck and his friends would like the heat and humidity of my summer, but it is a good time to sit back, relax and dream!
    ox

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  2. Shakespeare is an amazing genius writer and I do love The Secret Garden, too!

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  3. What a lovely celebration of the best of Summer in all her magic. Thank you for the visual feast.

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  4. Dear Minerva,
    so good to see another post of you - and such a lovely one, thank you! "A Midsummer Night's Dream" I have seen in many enactments, but to see it, as you, in Regents Park: wow!
    Enjoy the summer!

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  5. Happy Midsummer! I am very partial to the black and white 30s Midsummer Night's Dream movie with Mickey Rooney. What they were able to do with just some cellophane and some lighting--- completely magical!

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  6. What a lovely post. I am very partial to fairies and you've found some exceptionally lovely pictures of them. It really is magical watching the open air theatre at Regents Park.We saw an excellent "Beggars Opera" there a couple of years ago or maybe 3.

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  7. Ah, Midsummer! We just had the shortest day of the year here! I love all your pictures, I love faeries and am very inspired by them! I love that theatre! We used to have donkeys when we were kids, they were so cute!

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  8. I love to celebrate this longest day of the year as well. That outdoor theater is gorgeous - we have an outdoor Shakespeare festival in our city park, but the setting is not nearly as lovely!

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  9. A beautiful celebration to a long summer day in Holland! Wishing you a happy new week and summer!

    Madelief x

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  10. Such a charming and interesting post. I saw Midsummer an outdoor theater in Berkeley--it was an unforgettable experience. Thank you for sharing all of these wonderful pictures.

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  11. Oh, so beautiful! I love all illustrations here, but I love the last one most. In the evening of the longest day, we walked to Teddington Lock where we saw Indian ringneck parakeets flying over us. We must visit Richmond park one day. It looks lovely, too. Thank you for sharing beautiful images. : )

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  12. Dear Minerva,
    What a fittingly post!
    Well, those long evenings depends on what latitude you live, here in Georgia, USA we don't have such long ones like you in the UK and in Northern Europe. The closer to the equator, the shorter the days are. But nevertheless, it is a beautiful subject.
    Wishing you a lovely summer.
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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  13. I love that play and everything that goes along with it.

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  14. Lovely post and celebration for summer. A Midsummer nights dream and The Secret Garden are favourites of mine.
    Thank you for sharing
    Happy new week
    hugs
    Carolyn

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  15. I have just discovered Inga Moore's illustrated ' Secret Garden' and grew up with that edition of Rossetti's Goblin market- I would feel very at home looking at your bookcases! Jane xx

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  16. Midsummer Night's Dream + Diana Rigg and Helen Mirren? Oh, what that must have been!

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  17. What a gorgeous outdoor theater to watch Shakespeare being performed!!!

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