William Shakespeare’s Theseus At The Theatre Stage

Life imitates art, or does art imitate life? At the core of this philosophical conundrum, the common connection is that art and humanity are tightly intertwined. Similarly, within William Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a plethora of contrasts and conundrums are presented: concord versus discord, reality versus fantasy, and balance versus imbalance. These themes are explored through the cast of characters and their relationships within the play.

While the prominent theme is both dreaming and magic, an underlying theme emerges’ the connection between art and humanity. Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the six laborers or “Rude Mechanicals” most closely align with the human realm of the play, unifying the audience as collective participants and spectators through the shared experience of theatrical storytelling (3 . 2. 9). The “Crew of Patches” as later named by Puck, appear in the first act in preparation of a theatrical interlude to be performed in honor of Theseus and Hippolyta’s upcoming nuptials (3.2.9). From the beginning of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a distinct line is drawn between the class of characters, which can be separated into four categories: the human nobles, the quartet of lovers, the fairy nobles and servants, and finally, the working-class laborers.

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Each laborer is named or distinguished by his profession. When examining the individual vocations of each mechanical, a pattern emerges. The laborers all work to bring together or unify something through various techniques such as weaving, sewing, and repairing. This same pattern is evident through my avocation’ acting. Although the mechanicals is named by their vocations, they identify themselves as actors in the play. In the first act, as the men are preparing for practice, Peter Quince draws the attention of the group by asking: “Is all our company here ?” (1.2.1).

A few lines later, Bottom the Weaver distinctly refers to the troop as actors: “First, good Peter Quince, say what the play treats on; then read the names of the actors”(1.2.8-9). With the introduction of the mechanicals as amateur actors, the distinct class line becomes blurred. As actors, the men work collectively as artists to entertain their noble audience, counterparts they otherwise would not have the opportunity to interact with. This line of separation is most blurred in the final act. As the nobles wait for the following interlude to begin, Theseus and Philostrate discuss choosing the mechanical play as the next performance. Philostrate discourages Theseus from choosing the retelling of Pyramus, and Thisby describes the production as “tedious” and later adds that “there is not one word apt, one player fitted”(5.1.64-65).

Instead of heeding the suggestion of his noble council, Theseus specifically chooses the mechanical’s play benevolently, stating: “I will hear that play; For never anything can be amiss When simpleness and duty tender it” Our sport shall be to take what they mistake: And what poor duty cannot do, noble respect”(5.1.81-83.90-91). The transition or merger of the mechanicals from workmen to actors not only blurs the class distinction line but also triggers the unification of people through the collective experience of the mechanic’s performance.

At first glance, the workmen’s role or representation as actors within the overall play seems simple comedic relief and entertainment. However, despite a lack of self-awareness and artistic skill, the mechanicals represents uniting man with the “magic” of the theater through the art of storytelling. Although the interlude of Ovid’s tragic tale represents what could have happened in the wood if the quartet of lovers spiraled into deeper discord, at the core of the interlude performance exists laborers “playing” actors and escaping the everyday world of their working-class lives in Athens.

It is through the theater that actors can inhabit the life of another but also maintains their human perspective. The poetic liberty that Bottom and company assume in the pre-production of the play speaks to their desire to create a magical or dramatic illusion for the audience. It is the actor’s duty to initiate a shared experience by creating a symbolic world for everyone to participate in collectively. This duty is acknowledged by the mechanicals, as evident in the third act as the men prepare for practice. The mechanicals put a lot of faith in theatrical “magic,” or at least in their ability to portray it, to the point that they are concerned about the women in attendance being afraid of the lion character or horrified by lovers’ suicides.

Bottom instructs Peter Quince to “Write me a prologue, and let the prologue seem to say, we will do no harm with our swords and that Pyramus is not killed indeed” (3.1.17-20). Another example of the mechanical’s modes of storytelling is their discussion concerning how to represent Moonshine in the interlude. The aura of Moonshine denotes a bewitching, glimmering view of moonlight imagery that is more poetic or artistic than a factual element that can be found in nature. Peter Quince uses his own poetic liberties to suggest that Moonshine is represented “with a bush of thorns and a lantern” (3.1.59-60).

This image, although it is meant to be comical, suggests that a more artistic approach be taken to appeal to the audience’s imagination rather than relying on the natural phenomenon of nature. Utilizing Moonshine and Wall as actual human characters combines art and humanity, even if by accidental farce. The theater is a mode of metamorphosis that allows the actor to transform, not literally as Bottom is “translated” in the comedy, but by encouraging the audience to suspend belief and become a spectator in a world created by the artists representing it (3.1.119-20). Furthermore, it is through the human representation of a poetic concept that art and humanity become akin. Overall, the actions of the mechanicals in A Midsummer Night’s Dream establish the idea that theater is entertainment for the working and noble classes and accessible art for all.

Theater becomes a vehicle in which unification or concord is achieved through the lens of shared humanity. It is the mechanical’s interlude performance that represents the artistic experience of acting as well as the collective bond that is present in the theater. This interlude serves as the “cells,” although comical, represent the artistic experience of acting as well as the collective bond that is present in the theater within and outside of the play. Audiences, whomever they may be, are encouraged to suspend reality and engage in the illusion as a unified group. The theater has the power to both enchant the audience and alter their perception as if each member is part of the collective sharing of a dream or fantasy. Art has the power to bring humanity together as one, as if by magic.

Theseus In The Knight’s Tale By Geoffrey Chaucer

Introduction, The Knight’s Tale is centered around sworn Theban brother knights Arcite and Palamon, both of whom are trying to win over the love of Emily, the stepsister of noble Duke of Athens Theseus. Ancient Greece had many instances where women were oppressed and excluded. The Knight takes a lot of inspiration from Greek mythology and Greek epic poetry. Borrowing from these genres, the Knight’s tale is an example of classic Greek Theatre, specifically tragedy.

Women were often restricted from taking part in the development of these Greek tragedies; therefore, the lack of perspective is evident. In the Knight’s tale, Emily does her best to voice her desires and opinions, but her decisions are usually insignificant and not strongly observed. This written task will analyze how women have been marginalized in the Knight’s Tale. Background on Women’s Rights Women in Ancient Greece Society Ancient Greek society strongly favored men. Women were looked at as below men.

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Before getting married, a woman was under the control of a male relative. Once a woman got married, she was under the control of her new husband (“Role of Women in Ancient Greece”). Women were unable to vote, own, or inherit the land. A woman’s place was seen as a housekeeper who also had the job of producing children. They usually stayed home and were unable to leave (Cartwright). Women were usually not allowed to leave a certain radius. They were usually only able to leave the house to go visit a neighbor or attend a special event like a funeral.

Therefore, entertainment and theatre were solely for entertaining men, showing the lack of perspective of women in these performances (“Daily Life Women’s Life”). Religion In Ancient Greece, religion was present in all aspects of life. The gods worshipped by the characters in the Knight’s tale were seen as the divine say in all mortal affairs. Whenever a god decided something, it was out of the hands of humans. (Cartwright) Examples Clytemnestra from Greek Tragedies Clytemnestra was usually only seen as villainous and evil as she was the wife and murderer of King Agamemnon. In the story, she is depicted as a treacherous “woman with a man’s heart’.

What many people overlook in this story is Clytemnestra’s perspective. After Agamemnon sacrifices Clytemnestra’s daughter to win a war, Clytemnestra becomes enraged. When Agamemnon came back from the war, he brought back a female to keep, which added to her anger. Eventually, she killed both Agamemnon and his consort. (“The Roles Of Women In Ancient Greek Tragedies”) Progression through the tale and resolutions Depictions of women Emily When we first get to see Emily, she is depicted as very beautiful. Arcite and Palamon fall in love with her immediately after seeing her. “Arcita chanced to see This lady as she roamed there to and fro, And, at sight, her beauty hurt him so… Unless at least I see her day by day, I am but dead.” The fact that Emily is introduced solely from the perspective of Arcite, a man who has not even met her, shows the favor of the male perspective.

Although Emily is at the center of the story, she also does nothing to advance the plot. It is not what Emily or Hippolyta do that matters. What matters is how they are viewed by the male characters. Grieving group of women The grieving women at the beginning were calling out because they had lost their husbands in the war. King Theseus notices this and follows their wish to overthrow King Creon. This shows that the women needed a man to save them. It also shows that the women become lost and powerless without the presence of their husbands. “For sure there is not one among us all That was not duchess or a queen Though wretches now…” (“Gender Roles in ‘The Knight’s Tale’”) Amazons Women were seen mostly as objects.

Duke of Athens Theseus takes Queen Hippolyta and her sister Emily. They are merely trophies from the war and victory over the Amazon. According to Greek mythology, the Amazons were a war-like and aggressive tribe of women who were very powerful. However, both Queen Hippolyta and Emily are depicted as submissive and passive (Snyder). Praying to the gods In preparation for the upcoming battle, Arcite and Palamon pray to Mars and Venus, respectively. Palamon prays to Venus, the goddess of love, in hopes that she will allow him to become her husband, Emily, regardless of the outcome.

Arcite prays to Mars, the god of war, in hopes that he will win the battle. Emily prays to Diana, the goddess of chastity, with the wish that she can retain her virginity. Emily’s prayer in itself is one of the only times that her individual desire is depicted. It is said that all the gods were arguing because each god had promised the person who prayed to them that their wish would come true. Saturn, king of gods, steps in and makes a decision. He decides that Palamon will get Emily while Arcity will be victorious in the battle. It is important to note that the only one whose wish was not instituted was Emily. At this point, the fate of the battle and whom she would get to marry were far out of her hands of Emily.

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