Romance is in the air. No, it's not Valentine's Day, it's midsummer!
I know, it's a few days past that magical day, Midsummer, and I'm posting a bit about Midsummer.
Well, I have a good excuse, really I do. I was married on Midsummer, some years ago, so June 21st is sort of a sacred dayfor me. It's my wedding anniversary. So, as you can guess, I was out celebrating with my honey!
Midsummer is a pagan holiday, the time of the summer solstice, and a time of love and magic. A time for dancing round the bonfire and drinking honey mead. Hey, it's summer in the northeren hemisphere, and that's reason enough to feel romantic. The June moon is called the Mead Moon, because of the brewing of ale, or Honeymoon, as the bees hives are full of honey at this time. Lovers often said their vows at the Midsummer festival. In the Scandinavian traditions, it's often said that many a Solstice moon has set a cradle rocking in late winter.
Shakespeare wrote an epic play about the magic of midsummer. It's my favorite storyline for many reasons. First of all, it features lovers, three sets of them in the human realm, and also lovers in the Fairy realm.
The play features several sets of lovers. The most prominant in the story is a woman named Hermia whose father is forcing her to marry a man she doesn't care for, or face the city law that decrees she can be put to death for disobeying her father. Well, this bold woman will have none of that! She had backbone, in Shakespeare's writing. She wasn't about to stand by an let fate deal her a bad marriage. Considering this play was written in the 16th century, by a man, that's a pretty incredible story-line.
|Joseph Noel Paton's 1846 depiction of Midsummer Night's Dream|
Hermia is in love with Lysander, but her father insists she must marry Demetrius. She loathes Demetrius. So, she and Lysander decide to run away together. They plan to steal away into the forest at night. She confides in her friend, Helena about her plans. Helena, being in love with Demetrius, tells him of Hermia's plan to run away with his rival. Demetrius chases Hermia and Lysander through the forest in the night, hoping to stop them. Helena, obseessed with Demetrius, chases after him. This sets in motion some strange and wondruous events as the four young people are noted by the fairy folk in the forest.
|Oberon and Puck observe the human lovers quarreling and decide to intervene|
Oberon, the fairy king, feels sorry for Helena, as she traipses after Demetrius like a faithful and much abused dog. He instructs his servant, the mischievious Puck, to find a plant in the forest that when a drop of the juice is placed on the eyelid of the patient, they fall in love with the first person they see. He intends for Puck to put this magical juice on Demetrius's eyes while he nods off, but as this is a comedy, you can guess the fairy sprite makes a mistake and puts it on Lysander's eyes instead. Lysander awakens and spies Helena first. He falls madly in love with her, abandoning Hermia.
Puck, realizing his mistake, then puts the juice on Demetrius's eyes, and he, too, is suddenly obsessed with Helena. Now Hermia is put in the position of being the despised one as both men obsess over the heretofore neglected Helena. The confusion adds drama and fun to the mix, as the four progress through the forest and wrangle with each other, both in words and physically.
This is just one plot in the storyline. Shakespeare was a master when it comes to plots, and characters. He also has a secondary plot running through the story with Oberon, the fairy king, and his wife, Titiania, the fairy queen. These two are married but estranged. So, Oberon also has his minion Puck put some juice on Titiania's eyes while she sleeps, and Oberon has it set up so she falls in love with the first man she sees, a human lost in the forest whom Oberon has changed in form so he has the head of a donkey, and brays like one. This is Oberon's joke on his wife, making her fall in love with an ass. She awakens, and dotes on this poor human who has been transformed and is lost in the forest.
In this epic romance fraught with magic and fairy dust, we are given a glimpse into the fairy world. We are introduced to Puck (also known as Robin Goodfellow), to the fairy servants who attend Queen Titiania, and to the hidden world they inhabit. This, coupled with the story of the human lovers, makes for some very mystical entertainment.
|Titiania falls in love with an ass|