Archive for the ‘Characters’ Category

Characters

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Our “Characters” section is meant to provide enough insight into the characters of A Midsummer Night’s Dream for a wide range of interpretations. Although Shakespeare’s writing appropriates certain traits that provide the foundation for each character, each of them is surprisingly realistic and dynamic, making them rather malleable. This section may inspire your ideas for the behaviors and appearances of the characters.

Characterization

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Many scholars find that the characters of Shakespeare’s work are shockingly sophisticated, for his or any other time. Where many plays depend on overt character revelation, his plays make the characters “grow and unfold themselves under our eye” (Hudson 173). It is important to remember this in the production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream especially because a great deal of the action takes place in a wonderland, a dream world. One must take care to prevent fantastical performance, if the goal of a traditional realization stays. These characters should be relatable, realistic; this is how Shakespeare draws the audience in so well. Instead of spectacle and “pizzazz,” visible logic and familiarity should be the goal. Otherwise, the production remains a show of entertainment, rather than the opportunity for new perspective. His plot is not exactly relevant to our lives, to be sure, but the characters represent how many of us would live if we were to be placed in a similar situation. H.N. Hudson says in his book Shakespeare: His Life, Art, and Characters that

“they are as far as possible from being mere names set before pieces of starched and painted rhetoric, or mere got-up figures of modes and manners: they are no shadows or images of fancy, no heroes of romance, no theatrical personages at all…they are not even designs of nature; they are nature itself.” (166)

Although a production must accommodate its venue and the performers’ grasp of the text and subtext may vary, the reality of the characters is perhaps the most important part of the production. Style, costuming, set, etc. have all been variable throughout history, but the personality cannot be lost. Shakespeare’s productions were popular in his time, obviously, but they were performed before rather large audiences in a relatively small area, practically outdoors (the Globe Theater has no roof).

Remember also, then, that Shakespeare’s earned status for his plays as some sort of “high art” does not elevate them beyond our own lives. No, the characters were written to mirror life. Shakespeare created characters of various classes and manners. The foul-mouthed should be played so because he didn’t make it his work to only include the “decorous.” He is known for closely mirroring human nature and the real world, so he modeled the varying characters after varying humankind (Hudson 178).

SOME TIPS

Try to keep in mind during performance what the character is meant to contribute to the show, the message and the experience. How should the character behave? What are his/her motives? What are his/her goals?

Bottom is one of the more closely observed characters in Midsummer and maybe in Shakespeare’s writings as a whole. His enthusiasm and confidence differ from most characters’, in that he feels comfortable expressing every thought and desire. He is energetic, an extrovert and possibly rather bossy (Bloomfield “Bottom in Midsummer). He is “equal to all occasions and at home wherever he may be” (Palmer 92).

The Fairies and the Lovers, in addition to exuding the real, embody the themes and motifs identified in the Analysis section of this site. Action and dialogue communicate dichotomous contrasts and commentaries on love. You’ll see Hudson’s studies have brought him to the same conclusion. He identifies, for example, Oberon and his followers as opposite to Titania and hers, and he emphasizes the recurring images of “the lofty and the low, the beautiful and the grotesque, the world of fancy and of fact” (263). How this is put across to the audience may vary, according to the discretion of the production. As far as characterization is concerned, dialogue and attitude are obvious focal points for such a message.

There are many different ways of portraying these characters.

There are many different ways of portraying these characters.

The Fairies in particular tend to have a special interest in, almost an obsession with all things beautiful and fun and pleasant (Hudson 265). Distinguishing them from mortal characters, and even the lower-level fairies from the king and queen and Puck, can be done here. Jem Bloomfield has described them as “verbally inventive, and elusive in the best sense” (“Fairies”). He describes the infamous ambiguity of the fairies’ disposition and relates it to their radically ever-changing behaviors. These are magical beings with the option of doing and being whatever and wherever they want, whenever they want.

The Lovers share a common interest: the pursuit of love. What separates them is the approach. Hermia and Lysander love each other and are fully consenting. Helena and Demetrius, on the other hand, can’t seem to get what they want. It would most likely be fair to say that these circumstances make Hermia and Lysander far more confident and free as a couple or as individuals, and Helena and Demetrius somewhat the opposite (Hudson 272). After all, Hermia and Lysander stand up to Hermia’s father and even the Duke, whereas Helena makes several speeches about her inferiority to Hermia and Demetrius is constantly trying to prove himself. These young lovers are rather whimsical and should “contribute to the idea of the dream-like quality of love, as well as the play in general” (Fong).

Puck is a rather mischievous character. Hudson finds that most of us are drawn to him for his lighthearted spirit and youthful sport, in spite of his enjoyment in causing humans distress. He is not regretful or apologetic because pranks are his life’s joy (264).

Costumes

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Compare

and

and

BQcDAAAAAwoDanBnAAAABC5vdXQKFllOU01aLVh0M1JHTktOODVvLTVIUFEAAAACaWQKAXgAAAAEc2l6ZQ

Contrast

Because the play takes place in Ancient Greece (Athens, to be specific), traditional costuming would probably fit the garb of that vintage, rather than Shakespeare’s. For the most part, men would be dressed in tunics, possibly hats and either leather sandals or barefoot. Women might wear flowing gowns, capes and perhaps headdresses. Of course, since more accessories, longer material and more splendid color are all associated with higher status, these ideas can be manipulated. They could even be changed completely, at the discretion of the costumer or director! Remember the importance of a character’s personal expression through wardrobe. Perhaps the powerful Oberon should wear something that complements his authority or strength. Helena might be more conservative or simple. Consider the “Characterization” section for ideas on how to mirror character traits in costume. Peter Holland agrees that a character’s costume tells a story about the wearer and that it is revealing of personality (159). For detailed descriptions of period costumes, visit these sites:

1. http://www.costumes.org/history/100pages/greeklinks.htm#

Theatre%20Costume

2. http://ancient-culture.suite101.com/article.cfm/

ancient_greek_clothing

For a costume plot (basic description of each character’s costumes throughout the play), please visit the “Costume Plot” section. This has been provided by Costume World, Inc., the largest costume rental and retail company in the U.S. You can also visit their website http://costumeworld.com/ for more information.

According to Jadene Deems, Costume World’s Theatrical Booking Agent, this plot is the general model for a traditional production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Although she says the fine linens and cottons that were used in Elizabethan England wrinkle too easily or simply are not as functional as synthetic fabrics used today, the colors and styles may remain the same. As far as color, the general rule of thumb is that earthy, dull colors were common among the lower classes. These dyes were cheaper, more easily found. Rich, vibrant colors like indigo or crimson indicated a much higher status because of their rarity and expense. http://www.elizabethan-era.org.uk/dye.htm

Costumes Plot

Sunday, December 6th, 2009

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

COSTUME PLOT

Act 1

Scene1: Athens, The Palace of Theseus

THESEUS:

Duke and Ruler……….. Tunic, robe, tights, cloak, hat.

HIPPOLYTA:

Queen of Amazons…….Trailing gown, headdress, cape.

PHILOSTRATE

Master of Revels……….Long tunic, hose, hat, cloak

EGEUS

Older Man…………….. Long tunic, tights, cloak, hat.

HERMIA

His Daughter…………..Trailing dress, cape, headdress.

LYSANDER

Young Lord……………Short tunic, tights, hat, cape.

DEMETRIUS

Young Lord…………….Short tunic, tights, hat, cape.

Helena………………….Trailing gown, headdress.

MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM                       pg. 2

SCENE 2: Athens, Quince’s House

Quince:

Carpenter………………….   Rustic Tunic, hose or

Breeches, hat, various

Short capes

Snug:

Joiner………………………  Same

Bottom:

Weaver…………………….  Same

Flute:

Bellows Mender…………… Same

Snout

Tinker……………………… Same

Starveling

Tailor………………………. Same

ACT II

Scene 1:  A Wood Near Athens

Oberon:

Fairy King…………………. Short tunic, tights, long cape

headress

His Henchmen………………Similar to Oberon

Titania:

Fairy Queen…………………Light airy gown, cape,

headress

Midsummer Night’s Dream                           Pg. 3

Scene 1…cont’d.

TITANIA’S FAIRIES…….   Similar to Titania with vines

And flowers

PUCK:

Robin Goodfellow…………  Tunic, tights, light.

Demetrius:…………………. Same, add cloak

Helena………………………Same, add cloak

SCENE 2:  Another part of the forest

TITANIA………………….. Same

HER FAIRIES…………….. Same

OBERON…………………. .Same

LYSANDER………………..Same with cloak

HERMIA……………………Same with cloak

PUCK……………………….Same

DEMETRIUS……………… Same

HELENA…………………..  Same

ACT III

SCENE 1: The Wood, Same.

QUINCE……………………Same

SNUG………………………Same

BOTTOM…………………..Same, add ass head

FLUTE………………………Same

SNOUT……………………..Same

STARVELING……………..Same

PUCK………………………Same

MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM               Pg. 4

SCENE 1, cont’d.

TITANIA…………………..Same

PEASEBLOSSOM:

A Fairy……………………..Same

COBWEB:

A FAIRY…………………   Same

MOTH:

A FAIRY…………………. Same

MUSTARDSEED:

A FAIRY…………………..Same

SCENE 2: Another part of the wood

OBERON…………………..Same

PUCK………………………Same

DEMETRIUS………………Same

HERMIA………………….  Same

HELENA………………….  Same

LYSANDER……………… Same

ACT IV

SCENE 1: Athens, Palace of Theseus

THESEUS:…………………Change for wedding

HIPPOLYTA……………….Change for wedding

PHILOSTRATA……………Same

LORDS……………………..Same

ATTENDANTS…………….Same

LYSANDER………………..Change tunic, etc.

DEMETRIUS……………….Change tunic, etc.

MIDSUMMER NIGHT”S DREAM                       Pg. 5

ACT IV, cont’d.

HERMIA…………………….Change dress, etc.

HELENA…………………….Change dress, etc.

QUINCE……………………..Dressed as Prologue (rustic)

BOTTOM……………………Dressed as Pyramus (rustic)

FLUTE……………………….Dressed as Thisby (rustic)

SNOUT………………………Dressed as Wall (rustic)

STARVELING………………Dressed as Moonshine

(rustic)

SNUG………………………..Dressed as Lion

PUCK………………………..Same

OBERON……………………Same

TITANIA……………………Same

FAIRIES…………………….Same

HENCHMEN……………….Same

IMPORTANT!  PLEASE NOTE: The attached costume plot is a “suggested” design interpretation of your production and may differ greatly from the Costume World stock.  To guarantee a costume selection that is in closest possible accordance with your specifications, our Designer/Costumer will advise you of the costume options currently available.

Provided by Theatrical Booking Agent Jadene Deems