Understanding a Midsummer Night's Dream: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

By Faith Nostbakken | Go to book overview

7
Contemporary
Applications

While the previous chapters have explored the historical context of A Midsummer Night's Dream from various angles and offered both dramatic analysis and a history of performance, this final chapter brings a modern context to the discussion of themes, concepts, and ideas. The topics included here suggest parallels between Shakespeare's play and concerns or issues in the present or in recent times. Connections presented are based on the assumption that we can further appreciate the play by expanding our vision of it to include popular or controversial elements that are evident around us or that touch us personally. By asking what engages us in the world today as A Midsummer Nights Dream has engaged people in the past and maybe still does, we open ourselves to new insights about subjects such as entertainment, relationships, and unusual or inexplicable phenomena that have a “magical” or mysterious quality to them.

Those three areas, in fact, constitute the three parts of this chapter. The first section looks at our contemporary entertainment industry, considering parallels to Shakespeare's sixteenth-century comic drama by exploring romance on screen and in popular novels, the television staple of half-hour situational comedies or “sitcoms,” and the art and performance of stand-up comedians. Each of these popular forms has something in common with the various elements of A Midsummer Nights Dream and invites us to inquire into the range of universal or culturally specific qualities that shape the industry and activity of entertainment.

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