Many ingenious theatrical worlds have been created for the fairy world of A Midsummer Night's Dream, from the baroque to the postmodern. This is the quintessential play for understanding the ways in which scenery, costumes, music, lighting, and playing spaces affect our experience of Shakespeare. A Midsummer Night's Dream also proves to be extraordinarily responsive to the cultural winds of each era, easily circulating a variety of sometimes competing social interests.
In his richly detailed, beautifully illustrated history of Shakespeare's most popular play—the first comprehensive study of A Midsummer Night's Dream in the theatre—Gary Jay Williams covers four hundred years of landmark productions in Europe, the United States, and Canada as well as important opera, dance, and film adaptations. Williams shows how the visual and musical vocabularies of production can be read as cultural texts and how these meditative texts determine this play's available meanings from generation to generation. His account, then, is the story of our imaginative and astonishing uses of Shakespeare's play.
Many famous theatre artists have been drawn to this play, and many of their productions have been turning points in theatre history. Williams offers detailed theatrical and cultural analyses of the productions of David Garrick, Ludwig Tieck, Elizabeth Vestris, Charles Kean, Harley Granville-Barker, Sir Herbert Beerbohm Tree, Max Reinhardt, Peter Brook, Liviu Ciulei, and other artists. His engaging, intelligent study will be invaluable to scholars and teachers of Shakespeare and theatre history and to professional directors, designers, critics, and actors.
•The Wedding-play Myth and the Dream
in Full Play
•Shakespeare Absolute: Fairies, Gods, and Oranges in Purcell's Fairy Queen
•The Scenic Language of Empire
•These Antique Fables . . . These Fairy Toys”
•The National and Natural Dream
of Modernism: The “New Hieroglyphic Language of Scenery” and the Theology of the Text
of Modernism: The Sacred and the Secular
•Postmodernism: “The Fierce Vexation of a Dream”