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About this Lecture
In this module, we think about the associations that may have been evoked by the word 'dream' in the minds of the original Elizabethan audience. First, we consider the idea of the nonsense dream - i.e. dreams in which events seem to follow randomly from one another, confounding our expectation of what should happen next - and compare this to the unexpected twists and turns of the play's narrative as a whole. After that, we think about Shakespeare's philosophy of dreams and compare this with the orthodoxy in Elizabethan thought. Finally, we consider the idea of the nightmare in Elizabethan thought, a phemenon that was often conceived of as the actual visitation of a female demon to the bedroom of the sleeping male.
In this course, Professor Diane Purkiss (Oxford) explores Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, with a particular focus on some of the more magical aspects of the play. The course begins with an exploration of the idea of the "Midsummer Night" in the Elizabethan imagination, before thinking about contemporary beliefs about dreams (and nightmares). After this, we look in turn at three major fairies in the play - Titania, Oberon and Puck - exploring how they might have been understood by teh original Elizabethan audience. The course ends with a consideration of Pyramus and Thisbe, characters in the play-within-a-play, and asks: "Why is it that audiences find this tragic story so funny?"
Diane Purkiss is a Professor at Keble College, Oxford. She has published two books on the English Civil War - 'The English Civil War: A People's History' (2006) and 'Literature, Gender, and Politics during the English Civil War' (2005).
Cite this Lecture
Purkiss, D. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream - Dreams [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/shakespeare-a-midsummer-night-s-dream/dreams
Purkiss, Diane. "Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream – Dreams." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018, https://www.massolit.io/courses/shakespeare-a-midsummer-night-s-dream/dreams