In Shakespearean times, the late 1500’s, the belief of magic and mystical going-ons was thought to be reality. In Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Shakespeare plays upon the audiences power of mind as he intertwines love and the surreal fairy world with comedy. These are the main themes in the play and Shakespeare tries to show just how powerful both love and imagination can be. In this play Shakespeare uses three groups of characters to try and illustrate the power of true love and illusion. These three groups of characters are the lovers, the fairies and the mechanicals.
The lovers illustrate the power of true love, the fairies represent the theme of illusion and the mechanicals shows the audience the power of dreaming which is presented in a comical fashion by Shakespeare through these characters. Shakespeare tries to make this play run like a dream and therefore reality and illusion soon become one in the minds of the audience. As I mentioned earlier most of the characters in this play can be placed into three groups either the lovers, the fairies or the mechanicals. The lovers consist of four characters, Helena, Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius all of which are trapped inside a love circle.
They are the first group of characters that Shakespeare introduces to the audience and almost immediately the audience is brought into the mayhem and confusion surrounding the lovers, which develops throughout the play. The mechanicals are the second group of characters to that take upon the stage, which consists of group of good hearted dreamers that wish to earn a pension for themselves by performing a stunningly poor play to the Duke. The third group of characters the audience are shown are the fairies. These are mystical creatures that have control over the course of the mortal world.
When there is unrest in the fairy world, as the audience soon find out, it directly affects the mortal world. The contrast between the two films is seen almost immediately in both films opening scenes. The Hoffman version tries to present the play as a serious of events that did actually did take place. Hoffman creates this more traditional image by using realistic costumes and extravagant sets or going out on location to film the play rather than using an unrealistic set. This version is seen to be a big Hollywood version of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ right from the offset.
Obviously a lot of money has been spent on this film as it stars big name actor and actresses, Michelle Pfeiffer who plays Titania being just one example of this point. There has also been massive attention to detail in this film as it contains rich backdrops and extravagant props. In contrast, the Noble version is almost a filmed performance, as it would be seen upon a stage. This version is very metaphorical in the way props and sets are laid out, for example lanterns characterize stars and doors signify the wood.
This version obviously has a much lower budget to work with as all the actors are relative unknowns and detail in the film is kept minimal. The lack of detail in this version is easiest seen when taking the costumes as an example. Unlike the rich, featured costumes of the Hoffman version Noble uses plain simple colour costumes, this stands out most in Lysander and Demetrius’ costumes as they are dressed in plain sky blue costumes. In both versions though the different type of love is shown to be a very theme throughout both remakes of this play.
Many different types of love are shown during the play ranging from true to arranged love. True love is demonstrated with the characters Hermia and Lysander and to a lesser extent Demetrius and Helena. The love between Hermia and Lysander could be construed as mad passionate love, which make both characters do strange, irrational things, such as running away to the woods. On the other hand Theseus and Hyppolyta’s love is almost seen to be arranged love because Theseus had to beat Hyppolyta in battle before he could get her hand in marriage.
This type of love makes the characters act in amore rational and sensible way to that of Hermia and Lysander when they fall in love. The love between Helena is Demetrius is only seen when Demetrius is forced to see his true feelings for Helena by the fairies. Up to then all the audience saw was Helena acting illogical because she wanted Demetrius to love her not Hermia. Closely linked with the theme of love Shakespeare shows the audience the theme of jealousy and envy. This proves also to be a powerful emotion and theme in Shakespeare’s play as several characters become jealous of another.
The first jealous characters that Shakespeare presents the audience with are Demetrius and Lysander. This jealousy appears to be a quite strange because they are both jealous of each other. Demetrius is jealous of Lysander because he knows that Lysander is Hermia’s true love but Lysander is jealous of Demetrius because he has the blessing of Egeus, Hermia’s father. The audience is then shown the jealousy that Helena posses for Hermiabecause Demetrius loves Hermia and not her. An example of this jealousy is illustrated when Helena says, ‘Call you me fair?
That ‘fair’ again unsay. Demetrius loves your fair: O happy fair’ Helena is basically saying that you think I am beautiful? Demetrius does not, as he loves your beauty and not mine. Yet another example in this play of jealousy is that of Oberon on Titania. This jealousy proves to be a key subplot within this play. Oberon is jealous of Titania because she has got something he wants, a young Indian boy. Oberon doesn’t really want this young boy, it is just a power struggle for him because Titania has something that he hasn’t got and Titania won’t let him have it.
The other groups of characters that I mentioned are the mechanicals. These are a group of characters that are seen to be a group of dreamers that forms part of the subplot within this play. The mechanicals are a way for Shakespeare to put a comical side of love and life in general across to the audience. In the Hoffman the mechanicals are portrayed as businessmen who have dreams of earning a pension by performing to the Duke. The Noble version concentrates more on the comical side of the mechanical by casting actors that would make you laugh just to look at them.