Customer Reviews: A Midsummer Night's Dream (Shakespeare Made Easy (Paperback))
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on October 29, 2010

A piece of magic on the stage or screen--or on the electronic paper!

This is probably Shakespeare's most delightful comedy, and I'm glad I have read it in several editions and seen various versions of the play on large screen, small screen, and stage. I wish schools would teach this instead of trying to get the kids to understand Romeo and Juliet and Julius Caesar. Even if they don't understand this one, they can tell that it's fun and somewhat vulgar, with Bottom running around in an ass's head and the Queen of the Fairies falling in temporary love with him. "Fairy" might not yet have had its most recent meaning, but Bottom in an ass's head suggested exactly the same thing then that it suggests now

While I was getting my doctorate in English, my Shakespeare teacher worshiped Shakespeare instead of enjoying it for what it was worth. She almost went ballistic when somebody pointed out vulgarities and slapstick in the plays, because we too were supposed to worship Shakespeare instead of analyzing him. Sorry, but I was right and she was wrong. Shakespeare was a very bawdy writer, and he enjoyed being bawdy.

DO NOT see the movie Dead Poet's Society without reading or watching this play first.
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on September 11, 1999
Okay, so maybe I'm not the world's greatest living expert on Shakespeare, considering the fact that, other than this, I have only read Romeo and Juliet. But hey, I thought it was great. Characters like Bottom and Robin Goodfellow were hilarious. Shakespeare seems to know how to make a tangled mess of everyone's lives very well. It amazes me his power to make that seem funny at times and then seem incredibly sad at others. I have to say, I really enjoyed this comedy better than his tragedy. I'm reading The Taming of The Shrew next. I don't know if I can handle Hamlet or Othello right now. By the way, if you're like me and you need someone to explain Shakespeare's language to you, I highly recommend the New Folger Library Copy with explanations on the opposite page.
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There are many reasons for the popularity of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream", not the least among them is the almost unique joining of the humorous misuse of language (by the tradesman actors) and the utter beauty of language and expression (by Puck, Oberon, and Titania). One usually gets a farce of language or an attempt at the sublime. Here the music of the two enriches both.

How can one put together these four disparate plotlines into such a wonderful whole? The quartet of lovers and their mixed and varied attentions forms the basis of the plot in the comedy and it is a delightful enough farce. The squabble of Demitrius and Lysander over Hermia while Helena pines over Demitrius, Oberon and Titania's argument over one of her servants and Oberon's use of Puck to manipulate Titania's affections including Puck's mistaken application of Oberon's potion to Lysander's eyes, the pending marriage of Thesus and Hippolyta, and the wonderfully, magically awful play being put on by the tradesman for the nobles. Putting all this into a wonderful whole is an achievement that I believe is unmatched.

I do want to say that this play has suffered a great deal in our sex obsessed age. We have foisted on this play an eroticism that it does not claim for itself nor display. While the "adult" couples (Thesus & Hippolyta, Oberon & Titania) interact and talk in ways that include that aspect of their lives, the youthful couples always talk and act in ways that are concerned with propriety and modesty. Bottom is hardly the lust blinded brute depicted in modern productions. He is much more interested in eating and chatting with his Fairy friends than Titania. It is Titania who is under the influence of the magic flower who is infatuated with Bottom while he remains quite oblivious to her desires.

In any case, this is a fine edition of the work with many helps for the reader. Almost half the book is filled with introductory essays that provide background on the play and its text. The play itself is full of notes to help the reader understand idioms and definitions of words that are obscure, unique to Shakespeare, or that have changed meaning since 1596. There are four Appendices that cover source materials for the play, realigned text that the editors believe were corrupted in the sources we have for the play and the last one is the prologue to the play that Peter Quince butchers to the amusement of the nobles. The appendix provides us with the prologue with correct punctuation, as Quince should have read it.

All the background material is interesting and enriches our understanding of the play. But it is the play that matters and is so much fun to read.
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on October 19, 2000
I'm surprised that none of the reviews I've read (I didn't read them all, but about 25) even mention the pictures in this wonderful edition by Bruce Coville. I've read the play and adore it, seen it several times, etc. But the reason one would buy this book rather than Shakespeare's words is for the clear, modern English storytelling and the gorgeous images. This is a wonderful book to introduce Shakespeare to anyone. I personally love the poetry of Shakespeare's lines but know that they are difficult for children and Shakspeare newbies. This book tells the story in clear words and great pictures, full of classical fairies and beautiful maidens and valorous youths (plus some great facial expressions on Bottom). Worth every penny.
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on January 5, 2010
i read this, and i just fell in love with it. i think this has become my favorite book or whatever it's concidered as of all time! i love how it's set up on this; it makes it very pleasing to read with a simple layout for it. some of his other plays on the kindle are set up in a more confusing way, but this one is jsut right. i cannot wait until we do julius caeser in my english class!
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on May 20, 2001
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a great play. It was my first time reading Shakespeare and I thoroughly enjoyed it. There are a few sets of characters in this, and that makes it a little hard to understand at first. There is
There are the Athenians: Theseus, Philostrate, Hippolytta, Egeus, Demetrius, Helena, Hermia, and Lysander.
The Artisans or Actors: Quince, Snout, Snug, Flute, Starveling, and Bottom (Not named Bottom for just any reason)
The Fairies: Oberon, Titania, Robin Goodfellow (Puck), Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Mustardseed, and Mote.
These characters are brought together all by one character, Robin Goodfellow. He is the servant of Oberon and he is ordered to complete some tasks, but he messes up. All of the characters are than linked by him. I won't tell you what happens because that is the good part of the book. I really liked the book because it was funny and it kept me on the edge, something that I didn't think would happen in this play. I read this in 7th grade and had a little trouble understanding it. Our class was told to buy the New Folger kind, because it helped explain the story. The book is a little hard to understand so is what Folger has done is put the synopsis of the scene at the beginning of each scene on the left hand page. Also on the left page are vocabulary words to help you further understand the book. The play is than written on the right hand side of the page. This makes life much easier. The plot is great and I didn't give it away so I expect you to buy the book at this cheap price and read the great play, A Midsummer Night's Dream!
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on April 5, 2007
I bought this audio recording of MSND to use as I taught the play to my 10th graders. The actors do well, and this is the complete version of the play. However, some of the character sound effects can get annoying, as well as some of the music.

For whatever reason, the faeries' voices have a slight echo effect, which isn't too annoying, but when a faery--such as Puck or Oberon--is placing a spell on someone, there is an extreme echo placed on the voice. The echo was so extreme for the end of Act III, when Puck is confusing Lysander and Demetrius, that it gave me a slight headache. Also, while the use of a little music can be nice, many of my students didn't like it and I found that the music was on a little too long in some places and it stalls the progression of the play. The "braying" of Bottom sounds more like a pig grunt, which gets really old after awhile.

Overall, I would recommend this version to those who don't mind slight annoyances like these--and maybe I'm being nitpicky--but if you think that those will wear on you, try to find another version.
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on March 20, 2001
Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a different time or place? Just pick up a copy of this comedy by William Shakespeare. It is a book that mixes four plots interchangeably, thus blurring the line between what is real and what is not. It is a book about Fairies, Royalty, and Struggling Actors. A timeless classic, that, once begun, is almost impossible to put down. Those who read through it's magical pages will never forget the content therein.
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play in Five Acts, and revolves around several major characters, each of which can be classified into selective groups.
The Athenians (and lovers): Theseus, Hippolyta, Egeus, Philostrate (completely unimportant to the plot), Demetrius, Hermia, Lysander, and Helena.
The Actors: Peter Quince, Nick Bottom, Francis Flute, Tom Snout, Snug, and Robin Starveling
The Fairies: Oberon, Titania, Puck, Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed
The play successfully intertwines multiple plots, which, I believe is absolutely astounding. The play is brought together by one single event: The marriage of Theseus (The Duke of Athens) and Hippolyta (Queen of the Amazons). This event brings all the characters together to form what would become A Midsummer Night's Dream.
What's most interesting about the play though, are the various interpretations of it. Some feel that the reason the lovers went into the forest was to escape from the harshness of Athenian law and enter into the realm of the natural world. Some people feel that the end is the affirmation of the status quo. That is, with the ruling class men showing their superiority over the working class actors. But isn't this the very thing that is so great about Shakespeare? Shakespeare leaves each and every play open to many, many interpretations.
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on October 19, 2005
This book is great. It does a great job of breaking down the text of "Midsummer" and telling what it really means. On one page is the actual text of the play; On the direct opposite page is the translation. The only translation I've found so far that is way out there is the translation of "Tary rash wanton...." The translation is "Wait a minute, you brazen hussy...." Now, HOW is that an understandable translation?? This is the only thing that puts a damper on a perfect score. While I was in a production of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," our director frequently had us refer to the book to figure out what in the world we were saying. I highly reccommend buying this book.
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It's neither the best nor worst of Shakespeare's many comedies, but "A Midsummer Night's Dream" definitely holds one honor -- it's the most fantastical of his works. This airy little comedy is filled with fairies, spells, love potions and romantic mixups, with only the bland human lovers making things a little confusing (who's in love with whom again?).

As Athens prepares for the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, the fusty Egeus is demanding that his daughter Hermia marry the man he's chosen for her, Demetrius. Her only other options are death or nunhood.

Since she's in love with a young man named Lysander (no, we never learn why her dad hates Lysander), Hermia refuses, and the two of them plot to escape Athens and marry elsewhere. But Helena, a girl who has been kicked to the curb by Demetrius, tips him off about their plans; he chases Hermia and Lysander into the woods, with Helena following him all the way. Are you confused yet?

But on this same night, the fairy king Oberon and his queen Titania are feuding over a little Indian boy. Oberon decides to use a magical "love juice" from a flower to cause some trouble for Titania by making her fall in love with some random weaver named Nick Bottom (whom his henchman Puck has turned into a donkey-headed man). He also decides to have Puck iron out the four lovers' romantic troubles with the same potion. But of course, hijinks ensue.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" is another one of Shakespeare's plays that REALLY needs to be seen before it's read. Not only is it meant to be seen rather than read, but the tangle of romantic problems and hijinks are a little difficult to follow... okay, scratch that. They can be VERY difficult to follow, especially if you need to keep the four lovers straight.

But despite those small flaws, Shakespeare is in rare form here -- the story floats along in an enchanted haze of fairy magic, forest groves, and a love square that twists in on itself. And Shakespeare's lush, haunting poetry is absolutely lovely here ("With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine/There sleeps Titania sometime of the night/Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight...").

But he also packs it with plenty of hilarity -- not only is it funny to read about the haughty fairy queen fawning over a guy with a donkey head (Nick Bottom = "ass's head", get it?), but there's plenty of funny moments in the dialogue ("Thisby, the flowers of odious savours sweet...").

The four main lovers are relatively bland and interchangeable, and we never find out much about them except that Helena is kind of stalkerish and not too bright (she tips off the guy she likes that the girl HE likes is eloping so he can stop her?). The real draws are the fairy creatures -- Titania and Oberon are proud alien creatures filled with both cruelty and kindness, and Puck is delightfully mischievous and.... puckish.

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" is a shimmering little concoction of magic, romantic mayhem and fairy squabbling. Absolutely stunning.
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