Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Midsummer Night's Dream, and The Dead

Let’s start this post in good support circle fashion with the following;
“My name is Matthew, and I am a bloggin’ liar”

It feels good to get that off my chest. The reason I am a liar is because I am about to break something I wrote in my first post ;‘I will post when I've finished each text. So I won't be looking back at a text through the muggy glasses of time.’ Between a long weekend away (I’d say a relaxing and mature long weekend, but who am I kidding?) and a busy week, I have had no time to write about my two most recent reading adventures; William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (204 pages), and James Joyce’s The Dead (59 pages).

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I have a love-hate relationship with Mr. Shakespeare and A Midsummer Night’s Dream has always been at the top of the ‘love’ end of things! I can’t help but smile when I read the verses that fill this play. Especially when Bottom or Robin Goodfellow (although due to previous versions, I will always just regard him as Puck) are on the stage/ page (see what I did there?).

For example, I find Bottom’s tendency toward obviousness entirely hilarious. Take for example when he is acting as Pyramus in the play-within-a-play and tries to point out that Snout is a wall; “And thou, o wall, O sweet, O lovely wall,/ That stand’st between her father’s ground and/ mine,/ Thou wall, O wall, O sweet and lovely wall,/ Show me thy chink to blink through mine/ eyne.” (Shakespeare 5.1.183-8)

I think the reason I enjoy this so much is due to Shakespeare’s playfulness with the characters it isn’t bogged down with hubris-filled tragic heroes but filled with love triangles (well, more like a love square) and mythical creatures.

So, please all remember how much I spoke highly of this piece because I am taking a full-year Shakespeare course starting in September so you will likely be hearing some very nasty words about the playwright very soon!

The Dead

I don’t usually write about all the short stories I read because this blog would get so boring and would take up way to much of my time (for example, I read seven just yesterday) but I fell obliged to write about this particular James Joyce story because I have it in a little bound book on its lonesome so it deserve some special attention!

This book is a masterpiece of character studies. From Joyce’s use of the character’s thoughts about each other, their interactions with one another, and descriptions of them, this simple friend and family get together turns out to be an interesting look at how completely different individuals make up a group and fit together.

There is one character in particular that most intrigued me. She is plainly in sight throughout the whole short story and yet the person she really is seems hidden in shadows and mystery. This character is Aunt Julia.

Throughout the story it is insinuated that she is a somewhat unusual character, when compared with her sister Aunt Kate. Just look at this early description of her person; “the appearance of a woman who did not know where she was or where she was going.” (Joyce 6)

However, quite suddenly in the story, out of nowhere (at least to the reader, although maybe not to the other party guests), she starts to sing with a “voice, strong and clear in tone, attacked with great spirit the runs which embellish the air and though she sang very rapidly she did not miss even the smallest of grace notes.” (Joyce 22) How did this seemingly confused, feeble creature suddenly burst into elegant song? I can’t help but wonder who this woman once was. Especially taking into account the fact that she is singing Arrayed for the Bridal. Although I am unfamiliar with the song I found the lyrics online.

Arrayed for the bridal, in beauty behold her

A white wreath entwineth a forehead more fair;

I envy the zephyrs that softly enfold her,

And play with the locks of her beautiful hair.

May life to her prove full of sunshine and love.

Who would not love her?

Sweet star of the morning, shining so bright

Earth’s circle adorning, fair creature of light!”

Having this older woman, earlier described as holding a “large flaccid face” (Joyce 6), sing such a beautiful song just adds more to the mystery that enticed me.

The above is just one of the many characters we meet in the small number of pages this story takes up and I would very much advise you to read the story if you ever get a chance so you can learn about all the others.

This story was originally part of Joyce’s collection Dubliners. After reading this (and also The Boarding House) it is now only my books-to-read list (quite literally, I have a little book so I don’t forget books I hear about)!

The A Midsummer Night’s Dream edition I read was ISBN: 0-7434-8281-6
The The Dead edition I read was ISBN: 0-14-60.0082-X

Joyce, James. The Dead. Toronto: Penguin Books, 1995. Print.

Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. New York: Washington Square Press, 1993. Print.

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