Thursday, May 17, 2012

Aimless Reading: The S's, Part 19.13 (William Shakespeare)

A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare, William
A Midsummer Night's Dream

I think my first encounter with this play came via the movie, "Dead Poet's Society." One of the main story lines involves a young student at an elite boarding school who discovers that he wants to act. His authoritarian father, a man of more modest means than most of the other fathers who send their sons to this school, insists that his son give up acting, fearing it will distract him from his studies and leave him unprepared for the "real" world. The boy's English teacher, who has ignited his passion for drama, attempts to reason with the father, but to no avail. He bans his son from acting and the boy commits suicide. The school, looking for a scapegoat, blames the teacher.

I remember my father coming home from seeing this movie and telling me how much he liked it, so much so, in fact, that he took me to see it the following weekend. I was the same age as the main character and having similar struggles with my own father. I remember relating to the film. A few weeks later, my father's attitude towards DPS changed. I think he worried that I might attempt to solve our own problems in a similar fashion to the main character. He started telling me how wrong he thought it was that the boy committed suicide and how selfish an act suicide was and how it was never the solution, etc etc etc.

This happened several times. My father loved movies and could enjoy them for whatever aesthetic or emotional satisfaction they provided, but on occasion he would have negative reactions to them after the fact. On some level, I think he believed that people imitated movie idols to such an extent that it was his duty as a parent, despite his own positive response to a film, to preach against what he saw as the dangers of its moral message.

He had a similar reaction to "Do The Right Thing." He loved the movie, but then he did a similar about face and began telling me things like "violence never solves anything," and so on. As a white business owner whose employees were almost all black and almost all underpaid, I think he identified with Danny Aiello's character and feared that one of his employees might be a Mookie waiting to happen.

On a related side note to this play, I highly recommend the 1935 film version, featuring Mickey Rooney, James Cagney, Olivia de Haviland and many others. It's a visual gem.

from A Midsummer Night's Dream


O cross! too high to be enthrall'd to low.  


Or else misgraffed in respect of years,--


O spite! too old to be engaged to young.  


Or else it stood upon the choice of friends,--  


O hell! to choose love by another's eyes.


Or, if there were a sympathy in choice,  
War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it,
Making it momentany as a sound,  
Swift as a shadow, short as any dream;  
Brief as the lightning in the collied night,  
That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and earth,  
And ere a man hath power to say 'Behold!'
The jaws of darkness do devour it up:  
So quick bright things come to confusion.

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