The difference between a play and other forms of literature is that a play is meant to be seen and heard, not merely read. As such, the playwright’s text is the center of a larger effort on the part of director, actors and designers as they attempt to aid the audience’s understanding of the play’s plot, their sympathies with its characters and, ultimately, with the themes that it addresses. Each scene of a play helps an audience to build its appreciation of the play as a whole. The director, actors, designers and other various stage hands are all part of a team that helps to convey the writer’s ultimate message. The greatest example of any of these principles would most likely be found in a Shakespearean play. I believe Act 3, Scene II in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” would be the best illustration of this theory.
Now the characters in this scene are Oberon, Robin Goodfellow, Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia and Helena. Oberon is the king of the fairies. His mission in this scene is twofold; get Titania, his wife, to fall in love with a beast and have Demetrius fall in love with Helena. In the end he achieves both goals. Robin is basically a bumbling sidekick to the king.
Oberon gave him the potion to put on Demetrius’ eyes, but he instead puts it on Lysander’s. Lysander is in love with Hermia as she is with him. Helena is in love with Demetrius who was at one time in love with her, but now would like to marry Hermia. This scene takes place deep in the forest. I think this is very important, because the forest is a dark place full of mystery, and mystery is a nice prelude to romance.
It must not be a very big forest, because when Hermia asked Lysander to meet her there, she never established any specific spot. This adds to the idea that this is a very localized problem. Everyone knows who everyone else is, and everyone is in love with the wrong person. Now Lysander and Hermia were supposed to meet in the forest to plan their elopement, but Helena told Demetrius of their plans in order to gain his favor. Demetrius ran after Hermia and Helena ran after him. Of course no one knows that anyone’s been anointed with any love potion which creates most of the confusion.
Once Robin gets it right and gets Demetrius to fall in love with Helena, she mistakes it for some cruel joke. Hermia however, takes the situation all too seriously. She really starts to believe Lysander is in love with Helena, especially when he’s ready to duel with Demetrius for her hand. Luckily, however, Robin impersonates the both of them, and he leads them away from each other to someplace they can each fall asleep. We see many different themes throughout this scene. The theme “love is blind” is certainly conveyed powerfully.
How else could we explain Titania being in love with Bottom, who at this point has the head of an ass? This also explains how Lysander can suddenly be in love with someone whom he’s never shown the slightest bit of interest in until now. Of course there’s also the reversal of roles in this scene. In a previous scene, Helena was being treated as one would treat a dog. Demetrius was literally shaking her off of his leg, while she simply asked for more when she said, “I am your spaniel, Demetrius, The more you beat me I will fawn on you”. In this scene however, Demetrius has a change of heart and we hear him proclaim, “O Helen, goddess, nymph, perfect, divine! To what, my love shall I compare thine eyne?” Hermia, who up till now was wanted by both Lysander and Demetrius, gets nothing but loathing from the two. Where before they would shower her with nothing but praises, now they shout insults at her, and even threaten her with bodily harm.
You would think all this messing around with people’s emotions would complicate the plot to immeasurable ends, but in the end it actually begins to resolve it. Because of Robin’s little mishap, we have a great deal of confusion during a good share of this scene. Demetrius and Lysander are ready to kill each other in order to be with Helena. This is apparent when they exchange “fighting” words: LYSANDER: Now She holds me not. Now follow, if thou dar’st, to try whose right, Of thine or mine, is most in Helena. DEMETRIUS: “Follow”? Nay, I’ll go with thee, cheek by jowl.
If you had not read past act 2, you would think these two were fighting over Hermia. Helena on the other hand, the person they are actually fighting over, thinks this is all a big joke at her expense. She finally has what she’s been wanting the whole play, but she doesn’t want to accept it. Hermia meanwhile, must be very confused to see the two men who just a little while ago were fighting for her, pushing her aside in order to be with Helena. Toward the end of the scene however, we begin to see some resolve.
Robin leads the two Athenians away from each other, and gets them both to fall asleep. He then has the girls fall asleep and anoints the eyes of whom he needs to anoint, Lysander. At this point it looks like everything might just turn out all right. Now this scene must be played with plenty of emotion. This potion that Robin uses is very powerful.
We can see this plainly by the way it makes men fall madly in love. One can see lots of raw energy in this scene; energy that must be brought out and unleashed. Anyone performing in this play must be giving their all. The scenery is, of course, a dark forest. The darkness needs to be especially apparent, because that’s what adds the mystery to the scene.
There should be some fog on the ground to emphasize the”dreamlike” state that most of these characters are in, these characters being Lysander, Demetrius and Titania. They have all been, or will be, anointed with the love potion so it is imperative that a dreamlike state is imposed on the forest. In the beginning, we see Demetrius and Hermia having an argument. Hermia needs to be yelling and using plenty of body language to express her emotions. At this point, she thinks Demetrius killed Lysander.
She has a right to think so as Demetrius doesn’t really give any reason to believe that he didn’t commit this heinous crime. He gives evince to the fact when he answers Hermia’s question about the whereabouts of her lover with, “I had rather give his carcass to my hounds”. Of course this sets Hermia off in a frenzy. She calls him every name in the book;..dog..curr..worm..adder..serpent..” This she needs to do screaming, perhaps even pounding on Demetrius’ chest with her fists for dramatic effect. Of course when Demetrius finally tells her where her precious love is she finally tones down a bit, although still keeping the anger in her voice when she tells him, “And from thy hated presence part I.” Demetrius throughout all of this should remain calm and collected for he has nothing to really worry about.
In his mind, he thinks he will get Hermia; if by force then so be it. There is a short scene where Oberon yells at Robin for mixing up Athenians. This of course was no fault of Robin’s, but he is only a mere servant and must act like one. He needs to basically obey without asking questions, perhaps stuttering every now and then just out of nervousness. He is getting yelled at by a king.
Oberon, on the other hand, must act high and mighty and look down upon Robin as a mere subject while he barks out the orders. I feel that’s the kind of king he is. Now as we move along in the scene, we get to the part where the four lovers finally cross each other’s paths. At this point however, things are a little screwed up. Lysander is in love with the wrong girl and Helena doesn’t know a good thing when she’s got it.
She thinks the two men are playing a cruel joke on her and so should act betrayed. Tears would be a definite plus at this point as Helena is obviously very upset. Hermia, on the other hand, goes from confused to furious. At first she is confused at Lysander’s dissent. At this point she’s probably talking slow and low, not really sure of what’s going on. She soon turns to anger however; all directed towards Helena.
She feels her love has been stolen and is ready to fight. Hermia, on the other hand, still feels this is a cruel joke and thinks Helena is now also in on it. At this point, they are ready to come to blows and should be right up in each other’s faces, spitting insults back and forth. Now by this time, Oberon decides to step in and once again send Robin in to do some more handiwork. He gets the two men even angrier by pretending to be each one and leading them to separate parts of the woods.
At this point the men must act furious and ready to kill someone. They should be stomping through the woods looking for their foe. By the end of the scene, Robin has led everyone to safety and they all fall asleep where he leads them. At this point, everyone is in a dreamlike state and should be acting very calm and relaxed, which should be easy to do, because they should be sleeping. It’s been shown that a play is meant to be seen and heard.
The director, actors, designers and other various stage hands all help to contribute to what the writer is ultimately trying to convey with his play. Each scene of the play should help the audience to build its appreciation of the play. I believe Act 3, Scene II of Shakespeare’s “A Misummer Night’s Dream” is an excellent example of this theory.