"The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania" by Joseph Noel Paton (1849)
Other Scottish Country Dances for this Day
Today's Musings, History & Folklore
“Lovers and madmen have such seething brains Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool reason ever comprehends. ”
~William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream (1590-1597)
Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" takes place on the magical eve before traditional Midsummer and portrays the events surrounding the marriage of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, former Queen of the Amazons, and intertwines the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors who are controlled and manipulated by the fairy King Oberon and his Queen Titania, who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set. A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of those special plays which contains another play within it, the unintentionally comic performance rendered by the traveling players called: "The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe."🧚 🎭
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" takes place on the magical eve before midsummer and portrays the events surrounding the marriage of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta. These include the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors who are controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set.
In a parallel plot line, Oberon, king of the fairies, and Titania, his queen, have come to the forest outside Athens. Oberon and Titania are estranged because Titania refuses to give her Indian changeling boy to Oberon for use as his "knight" or "henchman." Oberon calls upon Robin "Puck" Goodfellow, his "shrewd and knavish sprite", to help him concoct a magical juice derived from a flower called "love-in-idleness", which turns from white to purple when struck by Cupid's arrow. When the concoction is applied to the eyelids of a sleeping person, that person, upon waking, falls in love with the first living thing they perceive. He instructs Puck to retrieve the flower with the hope that he might make Titania fall in love with an animal of the forest and thereby shame her into giving up the little Indian boy.
A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of the special plays which contain another play within it, "The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe."
Pyramus and Thisbe, the source of inspiration for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, are a pair of star-crossed lovers whose feuding parents forbid them from seeing one another. They live next-door to each other but are separated by walls. Through a crack in one wall they whisper their love and make plans to meet on a moonlit night under a mulberry tree. Thisbe arrives first, only to see a lion with blood dripping from its mouth after eating its prey. Terrified, she drops her veil and runs. Pyramus arrives soon afterward and sees both the blood and the veil. He assumes the lion has killed Thisbe, so he falls on his sword and dies. Thisbe returns and finds Pyramus dead. She takes his sword and kills herself.
Although tragic in nature, this play within a play is rendered as high comedy by the "bad actors" in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
For a remarkable rare bit of nostalgia, in late April of 1964, during the full height of "Beatlemania" and when England was celebrating the 400th birthday of William Shakespeare, the Beatles performed in a playful send-up of Pyramus and Thisbe.
In the silly sketch, Paul McCartney plays Pyramus, John Lennon plays Thisbe, Ringo Starr plays the Lion and George Harrison plays Moonshine.