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Ironically, the day I began reading the King of Shadows was the day after I had completed reading

Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream and the evening before I went to see Julius Caesar played in Bloomsburg. This set up a fairly unique reading experience for me. If I had not previously read A Midsummer Night's Dream and learned about some of the speculated history of Shakespeare's life, this book would have not been nearly as interesting or multifaceted for me. Even reading some of Queen Elizabeth's poetry and speeches gave me a, in my opinion, more interesting perspective on this story. To me it really shows how much students can gain from having experiences with the canonical literary texts; they are everywhere. King of Shadows even sparked my interest in reading Shakespeares The Tempest, which I will do in my other class by the end of the semester. Due to my experience with the texts and histories alluded to in this story, I feel I was able to gain more from it and see parallels and connections that the author may have been making with other works, especially those of Shakespeare. Each work fueled the other, making them companions to my interest and delight. A major theme in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream involves the deceptive nature of drama as well as the confusion when trying to separate a dream from reality. This same theme lingers throughout King of Shadows. The protagonist of the story uses acting to escape reality thus implying the falsity of the play world. Nat also directly recognizes the lies told by Shakespeare in his play: I knew as I said it that it was a lie. Shakespeares lie [] (28). Similarly, Shakespeare admits, through Nat's character Puck, this same fallacy of drama: And this weak and idle theme/ No more yielding but a dream (Epilogue 5-6). Puck invites the audience to rest assured that the entire play was merely a dream. Nat's relation to Shakespeare's dream theme continues and increases once the story takes a turn, and Nat falls ill. When Nat wakes up in 16th century London, the most immediate and real dream of the story begins. Nat calls this a [] mad dream [he] was living (36), but he does not quite know what to make of it. By the end of his experience he no longer recognizes it as a dream at all and neither do other characters in the present like Arby, Gil and Rachel. Arby's mysterious character further gives confusion to whether Nat's experience can truly be called a dream.

The confusion about dreams and reality in King of Shadows shed light for me on some commentary about the nature of theater in Shakespeare's Dream. Nat's lack of desire to distinguish his acting world from his reality and furthermore his inability to distinguish his dream from reality parallel the theater experience to which Shakespeare seems to allude. Despite Puck's declaration that the audience can dismiss the story as merely a dream, the theater experience is much more complex than that. As Nat struggled to let go of his dreamlike experience, audience members often struggle similarly when reading a book, watching a movie or attending a play. Regardless of a play being fiction, in order to experience a play, one must believe in the characters, the story, and the plot to some extent. Shakespeare's complex use of dreaming and reality throughout A Midsummer Night's Dream, including the magical forest, Theseuss questioning of this magic and Puck's announcement at the end, embodies this experience of losing oneself in a work of fiction. Nat also illustrates this struggle with reality, only sure that the emotions he felt during this dream were real thus finding satisfaction or at least closure. Therefore, King of Shadows explores this deception or lie that Shakespeare alludes to throughout his play. Nat explicitly accuses Shakespeare of lying in his plays, however, by the end it seems that Nat may have found a new relationship with this apparent lie. He can now find solace in the reality of the emotion that the fallacy of a play or dream may evoke. Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Nights Dream. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. The Norton Shakespeare. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2008. 849-896. Print.