A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM: AN EXPERIMENT IN ALLEGORICAL STAGING by J.A.
HUDSON Submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Shakespeare and Theatre of the University of Birmingham The Shakespeare Institute
Contact Info; Darkladyplayers@aol.com (212) 769 9537
Copyright 2008 John Hudson All Rights Reserved
TABLE OF CONTENTS INTRODUCTION PART 1. AN ALLEGORICAL READING OF DREAM The Overall Allegorical plot The Lovers and their Crosses Mechanicals; Peter Quince and the Scroll Puck as the Devil Crowning with Flowers Titus and Titania Jealous Oberon and the War Fetching the allegorical ‘Flower’ The Dark Side; Philomel and Spotted Snakes Mechanicals Rehearsal and Bottom’s Translation The Identity of the Bees Puck’s Barbering Bottom’s Letter to the Corinthians Wormwood; Death and Resurrection of Titania Athens; Theseus and the Sport Stretched with Cruel Pain Wall Collapses and the Apocalypse Passion of Pyramus/Jesus Apocalypse and Epilogue PART 2. DEMONSTRATING THE ALLEGORY IN PRODUCTION Textual Adaptations Meta-theatrical conventions Building a Company Workshop Process Rehearsals Roles and Characters Gesture and Music Putting on the show CONCLUSION PHOTOGRAPHS NOTES BIBLIOGRAPHY page 3 5 6 7 9 10 10 12 13 15 16 16 18 20 21 21 23 24 25 28 29 29 30 36 37 37 38 39 40 42 46 50 53
INTRODUCTION Allegory was an established feature of Elizabethan life, and was mentioned by a range of contemporary literary commentators.1 As Sir John Harington emphasised in the introduction to his translation of Orlando Furioso (1591), the honeyed sweetness of the verse is not where the underlying meaning of an Elizabethan text is to be found, and those of stronger stomachs should look beneath the surface to digest the allegory.
Traces of allegories being employed on the English Renaissance stage include the plays of John Lyly, personified figures such as Rumour in the plays of Shakespeare, the stage directions in Wilson’s plays, the administrative papers that describe the symbolism of Gorbudoc, and occasional accounts of audience reactions to plays like The Cradle of Security or the political allegory in The Game at Chess. 2 The morality plays had also taught audiences to appreciate religious allegory, although due to the blasphemy laws, overt religious figures could no longer appear on the Elizabethan stage. They therefore re-appeared in covert fashion, the Vice became re-created as the fool, 3 a typical morality struggle between a good and evil angel for the soul of man was re-created as Dr Faustus,4 and the traditional dramatic Christological theme of the harrowing of hell was allegorically re-created as the porter’s scene in Macbeth.5 On a larger scale, the whole of Hamlet has been interpreted as a covert religious allegory.6 This paper examines one particular play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and focuses not on the contemporary/ political allegory, which has already been well explored, but upon how covert allegory is used to convey radical religious meanings.7
In the past, the identification of allegory (especially Christian allegory), in the plays has been rightly questioned because as Vickers puts it, many commentators use “selective attention” and suggest an isolated parallel without relating it to other aspects of the play or explaining what purpose the allegorical dimension fulfills.8 In order to avoid such dangers, this reading of Dream focuses on the allegorical inter-relationships between the main characters (except for those at the Athenian court), and suggests how the allegory has been used to create a particular set of meanings which form an entire allegorical plot that can be made manifest in performance. Since audiences routinely understood the allegorical meanings of pageants, processions and tableaux,9 as well as the meanings of some of the above-mentioned plays, it is likely that certain key words such as the pun on the word ‘idle’, or the meaning of Puck’s name, would have been understood by an Elizabethan audience during the performance. However, none of the few surviving records of contemporary Shakespearean performance refer to any allegorical dimension of the plays. Moreover, as in Hamlet, the overall allegory in Dream is so complex that it could only be fully understood once the text was available in print.
Part One provides an overall allegorical interpretation of the play. Part Two then explores an attempt to translate that interpretation into performance in an experimental allegorical adaptation performed at the Abingdon Theater, New York from 28 March-1 April 2007 (which is attached as a DVD). The discussion will follow the order of the scenes as they appeared in that production. Finally, the conclusion considers some of the implications of the allegory for questions of meaning and sources.
PART ONE; AN ALLEGORICAL READING OF DREAM When Theseus and Hippolyta debate the nature of allegory in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the view that Theseus expresses is what Dante referred to as the ‘Allegory of Poets’ namely that the surfaces of stories are not real, and we need to look beneath the surface to discover objective reality. The approach of Theseus contrasts with the view expressed by Hippolyta which reflects Dante’s ‘Allegory of the Theologians’, namely that if told enough times a story becomes reality, and that the surface is all that exists.10 This explicit discussion is perhaps an indication to look at Dream itself as an allegory, and in order to clarify the nature of the two approaches, in this production the actors hold placards on which our modern phrasing for these two kinds of allegory are inscribed. 11
It was not until the 1990s that some aspects of the religious allegory in Dream were identified by Professor Patricia Parker. After reviewing how readers constructed allegorical meanings during the late medieval period, she suggested the allegorical identity of Pyramus and Thisbe (Jesus and the Church), Wall (the Partition between Earth and Heaven which comes down at the Apocalypse), Peter Quince (Saint Peter), and confirmed the allegorical identity of Puck (the Devil). This paper goes further, by using source criticism to suggest the allegorical identity of Oberon, Titania, the Little Indian boy and the Flower, and by constructing an overall interpretation of how all these entities inter-relate in the allegorical plot. Since Parker discovered that several characters are allegories for Christian figures from first century Judea, it is perhaps consistent that the underlying plot also appears to be a religious allegory.
The Underlying Allegorical plot Unlike those allegorical interpretations which Brian Vickers criticized for being individually isolated and lacking any overall meaning, this paper will suggest that each character in Dream can be inter-related as part of a consistent allegorical plot, which remarkably anticipates some of the most radical findings of late 20th century New Testament scholarship.
In the allegorical plot Titus Caesar (Titania), is fighting the Roman-Jewish war against Yahweh, the god of the Jews (Oberon), who has come from India (Iudea). Titus has stolen away the Messiah (the little ‘Indian’ boy) from the Jews and from his mother the Virgin Mary (the vot’ress), and has changed him into a false messiah (the Changeling). The book (the Flower) that is associated with idolatry (idleness), is purple coloured, associated with the god of love and which makes people madly dote upon Jesus (Bottom/Pyramus), all of which implies that the book in question is the Gospel. Yahweh (Oberon) plots revenge. With the assistance of the Devil (Puck) who is a Moor (barber), he administers the Gospel (Flower) to Titus (Titania) while she is asleep, so that on waking she falls in love with Jesus (Bottom/Pyramus). As in the Jewish war, Titus (Titania) orders the limbs cut off one of the Maccabees (Bees). Unlike in the war, Yahweh (Oberon) then kills Titus (Titania) by the administration of Wormwood (another name for Dian’s Bud)—the same substance supposedly administered to Jesus on the cross, and resurrects her as a new compliant soul.
Then the Partition between heaven and earth (Wall) falls down, bringing about the day of Apocalypse on which Jesus and the Church will be re-united. Saint Peter (Quince) directs a comic playlet in which this is allegorically supposed to take place, but Jesus (Bottom/Pyramus) dies a death whose main features are derived from the Gospel passion stories and which is framed by an inclusio of the two mentions of the word ‘passion’. This is followed by the death of the Church (Thisbe/Flute). Finally as in the Gospel account, the spirits come out of their graves, this being the day of resurrection, and Yahweh (Oberon) sprinkles the dancers with dew. This is a unique feature found in Jewish accounts of the resurrection on the Last Day, implying that the playlet of Christianity is over and that this is the first day of a new Jewish world. Altogether, this allegorical plot constitutes a consistent narrative, although its existence raises many provocative implications.
The Lovers and their Crosses As Mark Rose has pointed out, Dream is symmetrically structured, with the two scenes set in Athens providing the overall framework, and with the two scenes of the Mechanicals surrounding the centre which is set in the forest.12 Because this production was designed to present the characters from the central ‘fairy’ part of the play, rather than in the court scenes, the passages involving the Duke and the Lovers were extensively cut. However, two outlying framing scenes of Theseus and Hippolyta were preserved in order to maintain structural integrity. In order to make the perspectives on allegory more prominent, in this adaptation the passage from the start of Act V was moved to the beginning to serve as an introduction rather than as a summary.
After the preliminary scene at the court of Theseus, this adaptation opens with a much shortened treatment of the Lovers and their problems. One possible indication of why the Lovers have difficulty in forming the correct unions is that an allegorical reading might identify the Lovers with the four Elements, Fire, Earth, Air and Water, from NeoPlatonist accounts of creation. Fire= Hermia (eyes lack rain, are fiery stars and she swears by ‘that fire’). Water= Helena (eyes are washed with tears). Earth = Demetrius (he is an ‘adamant’, a kind of stone). Air= Lysander (his lines are somewhat airy). It is known that this subject matter interested the playwright about the time that Dream was being written, since a long passage about the creation of the world, translated from Guillaume de Salluste’s La Creation du Monde ou Premiere Semaine (1578) had appeared in Kate’s final speech in The Taming of A Shrew (1594) and the Elements reappear in Twelfth Night (II,iii,10). The references to imprints, form and to wax that are specifically applied to Hermia who is “as a form in wax” to be “imprinted” (1,i,48-9) also echo neo-Platonist ideas of the creation. Some of those accounts also regard unformed matter as “wavering” and in “error” and the wood in the play is suggestively full of wandering and erring. Finally, in some neo-Platonist thought the Latin word silva (wood) is equated with the Greek hyle that also refers to the primal cauldron— which in this production is represented as a circle of fiery red light, while the four Lovers wear T shirts identifying them as the four Elements. 13
The factor that appears to be causing the Lovers problems are the crosses—which they mention several times. Because as Rose pointed out, Dream is symmetrically structured,
these verbal crosses structurally parallel the implicit crosses that appear later in the death scenes or ‘passions’ of both Pyramus and Thisbe, and in the account of how the actors appeared in rehearsal “extremely stretch’d and conn’d with cruel pain” (V,i, 80) as Philostrate oddly describes them. In order to make this structural parallel clear to the audience, in this production physical crosses, made from branches roughly tied together, are brought on stage as the Lovers mention them in order to prefigure the crosses that appear at the end [PHOTO 1].
Mechanicals; Peter Quince and the Scroll Professor Patricia Parker has noted in several articles that by medieval times Ovid’s story of Pyramus and Thisbe had become commonly seen as an allegory of the relationship between Jesus and the Church.14 Like Pyramus, Jesus dies for his love of his bride—the bride of Christ, namely the church. In this production the actors are shown taking on their roles, with Bottom wearing a white robe and a halo as Jesus, and Thisbe wearing a mask---which here takes the form of a cardboard hat shaped and painted like a cathedral. Their identities are specifically stated on the scroll containing the names and roles of the actors, that is dramatized by being brought on stage by Quince [PHOTO 2]. It is unrolled, rolled up and then unrolled again, and held up by Starveling so that Quince can refer to it when he considers whether or not to make Bottom play Thisbe as well.
As Parker also points out, the director of the playlet , Peter Quince, has a strange name which comes from the two words Petros Quoin, meaning Mr. Rocky Cornerstone, since Quince’s name recalls the quoin which is another English word for corner-stone.15 This
is significant because Jesus was described as the chief ‘corner-stone’ (Ephesians 2;20, 1 Peter 2;6). His surname also draws attention to Quince’s first name Peter (from petros stone), which echoes the character in the Gospel who was the rock upon which the church was supposed to be founded. So like the other characters who come from first century Judea, he represents Saint Peter, and in this production Quince’s identity is indicated by the large corner-stone and symbolic key displayed on his chest.
Puck as the Devil Historically Puck was some kind of a devil, mentioned in Piers Ploughman, and his alias ‘Robin Goodfellow’ is also a popular term for the devil. In this production Puck is costumed as a stage devil, in red outfit and with horns [PHOTO 3]. Further consideration however, needs to be given as to what did it mean to be a devil and what did the playwright imply by using this nomenclature? The evidence on this point is not conclusive, since many stage devils simply represented the devil and had no other connotations. However, as Felsenstein observes, Jews were often depicted on the medieval stage in the company of devils, were seen as agents of hell, and were imagined as demons, in league with Satan and engaged in devilish plots. 16 If Puck is being signaled as a Jew this might explain why he is willing to serve Oberon who—as is shown below, allegorically represents Yahweh the god of the Hebrews.
Crowning with Flowers So far this paper has summarised existing scholarship. Now it will go further to identify the remaining characters and to consider the meaning of the allegorical plot. A major plot
point of Dream concerns the war that is taking place between Oberon and Titania. The whole war has been caused by Titania stealing away a “Little Indian Boy” whose mother is a Votaress, meaning a holy Virgin. Moreover, Titania crowns him with flowers. We are not told which but the forest contains several notably thorny flowers like eglantine and the musk roses which made Bottom scratch when he was crowned with them. This is all very peculiar. Fairy Queens do not have votresses since the term means a woman consecrated by a vow to a religious life especially referring to virgins. The OED’s first reference in 1564 is to ”these holy votaries virgin”, another in 1611 refers to “votary nunnes”. Furthermore, holy virgins, even ones those associated with the sea, by definition, do not have children. In fact, in all of western literature there was only one who did —the Virgin Mary, sometimes called the star of the sea. Her son also ended up being crowned---with thorns.
Significantly in this play the Boy is three times called the “changeling”. The superficial reason is that fairies were thought to steal children and substitute fairy babies as changelings. However the rhetorical term ‘Changeling’ also was how George Puttenham employed the fairy tradition in The Art of English Poesie (1589) as the translation for the Greek rhetorical term hypallage, in which as Miriam Joseph puts it “the application of words is perverted and sometimes made absurd”.17 Hypallage is a variety of the broader grammatical form known as hyperbaton, meaning a departure from ordinary order. We are therefore being warned that the Little Indian Boy is associated with such a departure from the ordinary order in which words are given perverted and absurd meanings.
What in any case is an Indian boy doing in the forest? If this play is set in Athens shouldn’t he be a little Athenian boy? So bearing in mind that as Professor Parker has shown several of the other characters come from first century Judea, could he perhaps rather be a Little Iudean Boy? In Othello, for instance, the reference to a “base Indian” in the 1622 Quarto becomes “base Iudean” in the First Folio. The term ‘Iudean’ is unlikely to be a printing error as sometimes supposed since it was in use within Lord Hundson’s literary circle at around the time that Dream was written.18 The investigation of the potential religious allegory next considers the person who stole away that Boy.
Titus and Titania The unusual characteristics of having a mother who was a virgin associated with the sea, being crowned with flowers, being Iudean and a Changeling all make sense in terms of one single identification. They suggest the Iudean Boy as the figure of the Jewish messiah which late 20th century radical scholarship suggests was stolen away from the Jews by the Flavian Emperor Titus Caesar after the end of the Roman-Jewish war, and changed into the literary figure of Jesus found in the Gospels.19 Aspects of this view were implied by the character Barabas in Marlowe’s The Jew of Malta (II,iii,10), and in Marlowe’s private comments.20 If so, then one hypothesis why the playwright deliberately selected this peculiar name, from Ovid’s Latin text referring to the two goddesses who are shape-shifters, Diana and Circe,21 might be that the name ‘Titania’ indicates that she is a literary allegory for Titus Caesar [PHOTO 4].
To convey this allegorical identity, in this production Titania is played by a man—as on the original Elizabethan stage--the only man in the cast of the Dark Lady Players. He is dressed in the imperial purple robe of a Caesar and his side of the stage becomes decorated with a large arch that is modeled on the Arch of Titus that still exists in Rome, where it commemorates his victory over the Jews in 70CE. In addition to the points reviewed above, Dream provides three more pieces of information to suggest the identity of Titania. One is the death scene of Pyramus which contains an allusion to the crucifixions that Titus Caesar ordered towards the end of the Roman-Jewish war. Another is found in the orders that Titania gives to crop the legs off the bees, and yet another concerns Titania’s relationship to Oberon.
Jealous Oberon and the War We are told that “jealous Oberon would have the child" (II,i,24) who Titania "perforce witholds" from him (line 26).We are later told that Oberon has "Come from the farthest step of India" (line 69).We also know that Oberon is a King and is at one point invisible. So Oberon appears to be that "Indian" i.e. Iudean king from whom Titania has stolen the boy. Furthermore, the appearance of the terms “jealous” and “Lord” in close succession echo the passage in Exodus 20;5 about the Lord being a jealous god. This suggests that the war is the Roman- Jewish war which Titus Caesar fought against the Lord God of the Jews. This war was caused by the Jewish insistence on monotheism, which in the original Hebrew is the factor underlying Yahweh’s supposed ‘jealousy’, since the Jews refused to worship Caesar as divine.
Further support is found in the passages where Oberon he says he welcomes Aurora the harbinger of dawn (V,i,387), claiming to have made sport with the Morning’s love, and to tread the groves until sunset, until the sun sets fiery red in the “eastern gate” in the sea, offering fair blessed beams (III,ii,388-395). This language represents the sun god—which Yahweh was, according to various passages in the Psalms. This section has seemingly been written as a conflation of two Psalms. It make very specific references to an “eastern gate” which is turned to “yellow gold” and presents Oberon as having a full solar day from playing with the dawn to the setting sun. Psalm 19 refers to Yahweh’s solar journey, his “rising place at one end of heaven and his circuit reaches the other”. Further, the passage in Psalm 24 ”lift up ye heads oh ye gates” (verse 7) was interpreted by Jews and early Christians, as referring to the eastern gate of the temple, known as the golden gate or sun gate--- the “gate” to which Oberon is referring. 22
So all these references in Oberon’s speech are paralleled in the passages in the Psalms and in this adaptation the various solar imagery is gathered up and used to introduce Oberon’s final speech, at the rising dawn in the end scene of the play. Even more explicit however, the end of the play will mark the Day of Judgment, when the spirits come out of the graves and are blessed with dew. This peculiar characteristic is found in no Christian apocalypse, but does appear in the Hebrew mystical text the Zohar as the actions of the Hebrew God Yahweh, confirming Oberon’s allegorical identity, in which case his opponent, Titania should be identified as Titus Caesar. The religious allegories then continue to apply to other characters and entities in the play.
Fetching the allegorical ‘Flower’ The ‘flower’ that Puck fetches also appears to be an allegory. Why should the Hebrew God send the Devil off around the world to collect pansies? They are not a flower normally associated with containing hateful fantasies. However to an Elizabethan the word ‘flower’ was another name for a book—such as the 100 poems in A Hundreth Sundrie Flowers (1573) or the “flowers of Poetrie” in The Defense of Poesie by Sir Philip Sidney (1595). We are also told the flower’s name is ‘idleness’, which was a common Elizabethan pun on idolatry, and therefore meant love of a false god—which is a constant theme throughout the play.23 We also know it is coloured in the imperial purple and can fill someone with hateful fantasies. Dream even provides a specifically dramatised example of how this book or ‘flower’ misleads someone into falling in love with a “vile thing” who is separately identified as Bottom/ Pyramus ie. Jesus. In this production the allegorical understanding of the ‘flower’ is conveyed by having Oberon point to a chart which bears the following words, while he speaks to Puck in a didactic tone;
Flower = A Book Purple = Imperial Color Idleness = Idolness Dote = love a fantasy In this production, as Oberon says the last line he hits the chart to emphasise his point that the ‘flower’ makes people love a fantasy. Evidently this allegorical book is the Gospels—which are the only book that has historically caused people to fall dotingly in love with Jesus. Moreover, the playwright attributes to Oberon (the allegorical Yahweh), the entirely appropriate Hebrew view that Jesus is a vile and hateful fantasy. In this production the identity of the ‘flower’ is indicated by Puck walking down the steps of the theatre holding a large purple book, labeled ‘HATEFUL FANTASIES’ and chanting 15
liturgically as he passes it to Oberon who will later administer it to Titania’s unwitting eyes. The Dark Side; Philomel and Spotted Snakes The dark side of Dream only began to be explored during the late 1960s.24 In a lecture at the Shakespeare Institute on his 1981 production, Daniels noted that “the play is filled with unease”, and Jan Kott writes it is “a forest inhabited by devils and lamias” and creatures such as “long-legged poisonous spiders, black beetles, worms, and snails”.25 There are also less explicit indications, such as Dream’s associations with cross-ways which allude to a passage from Seneca which had been used in an ominous context in Titus Andronicus.26 These inter-textual allusions suggest Philomel is no joyful nightingale, but a symbol for the raped and silenced Judea conquered by Titus and his soldiers. Philomel perhaps resembles the Little Indian Boy, and in this production when both characters are alluded to, the same actor appears. She is ironically invited to sing— with her amputated tongue—while the fairies ward off the inhabitants of the forest who attempt to rescue her during the spotted snakes song, which is sung to an adaptation of the original music. However the religious allegory becomes much more clear in the character of Bottom.
Mechanicals Rehearsal and Bottom’s Translation In this adaptation, the Mechanicals make their second entrance in a state of exhaustion, as if they have been following Peter Quince around the wood looking for a suitable place to practice their rehearsal. 27 The rehearsal ends in a panic with Bottom’s transformation. Bottom has been previously recognised not only as a general allegory to Jesus, but as
having a specific relationship to the depiction of Jesus in the Asses Feast, the Festum Asinorum.28 To make the point comically realistic, in this production Bottom does not merely acquire an ass head but is transformed entirely into a two-person pantomime donkey wearing a brown sheet. At the end of their Ousel cock song, both actors in the donkey finish by singing the final ‘nay’ as a loud neighing sound that wakes Titania from her flowery bed. Bottom’s transformation into a donkey begins with Quince saying, as clergy do, “bless thee” “bless thee” (line 114). To emphasise the point, in this adaptation the words are repeated in Latin while making the sign of the cross over Bottom’s asshead.
At line 115 Quince then says “Thou art translated”. The word “translated” was used for St Paul’s journey into heaven, so the superficial meaning is that Bottom has been conveyed into a heavenly realm—a claim that is immediately suspect. The Latin term verbi translatio was the equivalent of the term metaphor (Greek metapherin), so the phrase indeed means that Bottom has been metaphored. This seems correct because Puttenham equated a “long and perpetual metaphor” to “allegorie” which was “a figure of false semblant”. Bottom has indeed become an allegory (the allegory of Jesus) and precisely a figure of false seeming. In order to communicate this on stage, Quince takes a banner out of his basket, on which the meaning of the word ‘translated’ is inscribed, and awards it to Bottom like a prize at a horse show.
The term “Translated” also appears to be a comic equivalent to the Transfiguration.
Bottom replies to Titania’s declaration of love by saying that she should have little reason to be admiring of his shape, but love and reason keep little company nowadays. He then adds the phrase ”Nay, I can gleek upon occasion” (III, i,141). The unusual word generally means joke. Here however, it appears to have the very specific primary meaning that that Variorum editor notes, to dazzle someone’s eyes with reflected sunlight in order to confound them, to gull or to cheat someone. Bottom is not saying that he likes a good joke, nor is he asking if Titania is playing a joke on him. He is using the word intransitively, which is the first recorded usage, and is claiming that he can gleek or is a gleek. This is plausibly therefore a reference to the Transfiguration where Jesus becomes a dazzling white figure whose “face shone like the sun” (Mat. 17;2). To emphasise this point, in this production as Bottom says these words he changes the wall-calendar to discover that it is the Feast of the Transfiguration.
The Identity of the Bees The allegory also extends to the bees which appear in Dream in two places. Firstly, the strange instruction that Titania gives to crop the waxen thighs off the bees has never been explained. It appears to be the only example in western literature of anyone amputating the legs off bees and is normally passed over in productions. In the present adaptation however it is made extremely visible by the Fairies actually amputating the limbs off the bees and arranging some of the limbs to decorate Titania’s bower—leaving the bees dead on stage.
The reason for emphasising this peculiar activity is that at the end of the Jewish war Titus Caesar is described in the works of Josephus as having caught a Jewish leader. His family all bore the names of the family of the Maccabees, and Titus had him crucified alive, and then ordered his torso to be cut down, being ‘pruned like an almond tree’ by having his limbs amputated. The suggestion is that if Titania is an allegory for Titus, then the Bees are an allegory for the Jewish rebels the Maccabees, and that they have their limbs cut off accordingly. In this production Bottom sits in the Bower and opens a large newspaper – the News of the Jewes--while the fight scene is going on. The headlines in the newspaper say “Titus Caesar cuts off Maccabee’s Limbs”.
The killing of bees is repeated in Act IV scene 1 where Bottom begins the peculiar string of nine references to ‘Monsieur’ which surround his instructions to the fairies to “kill me a red-hipped humble bee” (IV,i,11) and his sudden interest in hearing some music. To an Elizabethan, as Ross Duffin suggests, ‘Monsieur’ might have appeared to be a musical allusion to a particular song—the tune known as ‘Monsieur’ which was usually sung to a set of verses composed in 1588 by Thomas Deloney.29 The references towards the end of the song to children’s brains being dashed against the ground echo Psalm 137 —which was the Psalm that Jews use to lament and commemorate the first destruction of Jerusalem. In this production, the musical inter-text is made evident to the audience because the red-hipped humble bee is forced to sing this verse of the song aloud before being slaughtered. The appearance of this particular song on stage—sung by the bee out of a very large music score conspicuously marked with the title of the music and the
number of the Psalm—further strengthens the allegorical identification of those ‘bees’ who are being slaughtered, as Maccabees or Jewish rebels.
So far, the hypothesis that Titania allegorically represents the first century Roman Emperor Titus Caesar appears to fit several key pieces of information in the play. Titania Titania steals Little Indian Boy treats him as a Changeling and crowns him with flowers Titania is at war with Oberon (who represents Yahweh) Titania orders legs cut off bees Titus Caesar/Bible/Jewish War Titus steals Jewish messiah and changes him into literary character of Jesus who is crowned with thorns Titus fought war against Jews and their monotheistic god Yahweh Titus orders limbs cut off a Maccabee descendant
In addition to these suggestive pieces of data, there is one more allusion to Titus when, during the crucifixion of Pyramus, Theseus refers to him recovering “with the help of a surgeon” (V,i,298). This is discussed further below.
Puck’s Barbering One minor feature that the allegory also may help explain, is that Puck is a Barber, who gives the appropriately named ‘Nick’ Bottom a drastic haircut by removing his head after Bottom says “I must to the barber’s”. As Professor Parker has shown, the barber was sometimes equated with Barbary and with the “barbarous Moor” (Titus Andronicus 5,iii,4).30 So Puck who may be a Jew/ devil, may be identified also as a ‘Moor’ from the land whose ‘morris’ has been filled with mud and whose flocks (referred to as murrain, meaning both a plague and a Moorish helmet) are being eaten by crows. In order to
accentuate the point, in this production Puck carries a pair of meta-theatrically large shears with which to remove Bottom’s head. Bottom’s Letter to the Corinthians Further indication of Bottom’s allegorical religious identity is given when Bottom awakes from his vision. It is well established that his speech is a garbled form of Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians in which all the body parts have been mixed up so that they have inappropriate functions.31 The appearance in the same order of the words Eye/Ear/Heart/Bottom in both texts makes it statistically demonstrable that Bottom is deliberately echoing 1 Corinthians, and this is made clear in this production. As Bottom wakes from his dream he takes off the brown donkey sheet, and inside it finds the Letter to the Corinthians, complete with an illustrated eye, ear and heart, which he holds up to the audience as he speaks his parody.
In Elizabethan London the Letter to the Corinthians was widely read and regarded as one of the most spiritually inspiring works of Pauline theology. This passage was also used by Erasmus in one of the concluding paragraphs of In Praise of Folly. Here it is parodied by Bottom who has only just had his ass head removed, but is still evidently a fool or ninny, which will later suggest that he is the person destined to inhabit Ninny’s Tomb.
Wormwood; Death and Resurrection of Titania In order to release the fairy queen, Oberon recites the charm “Dian’s bud over Cupid’s flower” (IV,i,72). Some scholars argue that Dian’s bud is also known as Wormwood and in the Gospel of Matthew (27;34) the figure on the cross is offered gall or Wormwood to
drink which is a convulsive poison. 32 Having been tricked into falling in love with Bottom/Jesus, the identity of this herb suggests that Titania is now killed and resurrected as a compliant soul.
Oberon refers to this administration of the Wormwood as releasing her “I will release” (IV,i,69) which is a term that means delivering from sorrow, surrendering or being set free. It could perhaps mean being released from this mortal life. There are no original stage directions in the First Folio, but this reading suggests that when Oberon administers the Wormwood to her (IV,i,70) that he does so by pouring it into her mouth (since the gospel account implies it was to be administered orally). There are no stage directions as to what happens as a result, but the implication is that the poison kills her. Oberon— being the God of resurrection-- then resurrects her at line 74 after which she then takes “flight” and is no longer “on the ground” like “these mortals” presumably because she is ascending into heaven as a resurrected soul.
This perhaps explains why Titania is ordered to summon up music that will “strike more dead than common sleep”. In other words, whereas any ordinary music may charm someone to a sleep which is a bit like death, this music will strike people more dead and will “end the sense” (V,i,81, reading 'fine' as the common Latinism for ‘end’ rather than as a misprint for ‘five’). The idea of Oberon striking people dead is understandable, if he allegorically represents Yahweh and this is the Day of Judgment on which the wicked are "blotted out of the book of the living" (Ps. LXIX. 28). If so, this tells us the identity of the music is that is being sounded---it is the trumpet blasts of Judgment Day—which is why
they strike people dead. That is why in this production Oberon and Titania exit to trumpet music by Heinrich Lubeck---composed originally for Jonson’s Masque of Oberon. When we next see Oberon it is indeed after the Wall between Heaven and Earth has fallen down on the day of Apocalypse.
Athens; Theseus and the Sport Stretched with Cruel Pain The religious allegory also would appear to offer explanation for the passage in which Theseus and the spectators await their “torturing hour” (V,i.37). The first three of these sports presented by Philostrate all concern drunkenness. This would normally be hard for the audience to detect from the brief accounts that Theseus reads. Therefore in this production the entertainments are all dramatized in the form of dumbshows—a typical Elizabethan entertainment.33 The three shows which are not chosen for production feature the drunken centaurs fighting over wine, the tipsy Bacchanals tearing up Orpheus, and the death of Robert Greene from alcohol poisoning in 1592.34 In one dumbshow for instance, the actor playing Greene comes on stage with his bottle, collapses and dies, while the other actors bring out his tombstone and stand shaking their heads sadly at his death. These dumbshows create the audience expectation that the fourth entertainment--although not specifically referring to wine at all—relates to a story that has similar connotations to wine and the wine god.
The Mechanicals appeared in rehearsal “extremely stretched and conned with cruel pain” as Philostrate describes them. The playlet that the Mechanicals perform, Pyramus and Thisbe. was in Ovid’s Metamorphoses originally a story told by the Minyads, the
daughters of Minyas, who told it to prevent people from worshipping a false god. In order to convey this on stage, as Philostrate announces the entertainment it is shown in dumbshow by puppets.35 Meanwhile, the other actors appear as protestors who carry placards announcing that one should not worship a false god and should not worship Dionysius. This precisely indicates the inter-textual allusion and reflects the reasons why the Minyads originally told this story. The mention of Dionysius suggests that this playlet will refer allegorically to Jesus, the god of the vine, who compares his body to a grape and his blood to wine.
In this adaptation, the inter-textual allusion to the Minyads has been made obvious, but it has been left up to the audience to take the next step and ask why the playwright chose to use this story at all. The modern audience are already aware from Quince’s scroll, and from costuming, that Pyramus and Thisbe represent Jesus and the Church. Now they will see their story being acted out by puppets, who are surrounded by protestors against the worship of a false god. The audience is being invited to draw their own conclusion about the identity of that god.
Wall Collapses and the Apocalypse One of the best examples of the religious allegory identified by Professor Parker, is the character Wall. The “wicked” Wall that separates the lovers—which has come straight out of Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women—on the one hand represents the rhetorical form of partitio or merismus, which is why it is the wittiest partition Philostrate has heard discourse. However looked at more deeply, in Puritan theology the Partition is what
divided Heaven from earth, the heavenly Jesus from the bride of Christ (here represented by Thisbe). In order to convey a sense of the puns, in this production the line has been adapted to read “No more mora. No more Mural” (V,i, 203) This is based on the Folio reading “now is the moral down between the two neighbours”. The playwright has taken the passages from Ovid which showed Pyramus killing himself nec mora, without delay, and then dying at the location where the playwright located the mulberry tree (mora, meaning both ‘delay’ and ‘mulberry’). 36 In order to show the true allegorical identity of the Wall, in this production it is represented by a blue sheet with stars on it to represent the night sky which divides Heaven from Earth.
The delay that has been pulled down with the Wall, is the delay that has been preventing the uniting of Christ (Pyramus) and the Church (Thisbe) before the coming of the Apocalypse at which point Jesus and his Bride of Christ can have sex. Until then they have been comically trying to have sex through the chink in the wall37 since Thisbe’s speech in the play punningly conceals a vivid sexual description. 38 When Thisbe says she will “come without delay” this reflects the end of the Book of Revelation when Christ and the church will come quickly towards each other once the delay is over. This view of the end of the play as bringing about the Apocalypse moreover is entirely compatible with the usage of the Apocalypse in many other Shakespearean plays.39
Passion of Pyramus/Jesus However the best documented example of the religious allegory in the play is the death of Bottom/Pyramus because it is supported by multiple allegorical correspondences. I will
suggest below that this seems to have been carefully composed out of the Gospels’ crucifixion story---the stabbing in the side, the disappearance of the light, the references to playing dice, are all framed within two mentions of the ‘passion’ (V,i,277 and 303). Bottom’s coming back to life again parodies the resurrection, which is why he previously promises “by and by I will to thee appear” (III,i.82), like Jesus who promises he will “come again” (John 14;3). A point-by-point comparison of the typology makes this especially clear.
In Midsummer Begins with Theseus saying “This passion and the death of a dear friend…” (V,i,277) Pyramus is stabbed in the side In the Gospels ‘Passion’ is the technical term for the death of Jesus
In the Gospels Jesus was stabbed in the side (Jn 19;34) In the Gospels darkness came over the whole land (Mt 27;45) In the Gospel story men played lots or dice at foot of the cross (Mt 27;35) In the other crucifixion story in the Autobiography by Josephus, victim recovers at hands of surgeon
The light disappears
Men say “no die but an ace for him” and play dice (according to the Arden footnote) Theseus says he may recover at the hands of a surgeon
Theseus refers to the Passion again “her passion ends the play’ Pyramus returns alive as Bottom Jesus returns alive at the resurrection (Mt 28) Tombs open and spirits come out (Mt 27;52) Judgment day is expected
Spirits come out of the grave
Wall between heaven and Earth comes down
In the Pyramus death scene, Lysander and Demetrius allegorically represent the soldiers who---in the literary account in the gospels---crucified Jesus and sat at the foot of the
cross casting lots, usually shown in the mystery plays as playing dice.40 In Dream they imagine Pyramus’ dying words refer not to his death but to his score in a game of dice. Demetrius says that Pyramus is not a plurality of dies (i.e. a set of dice) “but an ace for him; for he is but one”. Lysander says he is even less than an ace “he is nothing”. In this adaptation these inter-textual allusions are given dramatic effect by two characters sitting front stage, playing with meta-theatrically large dice.
Although in rehearsal the Mechanicals refer to Pyramus stabbing himself (as in Ovid’s story), much else is discussed in rehearsal that does not appear in the final performance of Pyramus and Thisbe. It is notable that the First Folio does not provide any stage directions at this point, and the instructions ‘stabs himself’ in the Arden edition are merely a modern editor’s addition. In this production therefore, the Pyramus death scene is shaped by the several typological elements from the underlying inter-text in the Gospels and Pyramus is shown being stabbed rather than stabbing his own left side.
Even more significantly, the line “with the help of a surgeon he might yet recover and yet prove an ass” (V,i,299) is an inter-textual allusion to the three men who were crucified by Titus Caesar and taken down, one of whom recovered ”under the physician’s hands” as described in the Autobiography of Josephus.41 The appearance of this ‘historical’ account of another crucifixion is yet another piece of information which suggests that the death of Pyramus is a comic literary parody of the Gospel crucifixion scene.
Finally Thisbe has been tarrying in the shade of the mulberry tree, which as Patricia Parker has identified was a medieval allegory for the cross. 42 This is made explicit when Hippolyta refers to Thisbe also having a “passion” and these two uses of the term ‘passion’—the technical term for the crucifixion of Christ--form an inclusio that serves to frame the Pyramus death scene. 43
Apocalypse and Epilogue After the Wall falls down, Peter Quince’s comic and lamentable playlet of Jesus and the Church is over. As in several Shakespearean plays, the end is the Apocalypse, the last day. The spirits come out of their graves to dance and Oberon/Yahweh distributes dew— which is not part of Christian imagery---but is found in Jewish sources like the Zohar. This is the final confirmation that the character of Oberon represents the Hebrew god Yahweh. In this production Oberon wears a golden costume and in the very last scene his hand gestures reflect the passage in the Zohar which describes the Holy One distributing dew from his hair, as dawn breaks and the sun shines on stage for the first day of a New World.44 Finally the play ends with Puck’s epilogue, which echoes the use of the word ‘idlness’ used earlier to describe the flower and suggests that the entire idle theme of the play was about idolatry. 45 Taken together this set of allegorical correspondences forms the entire allegorical plot which was outlined at the beginning of this paper. Some of the individual correspondences are stronger than others, but taken together, they form a consistent plot, which also echoes some of the latest findings in New Testament scholarship.
PART TWO. DEMONSTRATING THE ALLEGORY IN PRODUCTION The second part of this paper examines the process of creating a production to convey the allegory in Dream. This adaptation was performed at the Abingdon Theater in Spring 2007. The process of creating this production went through a design phase, followed by a recruitment phase and period of experimentation, and finally the rehearsals and production. The following discussion will focus on the unique aspects of the design and the implementation.
Textual Adaptations In order to focus the work, and because of budgetary constraints, parts of the script (in particular the scenes of the lovers), had to be largely deleted, leaving only the more obviously allegorical material. This required a substantial cut comparable to those made by adaptors who created productions like The Merry Conceited Humours of Bottom the Weaver (1661). Moreover the script then needed dramaturgical, textual and other work to make the allegory performable. Despite being significantly shorter than the original, the director and some cast members commented that the play felt “huge” because so many new conventions and meanings were being tried out all at once.
The adaptation also had to determine the correct reading and pronunciation of certain words. Since Professor Parker had already identified several of the characters as coming from first century Judea, the Little Indian Boy was called a ‘Iudean’ boy. Similarly Oberon was announced as coming down the steps of ‘Judea’ not India. Oberon’s use of ‘fine’ was interpreted as a common Latinism for ‘end’. When Quince (as the allegorical
Saint Peter) blesses the translated Bottom, the point is underlined by having Quince repeat it in Latin as well “Bless thee, Bottom! Benedicimus te!”. Wall is given an extra line “ No more mora, no more Mural” to emphasize the puns on mora meaning delay, and on moral, that Parker observes in this passage. One other minor reading is in Puck’s final speech on idolatry/idleness when the Elizabethan pun on ‘gentles’ is used in Puck’s line “Gentiles, do not reprehend”.
Generally in this production any meta-commentary is made by using forms of signage and costuming rather than by adding comments into the script. Most of the additions are very minor, such as the two asides by Puck drawing attention to the Biblical inter-text which function similarly to how an actor might have made asides to an audience on a thrust stage. Hippolyta is given half a line extra to make another aside on the death of Pyramus---and does so in order to remind the audience what happened to her own (as yet unborn) son. The emphasis on idolatry is expanded in the Lovers scene with the addition of two lines from the Sonnets “Let not my love be call'd idolatry/Nor my beloved as an idol show”. The only major textual addition is some lines from the country house poem on Cookham by Aemilia Lanyer which has unusual linguistic similarities to Dream and which Puck recites as a commentary on Philomel after the Spotted Snakes song.
Meta-theatrical conventions This production did not present the play as ‘a slice of life’ but rather draws attention to itself meta-theatrically, similar to Elizabethan tradition, as a fantastic literary contrivance. Rather than admiring an entertaining spectacle or empathizing with the characters as if
they were real people, the more educated members of an Elizabethan audience attending a play would attempt to understand what the author meant by creating these literary constructions. Those, as Jonson put it, who “professe to have a key for the deciphering of everything” would check out the meaning of the play with each other and with the playwright.46
Similarly, the present production was intended to encourage audience members to decipher the allegory. In order to create a Brechtian alienation effect, this production did not emphasize historical weaponry, costuming or music. Instead of metal equipment, this production used plastic reproductions of Roman swords and armor, so that the fight scenes were deliberately not realistic nor scenically spectacular. Rather, the objective was to make a meta-theatrical commentary that would encourage audience members to ask, ‘why is this fight here?’, ‘what does it mean?’, ‘why are the fairies brandishing replica Roman swords?’ and ‘why are the bees having their limbs amputated?’.
The most basic question was which parts of the script to dramatize, and how to convey the allegorical meanings through dramatic illustration. One such example was the ‘Flower’ that Oberon instructs Puck to fetch. Normally in productions Oberon recites the words sweetly and Puck usually returns with some kind of floral object. In order that the audience understands the Elizabethan puns, in this production as Oberon recites the different properties of the ‘flower’ in a pedagogical style, he points to them on a flip chart titled ‘Allegory 101’. The fact that to the Elizabethans a ‘flower’ was a book is then
demonstrated when Puck returns with a very large purple book with the words ‘HATEFUL FANTASIES’ written on the cover.
Other elements not normally dramatized are the entertainments that Philostrate announces to Theseus. However in this production they are acted out on stage as dumbshows to demonstrate that they all concern wine, in order to provide the context for the fourth entertainment. One might not normally realize that the Pyramus and Thisbe tale had anything to do with wine—but the context of the prior entertainments reminds us that in fact this is the story that Ovid’s Minyads told to prevent people from worshiping the false god Dionysius. To make the point clear on stage, as Philostrate is outlining the story, an actor comes on stage with hand puppets who perform it while others march around holding protest signs against worshiping a false god.
Less unusual, the Little Iudean Boy was brought on stage as productions have done occasionally since the 19th century. More unusual was the staging of his capture in the introductory dumb show, and the dramatization of him being crowned with thorny flowers---to the protests of his kneeling mother who wears the classic blue and white clothing of Mary. The actor subsequently appears as Philomel to show the close identity between the two roles.
A more important staging choice was to dramatise the bees, firstly by including them on stage as actors in bee costumes (rather than, say, using paper models) and then showing them having their legs cut off and being killed. Having decided that the bees should
appear on stage, they became available earlier to assist Oberon and to attempt to rescue the Little Iudean Boy. The choice to use plastic bloody limbs that could be pulled out of the bees’ extra arms and then used to decorate the bower was intended to be surrealist, using conventions from the theatre of the absurd, in order to create a sense of distance and undermine any hint of realism, in order that audiences might comprehend the allegory. During the initial slaughter Bottom sits on the bench reading a newspaper which has headlines referring to Titus Caesar cutting the limbs off a Maccabee.
The most unusual dramatisation in this production however, is the death of Pyramus. Since the text of Dream is written as a parody of the passion narratives in the Gospels, the staging in this production uses those conventions and a large sign saying ‘Passion’ is laid visibly on stage. The background music is Timor et Tremor by Lassus, and when Pyramus says “come thee Furies fell” the soldiers approach and crucify him. When Pyramus refers to the disappearance of the light, the stage grows darker and Puck announces in an aside to the audience that this refers to the inter-text in the Gospel of Matthew.
Similarly, after his death, the reference to playing dice is staged by the two men sitting at front stage, as if at the foot of the cross, while Puck makes another aside to the audience referring to the equivalent passage in the Gospel of John. Finally in the traditional story Pyramus stabs himself—which one of the Mechanicals suggested in rehearsal is something the ladies cannot abide. Lacking any stage directions in the Folio to the
contrary, in this production Pyramus is stabbed by a soldier in his left side where “heart doth hop” in accordance with the Passion narrative.
Ninny’s Tomb had been previously discovered on stage as the place where Pyramus and Thisbe were to meet-- the identity of that Ninny is clearly not Nimrod--which is why Bottom leads Quince and the other Mechanicals in a processional exit into the tomb. As the melodramatic bad verse makes obvious, the whole sketch is a comic portrayal, and mocks the death not of Pyramus but of his allegorical alter ego.
At the end, it is allegorically the Apocalypse . After the collapse of the barrier between earth and heaven it is the first day of a new world and the day of resurrection—which Theseus indicates by changing the calendar. This production dramatizes Puck’s line about the sprits coming out of their graves, by having all the actors emerge from Ninny’s Tomb, wearing ghost masks and dance a country dance. It is then followed by a formal courtly dance, and Oberon weaves in and out of the dancers before taking up a position at the center for the great dew blessing. This formal movement dramatically focuses attention on what Oberon is doing, namely distributing dew to awaken the souls of the dead on the first day of a new world, in accordance with the traditional descriptions of the Day of Judgment in Jewish mystical texts.
The creation of this adaptation involved turning the play into a new text that would demonstrate to an audience some layers of signification that are normally only noticed by readers of the scholarly journals. It attempted to make these textual, historical and
musical allusions manifest and narrate a meta-commentary about their relationship to the play. One way to communicate this meta-commentary was through the use of signs and placards, which were used on the medieval and early Renaissance stage and revived during the 20th century by Brecht.
For budgetary and practical reasons, in the end the production used a much smaller number of signs than I had first envisaged, and it was necessary to find ways of manifesting the signs that would not be repetitious or overwhelming. The only signs that was not naturalistically set in the world of the play were the words on the giant rabbits that summarized the different approaches to allegory taken by Theseus and Hippolyta, All the others appeared naturalistically within the play in the forms of a wall-calendar, a prize sash that was placed over Bottom, a newspaper, the wording on the script scroll, the explanation of allegory on Oberon’s flip chart, Puck’s wings when he goes around the world, Quince’s prologues which are reused as sandwich boards, Robert Greene’s tombstone, the protestors’ signs against the Pyramus and Thisbe puppet show, the banner saying ‘Passion’ used during the Pyramus crucifixion. There were also words on objects such as the book of ‘hateful fantasies’, the ‘Wormwood’ label on Oberon’s bottle, the word ‘Dew’ on the glass bowl he brings in at the end, and the name of the piece of music Monsieur’s Alamaine which was sung by the bee after the initial ‘Monsieur’ references.
The most difficult signage question was how to bring on-stage Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians when Bottom wakes from his dream. This was solved by sewing it inside the brown donkey sheet which Bottom takes off and then displays to the audience. In
retrospect, perhaps I should have not compromised on some of the signage, although the director had advised it would not work. In particular, if we had retained the words “I the Lord thy God am a Jealous God” (Exodus) on the Torah Scroll, had ‘Arch of Titus’ written on the arch and had ‘Apocalypse Now’ written on the Wall amid the golden stars, it would have made the identity of these elements more clear.
Building a Company The normal process for small theatrical productions in New York is that auditions are set and then there is a two week full time rehearsal period. This provides no time for the actors to get to know each other at all well. They also have enough to do learning their lines—and there is little time to understand complex interpretations. In order to create a company that could perform the allegorical level of the play, it was clear this required a group that would function as a learning community, and who also had enough time to read and discuss the complex briefing materials. To allow this to happen I estimated that the preparation period had to be roughly six months.
The actors were recruited during the Autumn of 2006 by placing an advertisement in Backstage, seeking actors for unpaid work on an experimental production of Midsummer Night’s Dream. About 200 applied and roughly 30 were invited to attend one of three group meetings in my home. The invitees were selected according to their previous Shakespearean experience and training, and previous work in experimental theater. About half of each group seemed interested, generating a company of about 15, of which about a third had trained in the UK. The selection criteria had also resulted in a cast that was
entirely female apart from one man who would play Titania. I then held several meetings at my home to further discuss the allegorical approach and the scholarship on which it was based. Having some confidence that the cast was interested in learning this new approach, I then needed to fix a performance date, hire a director and rent a theatre.
Workshop Process The group then began a series of four all-day workshops in a studio with the director, found through a mutual friend. This began on 14 October and finished on 17 February 2007. The process then began of testing out the script. The first all day workshop began by a reading of the script adaptation, making paper and cardboard props and trying out scenes, finishing with a complete run-through. One of the main problems was that the actors reverted to traditional conceptualizations of the fairies, and the man playing Titania did not seem to understand that he was fighting a war against Oberon. He was replaced. The second workshop brought in plastic props from a Halloween shop, in order to give the fairies plastic armor and swords. It also brought in pieces of colored cloth, small black and yellow striped bee costumes, and wings for Puck. The actors’ response to the props was very encouraging and they began conveying the allegorical identities.
Rehearsals Then beginning March 5, we had 17 rehearsals at weekends and evenings covering a total of 73 hours, equivalent to two weeks. Having young actors who were not only doing day jobs, but auditioning actively and working in other plays or films, meant it was very difficult to get people together. Indeed all of the company were together only twice
before the show opened. The tight scheduling caused various logistical problems. For example Titania was sick on the only day I had booked the Elizabethan dance consultant so the only practical alternative was to leave out Titania’s re-appearance in the dances at the end of the play.
Once the actors began working on the script, it became clear that some of the exits and entrances in the adaptation would not work in practice. For instance, to reflect her power and dominance Titania’s entrances had to be made more visually compelling—which in one case led to her entering with the Little Iudean Boy carried over her shoulder. Other parts of the script did not allow the actors sufficient time for their costume changes and had to be re-worked. I also had not anticipated how much would be added by the actors during their own process of working with the text. The appearance of Bottom as a dancing pantomime donkey, Thisbe’s liturgical chanting, Philostrate’s night club posturing, the distribution of tickets to the passion of Pyramus and the writing on his arms all were created through improvisation. In almost every case as the actors began to engage with the props they developed their own ways of handling them and that had to be related to their allegorical roles.
Roles and Characters In this production, it was left up to individual actors whether, and to what extent, to attempt a formal Elizabethan acting style, which is more like that of a puppet or marionette who can formally present the playwright’s concept and can manifest the allegory.47 In addition to conveying the underlying allegory, the self-references that
characters make to themselves as actors are in Gurr’s phrase “self-evidently illusionary”.48 Dream is one of the first Shakespearean plays to discuss the conventions of illusion and the challenge for the actors is to convey the illusion of a character, yet simultaneously show that it is an illusion being conveyed by an actor, and in addition to show that beneath the illusion there is an allegorical identity. This was easier for some than for others. Titania and Puck found it easiest to act their allegorical identities. The fairies only manifested traditional fairy behavior in the first workshop, and began behaving as Roman soldiers as soon as they were given weapons in the second workshop. Probably Oberon found it hardest because it was difficult to represent the allegorical Yahweh, who in Judaism is never represented visually, let alone by a woman. For this reason in this production Oberon perhaps appears more like a Middle Eastern sun god than the God of the Jews.
Gesture and Music The production combined both modern and period styles in order to accentuate contrasts between the worlds of the different characters. For instance Elizabethan gestures from Bulwer’s Chironomia and Chirologia are borrowed by Theseus in his first speech on the nature of allegory, referring to the lover, the lunatic and the madman. In his account of how he used such gestures in productions in the early 1950s B.L. Joseph found that hardly anyone in the audience noticed and that was probably true here also.49 However these deliberate gestures served to make Theseus and Hippolyta seem more 17th century, and were compatible with their period costumes—complete with fur and pearls—which were hired from a costume collection unlike the rest of the costuming.
The end of the performance uses period music for the two Elizabethan dances and the processional exit, partly taken from the 1611 Masque of Oberon. By contrast, the first half of the play features two songs where the original music has been set to a modern tempo ‘Spotted Snakes’ (which is part of the play-script) and ‘Monsieur’s Almaine’ (which is the tune to which the mentions of ‘Monsieur’ allude). Two other songs, Puck’s ‘Robin Goodfellow’ entry song and the ‘Ousel Cock’ are based on the original tunes but sung without accompaniment. The initial dumb show takes place to a riff on the Spotted Snakes song. This sets up the contrast between the modern electronic music that is used in the first half of the play to indicate the “discord” that exists during the war between Oberon and Titania, and the harmony and rejoicing of the final scene. This contrast was also reflected to some extent in the lighting, since the final dance scenes were fully lit, and the earlier part of the play was much darker.
Putting on the show When the time finally came to move into the theatre however, the primary objective of demonstrating the underlying allegory of the play suddenly seemed quite remote. Instead the focus moved to the many immediate operational issues that had to be solved before opening. The rabbits’ ears had become damaged in storage at the rehearsal studio. There was no way to hang the calendar in the spot we wanted. The black curtains needed to be re-hung but there were not enough curtain rollers. The lights needed to be hung and the right sorts of colored gell put over them. The arch of Titus was the wrong size and needed to be remade. The actors had been used to rehearsing in small studios and some of their
movements no longer synchronized with the music on the actual stage, which was so much larger. Probably these were the sorts of operational issues that any production goes through, but at this point the top priority was to get the production up at all, and it was this point that certain compromises had to be made in the depiction of the allegory, simply in order to get the show ready to open.
CONCLUSION This production was an experiment in allegorical stagecraft. It was designed to investigate whether the religious allegories identified originally by Professor Patricia Parker formed part of an entire allegorical plot, and whether that could be expressed on stage in a production. For various practical reasons, this work represents a kind of concentrated, fast-moving, experimental Shakespeare, reflecting 21st century literary aesthetics, which certainly could never have been performed in Elizabethan London. Yet the religious satire does not result from the imposition of an anachronistic interpretative lens like the ‘high concept’ directorial visions, which have generated productions of Dream in settings ranging from a mud-pool to an Indian village. Rather, it results from methodologies derived from Elizabethan literary practice, which systematically reveal the allegorical identifications.
Parker’s work had described and documented some of the religious allegories in Dream, rather than explain what they were doing there. However, taken together with the additional allegorical identifications that I have proposed, all the allegories seem to form a coherent allegorical plot. This raises very substantial questions about the meaning of the entire play, and how and why it was written. There are no significant sources for Dream, so the plot would appear to have been created by the playwright. Moreover the allegorical plot was not a by-product, but rather forms the deepest layer of meaning in the text. Arguably, the play appears to have been designed, and its characters may have been created and named, in order to establish the allegorical system.
Yet the religious meanings of that allegory are found in no Elizabethan, Christian worldview and indeed only appeared in late 20th century radical New Testament criticism. From that standpoint, the allegorical plot of Dream appears to partly recount some of the events of the Jewish War as described in the works of Josephus, which appear to be a major underlying source of the play. However Dream is not a simple allegorical transposition of the war, although some aspects are, such as the amputation of the legs of the bees.
Rather, Dream appears to have been written in order to take revenge against Titus/Titania, by first making her madly dote upon Jesus/Bottom in his disguise of the ass, and then die thanks to the dose of Dian’s Bud/Wormwood. Dream also seems both to parody the account in the Gospels of the three crucifixions that supposedly took place in 33CE, and to link it to the parallel account of the three crucifixions ordered by Titus in 70CE that appears in the Autobiography of Josephus. One possible purpose in associating these two analogous narratives is to bring into question the historicity of the Gospel account. Almost by definition, this is not something that a believing Christian would do. Nor would a believing Christian link Titus Caesar’s victory in the Jewish war to the stealing away of a Changeling that bore such strange resemblances to the Christ figure in the Gospels. Nor would a believing Christian have any reason to create such a complex literary and allegorical revenge against Titus/Titania--- this view makes more sense coming not from a Christian, but from a Jew.
To what extent any members of an Elizabethan audience interpreted the play in this fashion must remain unknown. People were certainly used to preaching that involved very detailed interpretation of complex passages from Scripture. Moreover, the works of Josephus (which were first printed in Latin in 1470, and in Greek in 1544), were very popular to judge by the number of editions and copies that survive. An abridged version in English by Peter Morwen appeared in 1558 and Lodge’s full translation appeared in 1602. A companion volume by Christiaan Van Adrichens appeared in 1595. According to the EEBO database, the theme of the Jewish War appeared roughly in one publication a month over 1590-1596, including sermons, theological works, and literary works such as Lodowick Lloyd’s histories, and Nashe’s Christ’s Tears over Jerusalem (1593). It would be followed by Elizabeth Cary’s drama Tragedie of Miriam;The Fair Queen of Jewry (1609), and about the same time Dekker was writing his Canaan’s Calamitie; Jerusalem’s Misery and England’s Mirror the doeful destruction of fair Jerusalem by Titus, the son of Vespasian. It would also be the subject of the undated play attributed to William Heminge, The Jewes Tragedy OR Their Fatal OVERTHROW BY VESPATIAN and TITUS his Son;Agreeable To the Authentick and Famous History of JOSEPHUS. However, none of these attempt the detailed inter-textual reading of the Gospels and of Josephus, nor the use of allegory, that appears in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
One plausible source for such a perspective within the known Shakespearean circle, might be the Jewish poet Aemilia Bassano Lanyer,50 mistress to Lord Hunsdon, for whose grand-daughter’s wedding Dream may have been written. A major experimental poet in her own right, Lanyer’s collection of poetry Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum (1611)
includes a long, satirical treatment of the crucifixion,51 while her final poem on Cookham contains a number of verbal similarities to Dream. Perhaps, at the very least, the possibility that Lanyer may have influenced the allegorical content of Shakespeare’s bestknown play opens up a fascinating new direction for future scholarship.
LIST OF PHOTOGRAPHS Photo 1. The crosses and the lovers Photo 2. Quince unrolls the scroll Photo 3. Puck with horns as the Devil Photo 4. Oberon confronts Titania (at right) over the boy (center). Photo 5. Oberon instructs Puck to fetch the Flower Photo 6. Bottom looks for Thisbe through the chink
Rhodes Dunlap, ‘The Allegorical Interpretation of Renaissance Literature’, PMLA, 2(1967) 3943, Mark L. Caldwell, ‘Allegory:The Renaissance Mode’, ELH, 44( 1977), 580-600, Walter Davis, ‘Spenser and the History of Allegory’, English Literary Renaissance, 32 (2002) 152-167. 2 Peter Saccio The Court Comedies of John Lyly: A Study in Allegorical Dramaturgy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1969), Frederick Kiefer, Shakespeare’s Visual Theatre: Staging the Personified Characters (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003), Junji Kobayshi ‘Gorbudoc and the Inner Temple Revels of Christmas’, Shakespeare Studies 41 (2003) 25-43, Huston Diehl, ‘Inversion,Parody and Irony:The Visual Rhetoric of Renaissance English Tragedy’, Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, 22(1982),197-209, Paul Yachnin ‘A Game at Chess and Chess Allegory’ Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, 22 (1982), 317-330. 3 Bernard Spivack, Shakespeare and the Allegory of Evil: the history of a metaphor in relation to his major villains, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1958). 4 Hardin Craig, ‘Morality Plays and Elizabethan Drama’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 1(1950), 64-72. 5 J.B.Harcourt, ‘I Pray You Remember the Porter’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 12 (1961) 393-402, Glynne Wickham, ‘Hell-Castle and its Doorkeeper’, Shakespeare Survey, 19 (1966), 68-74. 6 Linda Kay Hoff, Hamlet’s Choice; Hamlet A Reformation Allegory (Lewiston; E. Mellon Press, 1988). 7 Marion A.Taylor, Bottom Thou Art Translated: Political Allegory in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Related Literature (Amsterdam: Rodpodi, 1973). 8 Brian Vickers, Appropriating Shakespeare: Contemporary Critical Quarrels (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993) 372-84, Richard Levin, ‘On Fluellen’s Figures, Christ Figures, and James Figures’, PMLA, 89, (1974) 302-311, Richard Levin, New Readings vs. Old Plays (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979). 9 William Leahy, Elizabethan Triumphal Processions (Burlington: Ashgate, 2005). 10 Jonathan C. Smith, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Allegory of the Theologians’ Christianity and Literature, 28 (1979),15-23, J. A. Bryant Hippolyta’s View; Some Christian Aspects of Shakespeare’s Plays (Lexington; University of Kentucky Press, 1961), L.Langford ‘Senecan Sources of MND’, Cahiers Elisabethains, 24(1984) 37-51. 11 These take the form of giant cardboard rabbits (modeled on the printers mark on the 1609 Sonnets) on which contemporary phrasing for these two kinds of approaches are inscribed. 12 Mark Rose, Shakespearean Design (Cambridge; Harvard University Press,1972). 13 J.C.M.Van Winden Calcidus on Matter: His Doctrine and Sources—a chapter in the History of Platonism (Leiden; E.J.Brill, 1959), J.Reginald O’Donnell ‘The Meaning of ‘Silva’ in the Commentary on the Timaeus of Plato by Chalcidius’, Mediaeval Studies, 7 (1945), 1-20. 14 Douglas Bush,. Ovid’s Metamorphosis: Englished, Mythologized, and Represented in Figures. ed. by Karl K. Hulley & Stanley T. Vandersall (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1970) p. xi; Klaus Aichele, ‘Review of Pyramus und Thisbe by Franz Schmitt-von Muhlenfels’ Classical Journal 70 (1975), 80-82. 15 Patricia Parker, ”Rude Mechanicals and Shakespearean Joinery” in Shakespeare From the Margins (University of Chicago Press; Chicago, 1996), Patricia Parker, ‘Peter Quince: Love Potions, Carpenter's Coigns and Athenian Weddings’, Shakespeare Survey, 56 (2003), 39-54, Patricia Parker, Literary Fat Ladies: Rhetoric,Gender,Property (London: Methuen, 1987). 16 Frank Felsenstein,‘Jews and Devils: Anti-Semitic Stereotypes of Late Medieval and Renaissance England’ Journal of Literature & Theology, 4 (1990), 15-28. 17 Miriam Joseph, Shakespeare’s Use of the Arts of Language (Philadelphia: Paul Dry Books 2005).
Richard Johnson, The most famous history of the seauen champions of Christendom (London; printed by J.Danter for Cuthbert Bertie, 1596) p.50. 19 D.Dungan ‘The Purpose and Provenance of the Gospel of Mark’ and Peter W Agnew ‘The Two Gospel Hypothesis and a Biographical Genre for the Gospels’ in in New Synoptic Studies:The Cambridge Gospel Conference and Beyond, ed. by W.R.Farmer (Macon; Mercer University Press, 1983) pp. 440,491, Joseph Atwill, Caesar’s Messiah (Berkley:Ulysses Press, 2005). 20 C.B. Kuriyama Christopher Marlowe; a Renaissance Life (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2002) p.159. 21 William Shakespeare A Midsummer Night’s Dream ed. by Harold F. Brooks (London: Thompson Learning/Arden, 1979) p. lix. 22 J. Glen Taylor Yahweh and the Sun: Biblical and Archaeological Evidence for Sun Worship in Ancient Israel, JSOT Supplement series 111, (Sheffield; Sheffield Academic Press, 1993) p.246 23 Richard Wilson Love in idleness; Shakespeare’s Idol Theme’ in L’Oisivete au temps de la Renaissance ed. by Marie Therese Jones-Davies (Paris: Presses de l'Université de ParisSorbonne, 2002). 24 Mary Z. Maher, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Nightmare or Gentle Snooze’ in Midsummer Night’s Dream; Critical Essays ed. by Dorothea Kehler (London: Garland Pub., 1998). 25 Jan Kott, Shakespeare Our Contemporary (Garden City: Doubleday, 1964) pp. 213-36. 26 L.Langford, ‘Senecan Sources of MND’, Cahiers Elisabethains, 24(1984) 37-51. 27 Pauline Kiernan, Shakespeare’s Theory of Drama, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996). 28 Deborah Baker Wyrick, ‘The Ass Motif in The Comedy of Errors and A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Shakespeare Quarterly, 33(1982) 432-48. 29 Ross W.Duffin, Shakespeare’s Songbook (New York; W. Norton, 2004). 30 Patricia Parker,‘Barbers and Barbary; Early Modern Cultural Semantics’, Renaissance Drama 33 (2004), 201-46. 31 Robert F. Wilson, ‘God's Secrets and Bottom's Name: A Reply’, Shakespeare Quarterly, 30, (1979) 407-408, Thomas B. Stroup ‘Bottom's Name and His Epiphany’ Shakespeare Quarterly, 29 (1978), 79-82. 32 Anca Vlasopolos ’The Ritual of Midsummer: A Pattern for A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ Renaissance Quarterly, .31(1978), 21-29, Marion Cohen ‘”Dian’s Bud” in A Midsummer Night’s Dream IV,I,72’, Notes and Queries ns. 30(1983), 118-20. 33 Dieter Mehl, The Elizabethan dumb show: The history of a dramatic convention (London: Methuen, 1965) 34 William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream ed. by Harold F. Brooks (London: Thompson Learning/Arden, 1979) p. xxxviii 35 Jan H. Bilts , The Soul of Athens; Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Lanham MD.; Lexington Books, 2003). 36 Patricia Parker ‘Murals and Morals; A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in Editing Texts APOREMATA; Kritische Studien zur Philologiegeschichte ed. by Glenn W.Most (Gottingen: Vanenhoeck & Ruprech, 1998), Patricia Parker ‘Teaching and Wordplay: The 'Wall' of A Midsummer Night's Dream’ in Teaching with Shakespeare: Critics in the Classroom ed. by Bruce McIver and Ruth Stevenson (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1994) pp. 205-21. 37 See the three articles titled Chinks’ in the Times Literary Supplement by G B Shand (29 January 1971), Thomas Clayton (1 March 1971) and Clifford Lee (December 1970). 38 Frankie Rubenstein, Dictionary of Shakespeare’s Sexual Puns, (New York: St Martins Press 1989). 39 C.A.Patrides & J.Wittreich eds, The Apocalypse in English Renaissance Thought and Literature (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984).
V. A. Kolve, The Play called Corpus Christi (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996). William Whiston, The New and Complete Works of Josephus (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1999).p.42 42 Patricia Parker ‘The Name of Nick Bottom’ in Autour du Songe d’une nuit d’ete de William Shakespeare ed. by Claire Gheeraert-Graffeuille and Nathalie Vienne-Guerrin (Rouen: University of Rouen, 2003).1-29 43 An inclusio is a literary framing device in which the same word appears at the beginning and the end of a text. It is sometimes referred to as bracketing or epanalepsis, and is commonly used in the Bible. 44 The Zohar 1:130b-131a “And at the time when the Holy One will raise the dead to life He will cause dew to descend upon them from His head. By means of that dew all will rise from the dust…” 45 Richard Wilson‘Love in idleness; Shakespeare’s Idol Theme’ in L’Oisivete au temps de la Renaissance ed. by Marie Therese Jones-Davies (Paris: Presses de l'Université de ParisSorbonne, 2002). 46 Rhodes Dunlap ‘The Allegorical Interpretation.’ 47 Alfred Harbage ‘Elizabethan Acting’ PMLA, 54(1939), 685-708, Marvin Rosenberg ‘Elizabethan Actors;Men or Marionettes’ ,PMLA, 69 (1954) 915-927. 48 Andrew Gurr ‘Metatheatre and the Fear of Playing’ ‘Metatheatre and the Fear of Playing’ in Neo-Historicism: Studies in Renaissance Literature, History, and Politics, ed. by R.H.Wells (Rochester: D.S.Brewer, 2000). 49 B.L.Joseph Elizabethan Acting (Oxford; Oxford University Press, 1964). 50 Susanne Woods, The Poems of Aemilia Lanyer; Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993) Susanne Woods, Lanyer: A Renaissance Woman Poet (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). 51 Boyd Berry, ”Pardon though I have digrest”: Digression as a style in Salve Deus Rex Judaeorum’ in Aemilia Lanyer; Gender Genre and the Canon, ed. by Marshall Grossman (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 1998).
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