When I study Shakespeare, my goals are more creative than academic. I don’t want to be an expert in Elizabethan England. The plays are starting points for conversations, for creative experiments. I don’t care to get the plays right. What I do care is to know them. I want to know as much as I can about how the plays work and what they contain.
Midsummer Night’s Dream is not as much about sex as it is about sexual tension and attraction and the madness that can happen when young people have their sexuality policed. Hermia and Lysander want to fuck. They are extremely attracted to each other. Hermia’s father must take them to court to try and intervene.
In the context of the play, the duke is the judge who will decide Hermia’s fate. It just so happens that this family court case is brought before him in the days before his wedding. So, he is full of sexual tension, too. When Hermia defiantly asks what is going to happen when she disobeys her father’s order to marry Demetrius instead of Lysander. Death or the monastery.
Even the gods are horny and beefing. Oberon and Titania are feuding over a child and they use humans to act out their desires. This is where the drugs come into play. The drug that Oberon instructs Puck to apply to his victims while they are asleep will cause them to fall in love with whomever they first see when they wake up.
I keep thinking about casting this play and I imagine Joe Rogan as Oberon, Steve Will Do it as Puck, Chelsea Handler as Titania. I’m thinking that Natalie Cuomo would make a good Hermia and Kerryn Feehan would crush it as Helena. The cast of actors in the woods has to be some Gas Digital characters. Zac D’Amico as bottom would be great. The legion of Skanks would make up the other cast members.
Lots of comics enjoy watching comics bomb. The funniest part of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the audience’s response to the awful play performed at the duke’s wedding. This scene is funny because of the irony. We have watched these passionate but unexperienced actors preparing for this night throughout the play and it is exactly how wrong they were that makes it so funny.
When we first meet these aspiring thespians, they are gathered in the woods to rehearse and from the very first moment they get it wrong. It is a failure of leadership, due to a lack of experience that summons the fearful critic among them to point the ship in the opposite direction. They start out concerned that the subject matter is too disturbing for the women in the audience, showing a double misunderstanding: they don’t get theater and they have a false idea of women.
This concern over the violence leads them to horrible stylistic decisions that then shape the rest of the play. To avoid offending the ladies, they invent a prologue to explain that the violence is only symbolic and that nobody is going to be hurt during the play and that the lion is not a lion, etc. To work, a play must create the tension needed to get people’s full attention so that it can then reverse their expectations and surprise, delight, or otherwise entertain. Afraid that the ladies in the audience would not understand how to suspend their disbelief, these actors choose to violate the 4th wall and bring the audience into the show.
This device makes it impossible for the audience to take it seriously, though, and so they are left to critique the choices and to laugh at their unintended buffoonery. The players lack of understanding how they are perceived causes them to botch their shot, and this flat-footed clumsiness makes it even funnier when Bottom is turned into an ass by Puck at the service of Oberon to trick Titania, queen of the fairies. They turn bottom into an ass and give Titania a potion so that she falls in love with him.
To take the stage, in order to win the affection of a fairy goddess you have to have some belief in self, and it is Bottom wrestling with his insecurities and his delusions of grandeur that is so similar to what the path of an aspiring comic likely entails. Bottom is a phase, a stage that must be overcome grown through.
The process of finding out just how funny you are, of seeing an audience respond to you in real time makes for some vicious therapy and it is no wonder that actors and comics have a hard time sometimes making sense of where their act begins and ends. You must love anyone who attempts the feat and give thanks to those who succeed, because it makes our world a much more pleasant place to live. Long live the failure of comedy.
I believe in working at something until you are so invested in it that you can no longer see if it is good or not. This lack of judgment can lead you into some interesting territory. If you stop judging your own writing as good or bad, then how do you know if you are on the right path? The sign to look for is in the pleasure you get from the process of writing.
If you don’t love writing, then you might want to try experimenting and practicing until something clicks. If you can remain patient with the process, then you might stick with it long enough to actually get into the groove of writing. This can lead you to some epiphanies you never would have imagined without that enthusiasm for your own work.
Being a fan of your own writing doesn’t mean that you won’t improve. You can still be critical, but you want to be much much more energetic and aggressively forward moving in your writing. Generate ideas and digest language. Conjure up memories, harness emotions like electricity. Keep moving forward and you will improve. When you feel what it is like to write with more focus and direction, it will become funner, dude.
When I get up in the morning I go and write before I check my phone. This gives me time to process my thoughts without all of the noise of the internet interrupting my ideas. This has been super fundamental to me growing to love the process of writing and to enjoy my own writing even more than Shakespeare.
The greatest lines in Shakespeare’s The Tempest happen after the worst part of the play. You have to understand the context to get why this is a funny line to quote. Prospero has just entertained his daughter’s future husband with a supernatural show. It’s the play’s Fantasia moment. Prospero has been orchestrating this whole scam perfectly up until this moment when he remembers that Caliban has bribed the sailors to try and kill him and he stops the show suddenly.
I had forgot that foul conspiracy of the beast Caliban and his confederates against my life.
This is strange. Your Father’s in some passion that works him strongly.
Never till this day saw I him touched with anger, so distempered.
You do look, my son, in a moved sort, as if you were dismayed. Be cheerful, sir.
This is the exchange that happens before the strange rant Prospero deliver about the temporary nature of things. He is trying to distract Ferdinand from the red flag of his weird mood change. It is within this context that he says the famous quote.
We are such stuff as dreams are made on and our little life is rounded with a sleep.
Prospero’s anger leads to a dramatic speech he used to try and hide his rage. It isn’t a philosophical reflection delivered in a soliloquy. It is a performative speech designed to hide his true intention. Such stuff as dreams is cap.