Tuesday, 31 January 2012

The Authorship Debate | Did Shakespeare Write…Well, Anything?


Did Shakespeare Write Shakespeare?
The Authorship Debate
It probably won’t come as a great shock to learn that I think Shakespeare did indeed write the plays and poems that bear his name. However, there are those who disagree and their numbers are growing.

Although, among literary scholars, it is still viewed as very much a fringe theory, the number of anti-Stratfordians (those who believe Shakespeare did not write the work attributed to him) is increasing.

Among them, actors Mark Rylance and Derek Jacbobi, threw their doubting hats into the ring and, in 2007, released a ‘declaration of reasonable doubt’, which was signed by 200 academics.


Why is There Doubt Over Shakespeare’s Authorship?

There are many reasons cited by anti-Stratdfordians, but one of the main ones is simply that so little is known of Shakespeare’s life. For example:

There is no record of Shakespeare having had an education. This, for many anti-Stratfordians, is the most compelling piece of evidence. After all, how can someone with little or no formal education be the most famous playwright in the world?

There is the large gap, known as the ‘lost years’ (1585-1592), in which no evidence exists to suggest where Shakespeare was or what he was doing. Some have suggested he was teaching, others believe he was forced to leave Stratford Upon Avon, after being caught poaching deer from the local estate.

Then, of course, there is Shakespeare’s rather mysterious will, which does not mention any plays, poems, books or, perhaps most importantly, the Globe Theatre.


Who Did Write Shakespeare’s Plays?

The problem for the anti-Stratforidan case, however, is that no agreement can be reached as to who really did write Shakespeare’s plays. There are many candidates (approximately 70) suggested, some of the more plausible being:

  • Francis Bacon
  • Christopher Marlowe
  • Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford
  • William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby

Mary Sydney Countess of Pembroke
Could She Have Been Shakespeare?
In the case of De Vere and Stanley, the reason for concealing their identities may have been due to the ‘stigma of print’; a notion that members of the aristocracy should not be writing and publishing plays and poems.

However, if the author is really Marlowe, Bacon or another writer, then the reason for his secrecy is less clear.

Of course, there are those who have suggested that the real author of Shakespeare’s work was, in fact, a woman - hence the need to create a fictional male playwright as her beard.

And then there are those, like the aforementioned Mark Rylance, who believe that the plays were likely to have been works of collaboration, rather than of any one man (or woman).


Evidence That Shakespeare Did Write Shakespeare

Okay, so let’s look at things from the other side. The truth is that anti-Stratfordian argument hinges on a lack of evidence, so there is no proof that Shakespeare either didn’t exist or was a front man for another author. So, lets look at the three points mentioned above.


Shakespeare had no education - Well, just because no records exist, it doesn’t follow that he didn’t have an education. Given that The King’s New School, was almost on the Shakespeares’ doorstep and the fact that his parents were both comparatively wealthy, it is reasonable to assume he would have attended the school.


Shakespeare didn’t exist for 7 years - There are any number of reasons that Shakespeare fell off the radar for a spell in the latter part of the 16th century. Keep in mind, he wasn’t famous at this point and, as far as we know, hadn’t even begun to write plays for the London theatre scene. Having attempted to trace some of my family tree, I’ve discovered that a number of my ancestors seem to ‘disappear’ for a while. This doesn’t necessarily mean they were posing as a successful playwright for a member of the aristocracy.

Shakespeare's Last Will and Testament

A lack of information in Shakespeare’s Will
- Again, this might not be as mysterious and suspicious as it seems. For one thing, at the time of Shakespeare’s death, the law stated that one third of a man’s estate automatically passed to his widow. Therefore, there may have been little need to dictate individual bequests. Moreover, the Globe Theatre was owned by the entire company - not Shakespeare alone.


Does it Matter Who Wrote Shakespeare?

On the face of it, it doesn’t really seem to matter whether all those great plays and poems were written by the man from Stratford Upon Avon or the man from Del Monte. They’re great works of literature regardless of who wrote them.

Nevertheless, the authorship debate prompts fierce opinions in some. Because the anti-Stratfordian argument is based solely on a lack of evidence, rather than compelling proof to indicate one alternative author, I’m unconvinced by it.

I also wonder why it was not until the middle of the 19th century that the authorship debate arose. If Shakespeare really had been a fraud, surely it wouldn’t have taken almost 250 years for someone to mention it?

If you’d like to learn more about Shakespeare’s life and works, check out What’s It All About, Shakespeare? An Introduction to The Bard of Avon.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

What In The William Shakespeare Are They Saying?

The Cobbe Portrait of Shakespeare
With a Dictionary
As I believe I've mentioned before, I think the main reason (possibly the only reason) people hate Shakespeare is that they don’t understand a single word he wrote.

Although I don’t find Shakespeare's work difficult to understand now, there was a time when I found some of those beautiful verses challenging at best and incomprehensible at worst. So, what’s the answer to this problem?

How to Understand Shakespeare

Well, in my opinion, the solution is a simple one. If you’re reading Shakespeare and have difficulty understanding it, stop reading Shakespeare. Let’s face it, none of it was ever intended to be read anyway. No, instead, it was written to be performed and to be watched.

So, as far as I'm concerned, the best route to understanding Shakespeare is to enjoy it as it was intended to be enjoyed: as a play, not as a book. And, thankfully, with numerous film and television versions of many of Shakespeare’s plays - finding a DVD of Hamlet, Macbeth, Twelfth Night or A Midsummer Night’s Dream is relatively easy.

Words, Words, Words

Now, with all that in mind, I’m aware that there are still some of Shakespeare’s words that are difficult to understand, because they are archaic and no longer in common usage. You may be able to glean the general meaning of a passage of dialogue, but there are still some words that seem completely alien to many people.

I think, getting to grips with these pesky words can make a drastic difference to the way you view Shakespeare’s work. Suddenly, it doesn’t seem quite so incomprehensible anymore. For example:

Avaunt: Used in many of Shakespeare’s works, ‘avaunt’ quite literally means “get lost” or, to put it slightly more politely, “go away”. Although, I think Macbeth (in the quote below) is going for the former.

"Avaunt, and quit my sight!" Macbeth (III.iv)

Belike: Again a pretty commonly used word for Shakespeare, but rarely heard or seen anywhere else. ‘Belike’ is used to describe something that might happen. Therefore, it simply means “probably”.

"Belike you thought our love would last too long, if it were chain'd together." The Comedy of Errors (IV.i)


"I Kissed The Ere I Killed Thee..."
Othello in Desdemona's Bedchamber (1803)

Ere:
Pronounced “air” rather than “ear” or “err”, ‘ere’ means “before” or “sooner than”. In Othello’s case, below, it’s being used in place of “before.”

"I kissed thee ere I killed thee" Othello (V.ii)

Incidentally, if you want to know the difference between ‘thou’ and ‘thee’, you can find out here.

Fie: Now, most commonly associated with Jack and The Beanstalk, ‘fie’ is an expression of disbelief or disagreement. A modern equivalent could be, “Rubbish!” or “You’re talking crap!” whichever takes your fancy. So, when Salarino suggests that Antonio’s melancholy is caused by love, Antonio leaves us under no doubt about his opinion of that theory…

"Fie, fie!" The Merchant of Venice (I.i)

Hie: Quite simply, ‘hie’ means “quickly” or, more specifically, to move quickly or encourage someone else to do so. As demonstrated by Olivia’s insistence that Malvolio get a wiggle on…

"Hie thee, Malvolio!" Twelfth Night (I.v)

If you’d like to get to grips with more archaic Shakespearean words, check out What’s It All About Shakespeare? An Introduction to The Bard of Avon - available from Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and European Amazon sites.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Shakespeare (But Were Afraid To Ask)


Cover of What's It All About, Shakespeare?
An Introduction to The Bard of Avon
Well, not absolutely everything, obviously. That’d be a bit of an exaggeration. But, a fair chunk of what you want to know about Shakespeare can be found in the first ebook to accompany the site.


What’s It All About, Shakespeare? An Introduction to The Bard of Avon
is now available on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and other European Amazon outlets.

What’s In It?

The book begins with a brief biography of Shakespeare and then delves into the great ‘authorship debate’: What is it? Why do some people doubt that Shakespeare wrote the plays? Did Shakespeare really write anything?

Then, we move on to the great man’s work: How many plays did Shakespeare write? What’s a Shakespearean sonnet? When were the plays first published?

The Lion King is a Re-Telling of Hamlet
As far as I’m concerned, the biggest barrier between a person and his, or her, appreciation of Shakespeare, is understanding the language. So, a section of the book is dedicated to defining some of the most commonly used and archaic Shakespearean words, such as alack, cozen, ere and sirrah.

To emphasise the relevance of Shakespeare on the English language, the book examines words that Shakespeare ‘invented’ and some of the many phrases that have worked their way into modern parlance, for example, “It’s all Greek to me.”

As if that weren’t enough, the Bard has also had a huge influence upon modern theatre, television and film, as demonstrated in ‘Pinching from Shakespeare’; a chapter which takes a look at some of the most popular Shakespearean re-tellings.

Why Should You Take a Look?

What’s It All About, Shakespeare? An Introduction to The Bard of Avon provides a solid knowledge-base for anyone who is studying Shakespeare and offers some interesting titbits for those who are interested in the Bard, but don’t know much about him.

If you know nothing about Shakespeare, it aims to whet your appetite and prompt and enthusiasm to learn more about the world’s most famous playwright.

Put simply, if you want to learn more about Shakespeare, check it out.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Was Shakespeare Gay?

Was William Shakespeare Gay?
Relatively little is known of Shakespeare’s life and one of the many rumours surrounding the Bard of Avon is that he may have been homosexual. So, how did this theory arise and is there any truth to it?

At the age of 18, Shakespeare married the 26-year-old, Anne Hathaway (not exactly on a par with Mrs Robinson, but a significant age gap nonetheless).

As it turned out, the ceremony, which was rushed through, was a shotgun wedding and, six months later, Anne gave birth to the couples' first child, Susanna. Two years later, came twins; a boy and girl, named Hamnet and Judith.

Now, the fact that Shakespeare fathered children and was married is, you might argue, not proof of his sexual orientation, and you’d be right. After all, Oscar Wilde, Cole Porter and Elton John were all once married to women.


Why is There a Debate About Shakespeare’s Sexuality?

The principal reason Shakespeare’s sexuality is questioned is that the first 126 of his 154-strong collection of sonnets, are addressed to a young man known as the ‘fair youth’.

The identity of this man, if he even existed, is unknown. However, it has been suggested that he could be Henry Wriothesley (3rd Earl of Southampton) or William Herbert (3rd Earl of Pembroke); both of whom were patrons of the poet and considered to cut quite a handsome figure.

Whether the ‘fair youth’ was one of these men, another beefcake of a young man or a fictional creation, the sonnets speak of love, devotion and passion for their subject. For example, Sonnet 96, states:

"How many gazers mightst thou lead away,
If thou wouldst use the strength of all thy state!
But do not so; I love thee in such sort,
As, thou being mine, mine is thy good report."

And, of course, there is the most famous sonnet of all, number 18: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?/Thou art more lovely and more temperate.”

However, there is no direct mention of physical lust or a sexual relationship between the two. The only sonnets that do contain more explicit material are numbers 127-152, which are addressed to the ‘dark lady’ another unidentified subject, who may have been the poet’s mistress.


Mary Fitton (1595) One of The Women
Thought to be Shakespeare's Dark Lady
Shakespeare’s Love for the Ladies

Just as there is no way of truly knowing whether or not the fair youth existed, we cannot know for certain whether the dark lady was a real woman in Shakespeare’s life.

However, a number of women have been cited as being prime suspects in the hunt for Shakespeare’s dark lady; including Emilia Lanier and Mary Fritton (pictured right), but, oddly enough, not Cher.

Of course, the problem for those who claim that the fair youth sonnets are autobiographical and, therefore, evidence of Shakespeare’s homosexuality is that, if we assume one group of sonnets is based on fact, then we must assume that the other group is, too.

Consequently, the sonnets could only be used to assert that Shakespeare was bisexual.


Why Would Shakespeare Write ‘Love’ Poems to a Man?

If the fair youth did exist, why would Shakespeare profess his love for him?

Well, one very obvious reason is that, if the fair youth was a patron, it was clearly in Shakespeare’s best interests to flatter him; hence the ‘reproduction’ set of sonnets, in which the poet encourages the subject to have children in order to preserve his beauty.

"From fairest creatures we desire increase,
That thereby beauty's rose might never die," (Sonnet 1)

However, it’s also worth mentioning that the use of the word ‘love’ was not always an indicative of passion or familial bonds. Believe it or not, there was a time when men could say they loved one another, without having to add, “no homo!”

And herein, really lies the problem with trying to unravel Shakespeare’s sexuality. The perceptions of homosexuality in many eras; including the 16th and 17th centuries, were vastly different from our modern view.

In fact, in Ancient Greece, what we would now consider homoerotic themes had less to do with Plato et al being gay, and more to do with a perception of women as lesser.

A fine Shakespearean example of this notion, is Antonio and Bassanio in The Merchant of Venice.

Jeremy Irons as Antonio and Joseph Fiennes as Bassanio
in The Merchant of Venice (2004)
"Commend me to your honourable wife:
Tell her the process of Antonio’s end;
Say how I loved you, speak me fair in death;
And, when the tale is told, bid her be judge
Whether Bassanio had not once a love." (IV.i)

Now, of course, there are those who assume that this was a homosexual relationship. 

However, it may merely be a strong bond of friendship.


So, Was Shakespeare Gay?

Well, we will probably never know for certain. It is impossible for us to say what went on behind closed doors, in his “second best bed” back in Stratford Upon Avon or countless beds in London and elsewhere.

However, in my opinion, the fair youth sonnets suggest a strong platonic bond of friendship rather than a sexual relationship. But what do you think? Share your views below.

For more on this subject and other aspects of Shakespeare’s life, check out the author’s An Introduction to The Bard of Avon

Friday, 13 January 2012

Shakespeare’s Women | Feminism and Shakespeare

Feminism is a 20th Century
Concept: The "We Can Do It!"
Poster Known as Rosie
the Riverter (1942)

There is, of course, one significant problem with exploring Shakespeare’s plays from a feminist perspective: Feminism is very much a 20th century concept.

Nevertheless, we are often drawn to viewing Shakespeare’s women from a modern angle. Why? Well, partly, because many of them don’t seem to conform to the social and gender conventions of their own eras.

Boys Who Play Girls, Who Play Boys Like They’re Girls


Firstly, my apologies to Blur.

Secondly, it’s easy to forget that when Shakespeare wrote his plays, there was no such thing as a female actor. Women were not allowed to perform, so all female roles were played by boys or young men - something the audiences were, obviously, well aware of.

So, whenever you’re exploring the portrayal of Shakespeare’s female characters, it is worth keeping this at the back of your mind. It adds an additional layer of humour to the comedies, particularly the cross-dressing plays, Twelfth Night and As You Like It, for example.

I Don’t Give a Damn ’Bout My Bad Reputation

Othello and Desdemona Painted
by Theodore Chasseriau

However, the added humour of men playing women, can’t account for the regularity with which Shakespeare gives his female characters pluck, mettle and power; the likes of which would not necessarily be associated with femininity, during the 16th and 17th centuries.

There are precious few female Shakespearean characters who don’t go against the grain in some way. But it’s not always in an overt way, like the ‘shrewish’ Kate from The Taming of The Shrew.

Oh, no. Even the more docile girls, such as Juliet, Jessica and Desdemona, are ‘unruly’ in that they disobey their parents and elope with their respective beloveds.


Was Shakespeare a Feminist?


Well, no. We can’t call Shakespeare a feminist, because the concept didn’t exist in his lifetime, or for approximately three hundred years following his death.

On the other hand, did he demonstrate an understanding of women’s subjugation by men, a realisation that women were not necessarily the “weaker sex” and create characters that could be described as protofeminists? Yes.

However, there is a school of thought which suggests that Shakespeare’s championing of disobedient, cunning, wilful women was merely for the benefit of comic effect, just as the cruelty towards an ‘outsider’ like Shylock was all in the name of comedy.

Now, you could, of course, fall on either side of this debate - because there really is no way of knowing exactly what Shakespeare had in mind. But for my money, it is the former rather than the latter.


Uncomfortable Mix of Tragedy and Comedy


My reason for saying that is two-fold. Firstly, I don’t think that Lady Macbeth, Portia (from Julius Caesar), Regan, Goneril, Volumnia, Desdemona, Queen Margaret, and a whole string of other Shakespearean women, are meant to be funny.
Goneril and Regan from
Shakespeare Illustrated (1902)


It can’t be denied that there are uncomfortable shifts between tragedy and comedy in many of the Bard’s plays. However, if these women are intended to be figures of fun, then it drastically alters our commonly held perceptions of the plays.

Secondly, it is very clear that not all instances of disobedience, wilfulness or empowerment are designed to make the female character in question appear foolish.

For example, Cordelia’s refusal to play the “who loves Dad most?” game is clearly not intended to turn her into a comedy foil. Instead, it demonstrates that, despite the significant amount she stands to lose, she is more concerned with being truthful. Now, some people might call that foolish, but I wouldn’t.


What About the Women Who Win?


There are also many instances of a female character’s wilfulness winning out. Portia in The Merchant of Venice for example, or Maria in Twelfth Night. In both cases, these women outwit their male counterparts. In the case of Portia, saving Antonio’s life and, in the case of Maria, outfoxing the pious Malvolio.

But, then these spunky girls have a habit of deferring to their husbands (although, for Portia, not before she teaches Bassanio a lesson).


What About the Women Who Submit?


 One of the main culprits where ‘submission’ is concerned is Kate from The Taming of the Shrew. And you might use her closing soliloquy, which extrapolates on the virtues of conforming to the label “fair sex”, as a decisive blow to argue that Shakespeare was, surely, no kind of feminist.
Ada Rehan as Katharina in
The Taming of The Shrew (1887)


However, what isn’t clear and, therefore, completely open to interpretation is whether or not Kate is sincere or sarcastic. Moreover, it’s worth keeping in mind that she gives as good as she gets and, you could say, she tames Petruchio, just as much as he tames her.

So, in fact, the two have a pretty equal relationship from the moment they meet.

It is possible and, in my opinion, likely that her closing soliloquy is done with a nudge, a wink and her tongue firmly in cheek.

Monday, 9 January 2012

Thou, Thee, Thy and Thine

In modern English, when you want to address someone or a group of people, you only have a measly 5 pronouns to choose from - ‘you’, ‘your’, ‘yourself’, yourselves’ and ‘yours’. Shakespeare, however, had the choice of 10.
Lord Kitchener demonstrating one of our
most commonly used modern pronouns

In Elizabethan and Jacobean English, there was a lot more variety, depending on who you were talking to and how you felt towards them. Just as the French use ‘vous’ and ‘tu’ as formal and informal versions of ‘you’, the English speaking world had ‘you’ and ‘thou’.

‘You’, ‘your’, ‘yourself’ and ‘yours’ were used in much the same way as they are today, but it’s worth bearing in mind that they were a formal method of address in comparison with ‘thou’, ‘thee’, ‘thy’ ‘thyself’, ‘thine’.

The choice of pronoun may merely indicate the status of the person being addressed. However, it can also have an interesting effect on the dialogue, as I’ll explain in a moment. For now, let’s take a look at each of the ‘th’ words in turn and put them in context.

Thou is nominative, in other words it is used when the addressee is the subject of the sentence.

For example, to borrow one of Bill’s most famous lines, “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” Romeo and Juliet (II.ii)

Remember, it’s an informal mode of address, so would be used with friends and loved ones or anyone who is a lower status than the speaker, such as children or servants.


What the poster might have looked like, if
Shakespeare had been Secretary of State for
War and been alive in 1914.

Thee is objective and is, therefore, used when the person being addressed is the object of the sentence.

A famous example of this is, “Get thee to a nunn’ry” Hamlet (III.i) Again, it’s an informal address.

Thy is a possessive form of the pronoun, so is used to indicate an object, which belongs to the person being spoken to.

For instance, “…
lend it not/As to thy friends; for when did friendship take/A breed for barren metal of his friend?” The Merchant of Venice (I.iii)

As with the other ‘th’ words, ‘thy’ is informal. However, it is not used in sentences where it will be followed by a word beginning with a vowel or a silent ‘h’. In these cases, Shakespeare uses…

Thine is the possessive pronoun used in place of ‘thy’ when it is followed by a vowel.

We can go back to Hamlet to find the most famous example of this: “To thine own self be true.” Hamlet (I.iii)

Thyself is a reflexive or intensive pronoun. Reflexive simply means that it is making a repeated reference to the subject of the sentence, as in ‘I treated myself to chocolate.’ Intensive pronouns are also repetition, but it is done to add emphasis, such as, ‘I myself adore chocolate.’

OK, so lets move away from my chocolate-themed examples, and check out some of Shakespeare’s. A reflexive version of thyself’ would be, “Thou art not thyself;/For thou exist'st on many a thousand grains/That issue out of dust.” Measure for Measure (III.i)

An intensive example can be found here: “Nature, thou thyself thou blazon’st/In these two princely boys!” Cymbeline (IV.ii)

Ye, in early plays is used as a nominative pronoun to refer to people in exalted social positions. However, in later works, it is used as both nominative and objective for people of all social standings. Unlike the ‘th’ words, ‘ye’ is used to address more than one person.

For example, “Ye elves of hills, brooks, standing lakes and groves,/And ye that on the sands with printless foot/Do chase the ebbing Neptune and do fly him/When he comes back.” The Tempest (V.i)

Kenneth Branagh & Julie Christie
Still from Hamlet (1996)
When the choice of using an informal or formal pronoun gets really interesting is in instances like this one from Hamlet.

“Gertrude: Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.

Hamlet: Mother, you have my father much offended.” (III.iv)

It’s not for nought that Shakespeare did this, and it tells us something about how he wants his actor to read Hamlet’s line.

So, hopefully, now you’ll know your ‘thou’ from your ‘thine’ and recognise why Shakespeare chose a particular pronoun.

Friday, 6 January 2012

The Young Lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Title Page of The Quarto Version of
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Who are Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius? With affections swiftly changing, who loves whom and is it possible to keep track?

There are many lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, but it is the foursome of Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, who dominate the plot. So, what are their connections and what happens to them in the Athenian wood?


Unrequited Love


At the beginning of the play, the romantic connections between the four, young Athenians is fairly simple, although unhappy.

Hermia and Lysander are desperately in love and wish to marry. However, there’s a problem. Hermia’s dad wants her to marry Demetirus, and Demetirus is quite keen on the idea of wedding the beautiful young Hermia.
"Relent, sweet Hermia: and, Lysander, yield/Thy crazed title to my certain right."(I.i)


Helena meanwhile, who has been best friends with Hermia since childhood, is madly in love with Demetrius. However, this passion is not returned and, in fact, he behaves in a thoroughly ungentlemanly fashion.

"I'll run from thee and hide me in the brakes,/And leave thee to the mercy of wild beasts."(II.i)

 

Run Away With Me

Hermia and Helena (BFFs)
Painting by Washington Allston

If she disobeys her father and refuses to marry Demetrius, Hermia is told she can look forward to life in a nunnery or….well, no life at all. So, she and Lysander quickly plan to run from Athens and marry at his aunt’s house.


Having been BFF (I believe that’s what the kids are saying these days) with Helena since they were girls, Hermia sees no harm in telling her friend about the elopement. Unfortunately, misguided Helena, in a bid to win Demetrius’ affection, tells him all about the plan.

So, while Lysander and Hermia make their way to the woods, Demetrius follows them. And Helena follows him.

"You draw me, you hard-hearted adamant;/But yet you draw not iron, for my heart/Is true as steel."(II.i)


A Little Magical Intervention



Once they make it to the woods, Helena and Demtirus are spotted by Oberon, who decides that this pathetic Athenian girl could do with a little ‘love potion’ help in winning the man of her dreams. So, he tasks his right-hand fairy, Puck, with the job.


Puck and The Fairies From
“The Works of Shakspere,
with notes by Charles Knight” (1873)
Unfortunately, unaware of what Helena and Demetrius look like, Puck finds, instead, Hermia and Lysander, who have stopped to take a nap, and places the potion into Lysander’s eyes. When Lysander wakes, who should happen to cross his path? Helena. And he instantly falls in love with her.

"Transparent Helena! Nature shows art,/That through thy bosom makes me see thy heart."(II.ii)

Helena is, perhaps unsurprisingly, completely confused by Lysander’s sudden shift in affections and believes that he is teasing her. She’s not amused by his ‘joke’, though. And neither is Hermia, when she wakes to find her beloved chasing after her best friend.



A Quick Fix



Realising Puck’s mistake, Oberon orders him to rectify the matter. So, Puck sets about putting the love potion in the right eyes this time. And it works like a charm, Demetrius falls hopelessly in love with Helena. Unfortunately, Lysander is still besotted with her, too, and the pair begin to fight over her.

Hermia thinks that Helena has captivated the two men with her "tall" feminine wiles and Helena believes that all three of them are playing a cruel joke on her. A rather delicious and very funny argument between the two girls ensues.


Oberon sees and hears this exchange, chastises Puck for his negligence and demands he puts things right. Puck does indeed set things right, by making Lysander fall in love with Hermia again and leaving Demetrius infatuated with Helena.

The four, at last all happily in love, return to Athens and, with the help of Theseus, convince Hermia’s father to let her wed Lysander. And, for the most part, what happens in the Athenian wood, stays in the Athenian wood.