A Shakespearean Glance at the People and Issues of the Day.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Midsummer's Night Dream, Updated


In A Midsummer's Night Dream, a love potion is being incompetently employed by Puck, with results that complicate the relationships between four mortals. Puck is the sprite-like servant of Oberon, an Olympian god (Error! Oberon is the "king of the fairies" and my thanks to Richard at lovinage for the correction), and the story is complicated enough without my explaining Oberon's cupidity in making Puck his Cupid. Here is the state of play among the mortals before Puck arrives:

Demetrius once courted Helena, before jilting her. Helena is still carrying a torch, and indeed carries it all the way into a forest in order to follow Demetrius, who has gone there in pursuit of Hermia. But Shakespeare is not content with a love triangle in this play – he creates a square, bringing in Lysander, who loves Hermia who, unusually, loves Lysander right back. To review:

Helena loves Demetrius
Demetrius loves Hermia
Hermia and Lysander love each other

Well, any fool can see that Shakespeare, looking toward the future, intended Helena to represent the soul, such as it is, of today's Democratic Party. Demetrius, of course, is, and Lysander is the DNC (Democratic Leadership Council), that camouflaged wing of the Democratic Party that understands elections cannot be won when the party exposes its isolationist let's-withdraw-from-the-world-because-I-personally-have-a-good-job-and-can-afford-Starbucks instincts. And clearly, Hermia represents Electoral Victory, which is why we will let her will remain off-stage until 2006. Again, to review:

Helena = Democratic Party
Demetrius =
Lysander = DNC Wing
Hermia = Electoral Victory

OK, here we go:

Demet/Moveon: "I love thee not, therefore pursue me not.
Where is Lysander and fair Hermia?
The one I'll slay; the other slayeth me.
Thou told'st me they were stol'n into this wood;…"

Hel/Dem Pty: "You draw me, you hardhearted adamant!
But yet you draw not iron, for my heart
Is true as steel. Leave you your power to draw,
And I shall have no power to follow you."

Demet/Moveon: "Do I entice you? Do I speak you fair?
Or rather do I not in plainest truth
Tell you I do not nor I cannot love you?

Hel/Dem Pty: And even for that do I love you the more,
I am your spaniel' and, Demetrius,
The more you beat me I will fawn on you.
Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me,
Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,
Unworthy as I am, to follow you…".

OK, so far so good. Let's Moveon along. Lysander and Hermia, fleeing the American people, I mean fleeing parents who don't understand them, enter the wood. Lysander falls asleep and Puck for reasons it would take all night to explain dribbles some love potion number nine onto his eyelids. Lysander awakens just as Helena strolls in (that is, the DNC awakens just as the Democratic Party strolls in):

Hel/Dem Pty: "But who is here, Lysander on the ground?
Dead, or asleep? I see no blood, no wound.
Lysander, if you live, good sir, awake."

Lys/DNC: "And run through fire I will for thy sweet sake.
Transparent Helena! Nature shows art,
That through thy bosom makes me see thy heart,
Where is Demetrius? O, how fit a word
Is that vile name to perish on my sword!"

Hel/Dem Pty: "Do not say so, Lysander, say not so.
What though he love your Hermia? Lord, what though?
Yet Hermia still loves you. Then be content."

See how clear the play becomes, now that we have decoded the Bard's prophetic intentions? Clearly Shakespeare intended to dramatize the Democratic Party's unrequited courtship of the votes of the radical left, followed by the DNC pragmatists' attempt to reclaim the Party's affections.

Let's moveon along some more. Puck next dribbles the love potion onto Demetrius' sleeping eyelids, and Demetrius awakens as, again, Helena conveniently strolls by, that is, awakens to the possibility of grasping full control of the Democratic Party (note that Lysander/DNC Wing is also present, and Helena addresses both men/factions):

Demet/Moveon: "O Helen, goddess, nymph, perfect, divine!
To what, my love, shall I compare thine eyne?
Crystal is muddy. O, how ripe in show
Thy lips, those kissing cherries, tempting grow!
That pure congealed white, high Taurus' snow,
Fanned with the eastern wind, turns to a crow
When thou hold'st up thy hand. O, let me kiss
This princess of pure white, this seal of bliss!"

Hel/Dem Pty: "O spite! O hell! I see you are all bent
To set against me for your merriment.
If you were civil and knew courtesy,
You would not do me thus much injury,
Can you not hate me, as I know you do,
But you must join in souls to mock me too?
If you were men, as men you are in show,
You would not use a gentle lady so…".

Well, that was fun, for me at least. My only additional comment would be a reminder that Shakespeare's real love poetry is always much finer than this. He dumbed it down for effect, the effect being to outline the insincerity and fecklessness of mortals who are suffering under false charms.

P.S. Here's a related, recommendable post from the estimable Generation Why?

And here's one from the always recommendable Confederate Yankee.

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