Commentary Magazine


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Shakespeare and Beckett

- Abstract

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of the few plays by Shakespeare that appear to have no definite source. No known Roman text, Italian narrative, native chronicle, or earlier play provides the basis for this mixture of English rusticity and Greek myth. Indeed, if the play is a dream, it is the dream of a mind that has an outlandish originality where place and time are concerned, a mind that can as easily put an ancient hero in the Forest of Arden as it can a Warwickshire joiner in the court of Theseus. True, a few snatches of the common stuff of an Elizabethan education are mixed among the unique caprices of the dream, but there is nothing of such definite shape as might suggest that the dreamer is doing anything more than making a gentle appropriation of a heroic name or two, perhaps, as some believe, with the intention of celebrating an important contemporary marriage by thus blessing it with both humor and the literary pomp of classical allusion.



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