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Author Topic: A Midsummer Night's Dream was set in Greece  (Read 1128 times)

Faemon

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A Midsummer Night's Dream was set in Greece
« on: October 03, 2013, 03:23:09 am »
I can't believe I missed that, all through high school.

How did that work? The etymology of Queen Titania's name certainly makes it more appropriate, but I'm wondering if Hellenists had the same or similar superstitions associated with Midsummer as a man of the Isles such as Shakespeare would have.

Not that I ever ever fully understood the Greek calendar, or anything.
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Lykeios Lysios

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A Midsummer Night's Dream was set in Greece
« Reply #1 on: October 03, 2013, 08:30:24 am »
Quote from: triple_entendre;124016
I can't believe I missed that, all through high school.

How did that work? The etymology of Queen Titania's name certainly makes it more appropriate, but I'm wondering if Hellenists had the same or similar superstitions associated with Midsummer as a man of the Isles such as Shakespeare would have.

Not that I ever ever fully understood the Greek calendar, or anything.

It was set in Athens even if I recall.

I've never really understood why he set it there either. As far as I know the seasons weren't celebrated quite like they were in northern Europe. Apart from those for Persephone and Demeter I don't know that there are a great many festivals to deities related to seasons. I could be wrong though, I'm a little rusty on my festival calendar facts.
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drekfletch

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Re: A Midsummer Night's Dream was set in Greece
« Reply #2 on: October 03, 2013, 05:19:40 pm »
Quote from: triple_entendre;124016
but I'm wondering if Hellenists had the same or similar superstitions associated with Midsummer as a man of the Isles such as Shakespeare would have.


 
Not really, no.  From what I understand, Hellas has roughly three seasons.  Summer is the dry, droughty season, followed by the cool rainy season and then spring.  Similar to Northern California and the southerly parts of the Pacific Northwest.
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RandallS

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Re: A Midsummer Night's Dream was set in Greece
« Reply #3 on: October 03, 2013, 05:38:46 pm »
Quote from: drekfletch;124101
Not really, no.  From what I understand, Hellas has roughly three seasons.  Summer is the dry, droughty season, followed by the cool rainy season and then spring.  Similar to Northern California and the southerly parts of the Pacific Northwest.

That's pretty much correct. Greece (ancient or modern) does not has the same seasons that the British Isles (or Northern Europe) in general has (any more than, say, South Texas does).
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Re: A Midsummer Night's Dream was set in Greece
« Reply #4 on: October 03, 2013, 05:45:36 pm »
Quote from: triple_entendre;124016
I can't believe I missed that, all through high school.

How did that work? The etymology of Queen Titania's name certainly makes it more appropriate, but I'm wondering if Hellenists had the same or similar superstitions associated with Midsummer as a man of the Isles such as Shakespeare would have.

Not that I ever ever fully understood the Greek calendar, or anything.

 
Well, Shakespeare, not actually all that good with historical realism, even much closer to home. (See Richard III, but also pretty much every play about someone named Henry has notable errors in it. They're just fairly flattering errors in the case of the Henries.)

More to the point, I think it's sometimes very easy for people today to forget that we sort of forgot huge amounts about ancient Greece between about 400CE and about 1450CE - people forgot how to read the language, lots of texts got destroyed, and it's only with the rise of the Neo-Platonists, and with increased scientific and academic discussion with bits of the Islamic world that we get some of it back. (And modern scientific archaeological practice is still about five hundred years off in 1450.)

So, while the myths, and so on, would likely have been known to Shakespeare, the actual underlying data about - well. Much - wasn't, because it had either been forgotten or not sorted out yet.
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catja6

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Re: A Midsummer Night's Dream was set in Greece
« Reply #5 on: October 03, 2013, 05:54:21 pm »
Quote from: triple_entendre;124016
I can't believe I missed that, all through high school.

How did that work? The etymology of Queen Titania's name certainly makes it more appropriate, but I'm wondering if Hellenists had the same or similar superstitions associated with Midsummer as a man of the Isles such as Shakespeare would have.

Not that I ever ever fully understood the Greek calendar, or anything.

 
The setting of MSN in Greece has to do with a couple things. First, one of the background inspirations for the play is Chaucer's "Knight's Tale," a romance featuring two men in the court of Theseus and Hippolyta  competing for a woman--T/H preside over a "court" as sort of the ultimate models of chivalry. Second, for Shakespeare, Chaucer, and a LOT of writers in the medieval and early modern periods, ancient Greece was the land of magic and mystery and wonder. You know the vision of the middle ages you get from Renaissance Faires and fantasy novels today? Ancient Greece was, like, medieval/early modern people's fantasy period. (if writers from that period wanted a more "modern" and close-to-home Fantasyland, they used King Arthur.) The ~ancient~ setting of both "The Knight's Tale" and MSN has way more to do with medieval/early modern tropes of fantastic literature than it does with the actual ancient world.

Faemon

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Re: A Midsummer Night's Dream was set in Greece
« Reply #6 on: October 04, 2013, 01:21:38 am »
Thank you everybody for your replies! :)

Would anybody see any support/detraction for a conjecture I have, that: MSD pioneered the fairy-as-a-spirit-of-a-flowering-plant trope, bridging dryads from long ago and far away, with the sugary Victorian-era / New Age idea of flower fairies?

Quote from: catja6;124110
The setting of MSN in Greece has to do with a couple things. First, one of the background inspirations for the play is Chaucer's "Knight's Tale," a romance featuring two men in the court of Theseus and Hippolyta  competing for a woman--T/H preside over a "court" as sort of the ultimate models of chivalry. Second, for Shakespeare, Chaucer, and a LOT of writers in the medieval and early modern periods, ancient Greece was the land of magic and mystery and wonder. You know the vision of the middle ages you get from Renaissance Faires and fantasy novels today? Ancient Greece was, like, medieval/early modern people's fantasy period. (if writers from that period wanted a more "modern" and close-to-home Fantasyland, they used King Arthur.)


So it's sort of like how that one French guy claimed that this Arabian guy told him a folktale set in a version of China where Islam was the state religion... and that became Aladdin? Makes sense, then.

Quote
The ~ancient~ setting of both "The Knight's Tale" and MSN has way more to do with medieval/early modern tropes of fantastic literature than it does with the actual ancient world.


I suppose the tropes were all they had to go on. As an aside, I was also interested in the play-within-a-play (Pyramus and Thisbe), though perhaps it would be too optimistic to see a tradition of Greek drama being accurately paid tribute.
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Medulla

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Re: A Midsummer Night's Dream was set in Greece
« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2013, 06:13:19 am »
Quote from: triple_entendre;124016
I can't believe I missed that, all through high school.

How did that work? The etymology of Queen Titania's name certainly makes it more appropriate, but I'm wondering if Hellenists had the same or similar superstitions associated with Midsummer as a man of the Isles such as Shakespeare would have.

Not that I ever ever fully understood the Greek calendar, or anything.

It's not that weird and it doesn't mean Shakespeare was ignorant at all.

Ancient Greece and Rome were a source of fascination in his time so making references to antiquity in his work was a way of showing he was familiar with ancient works. It was also a fun Easter egg of sorts for some of his viewers who would have gotten the reference. It's similar to how present-day writers will sometimes include nods to pop culture that don't alienate viewers who don't know the reference but are a cool bonus for the ones who do so it's just a nice detail.

It also helps distance the story from the time and setting where it was staged at the time. For the audience Athens would have been far away enough to be exotic but it's still a real world place so it's both close and distant. Some of his other plays make use of this too by being fantastical in a way but also referencing specific locations.
« Last Edit: October 31, 2013, 06:13:49 am by Medulla »

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