Thursday, June 14, 2012

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" Play vs. Film: Gender Studies Critique

Shakespeare has always had few women in his works because women were not allowed to act in London in the late 1500s and early 1600s. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, a play by Shakespeare, is a perfect example. Shakespeare wrote this play to portray the relationship that existed between women and men in England in the 15th century. The film version of the play directed by Ed Fraiman “ShakespeaRe-Told: A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is similar to the play but written in a more modern time. The film has been cleverly updated from Ancient Greece to a present-day British holiday camp, which also doubles as the location of the enchanted forest (Scheib).  

Although Hermia is one unique character in the play, she still portrays the strong independent role in the film. She is still very rebellious; she disobeys her father, king, and the Athenian law. Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius despite the fact that she doesn’t love him. She is willing to throw away all of her luxuries in exchange for the freedom to love Lysnader instead of Demetrius. In the play Hermia leaves her father and mother upset at her actions. But in the film version, only her father seems to be upset with her. Hermia’s father demonstrates the traditional masculine role of a father in both the play and the film. He thinks he is in control but with a daughter like Hermia he won’t get his way.

Hermia’s best friend Helena has the role of a desperate and pathetic girl in the play. She attempts to love Demetrius with no consideration that he is Hermia’s man according to Hermia’s parents. After being too shy to ask for Demetrius’s love, she instead begs to be in his presence saying:
“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” (Shakespeare).

 But, her character completely switches in the film. She becomes a strong minded girl like Hermia. She over comes her insecurity of love with Demetrius and denies his love, instead of him denying her love like in the play.  Helena’s role in the play demonstrates another stereotypical role of women; she comes off as weak and a “home-wrecker”. Yet, in the film Helena doesn’t care for Demetrius as much, so she decides to destroy the love between Hermia and Lysander. Although Helena has no longer begged for Demetrius’ love, she is still in the wrong for trying to destroy her best friend’s love-life. Whether it’s the 16th century or the 21st century, she would not get any respect from other women (Scheib).

Shakespeare’s characters were and are scripted to perform cross-gender roles. So the similarities and differences in the play vs. the film have some resemblance. Shakespeare portrays his characters with different personalities that fit the category of the traditional masculine and feminine roles. Queen Elizabeth I helped influence many of Shakespeare’s plays which is why they have such a strong love role. Both the film and the play both show how friends and family can be envious of each other for something they want but cannot have.  

Works Cited
Scheib, Richard. "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Moria. N.p., 1999-2012. Web. 14 Jun 2012. 
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. NY: Washington Square Press, Inc., 1962.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with your opinion that Shakespeare portrays his characters with different personalities that fit the category of the traditional masculine and feminine roles. It is correct.It is a good essay to compare the play and the film.