A couple weeks ago, my drive down into the mountains of Virginia got me thinking about college. I went to school a few hours deeper into those beautiful hills, at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. Anyway, then I realized I forgot to post about my college papers. Yep, I wrote one on A Midsummer Night’s Dream back in November 1986. Yawn. Why did I keep these papers? Why would I ever want to read them again? It’s a mystery. Anyhow, this one is entitled: “The Fairies’ Contribution to the Humor in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Yawn.
How do professors psyche themselves into reading this stuff over and over, year after year? How? It’s a mystery. Yawn. This paper is bleeding with red ink, but the guy should have been an MD… his handwriting is so bad I can’t make out what most of his notes say. I see “develop” and “expand” in a couple places; not sure what good comments like that do on a paper that would never be further discussed or revised. Anyway.
Actually, I kind of enjoyed reading the paper because it made me think about the difference between what I’m doing with this blog and what I did in school. In school, I’m sure I just did the minimum required. This paper is only 4.5 pages long, which was probably the minimum requirement (I bet there was a required word count and since this was typed on a typewriter… I bet I actually counted the words).
Also, I wonder about the whole concept of undergrad theme papers. Is it a useful way of teaching? Again, because I never went back and revisited the themes/rewrote the paper/had any useful conversation or input about it, I’m not sure what I got out of it. I guess just the exercise of coming up with something to put on paper is useful in itself. I guess.
On the other hand, I’m having a lot of fun with this blog and think I’m learning a lot. I can write about anything I want and not worry that every statement is backed up with “impressive” evidence that will get me a grade. And also, here I find I have more questions than answers. I’m just putting my thoughts out there and not always drawing conclusions. (I’d love to get more comments about my posts… that would be fun!)
Also, I like writing on the blog because it’s my party and I can do what I want. I can say things I’d never put in a school paper. I don’t have to mind my p’s and q’s so much… I can use slang and sentence frags when I feel more conversational and casual — sometimes it’s less cumbersome to get my meaning across without worrying about the presence and placement of all the parts of speech. I can neglect to ital titles, because I feel like it. I can do what I feel like because no one is grading me! This is more fun. I can spend as much time as I feel like on each play… no deadlines! And maybe (especially if you comment!) I get more out of it than I did from my college papers.
Alrighty. Let’s see. Is there anything insightful in this paper? I talk a bit about the popularity of nonhuman beings in folklore. How people enjoy fairy tales about sprites possessing both human foibles and magical powers. And how this combination of traits is especially amusing because it allows for more imaginative stories — not limited to the predictability of the human world.
For all their humanlike feelings, the fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream have resources for dealing with them that set them firmly apart from mortals. This endears them further to the audience, because the fairies deal with problems we can relate to, but they deal in ways that humans can only fantasize about. Yet for all their powers, they mess things up pretty well. There’s a lot of humor in that.
I compare and contrast the whimsical magic of the fairyworld to the slapstick shenanigans of the mechanicals. I also contrast the mystical, mischievous fairyworld here to the scary underworld of evil spirits, witches and scary magic in folklore. We have love juice here, not death spells. We have the mischievous, but not malicious, Puck.
I go into some detail about Puck — how this character was well-known to Shakespeare’s audience. Puck was the Elizabethan euphemism for today’s gremlins — the causers of all those little, inexplicable things that occur when no one is looking. Shakespeare recounts Puck’s exploits so that the audience is reminded of who he is. He’s a very funny character to include in the play because of his universality: everyone can relate to him because everyone has had a brush with Puck (I used the word “universalism” here, but I’m pretty sure I wasn’t talking about religion!).
I talk a bit about the poetic language of the fairies. How their pretty, ethereal language creates their mystique. And I compare it to the heavy-handedness of the mechanicals’ language. Let’s see, I go into the humor of Oberon’s prank, and the farce of Titania’s doting on Bottom. And then I talk about the humor stemming from dramatic irony… because the audience sees the fairies, but the Athenians don’t. We know all the silliness among the lovers stems from the love juice, but they are unconscious of the cause.
I wind it up by giving the fairies credit for putting things to right, one hilarious step at a time, for leaving everyone feeling like it was all a strange dream, and for making this one of Shakespeare’s most entertaining plays. B+
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