Midshizzle – the faerie connection

15 Aug

This follows on from my last post – Midshizzle – initial explorations

Photos in this post were also all taken in rehearsal by Benjamin Prindable.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the answers to my disquiet about Midsummer Night’s Dream were in the text all along. Titania makes it very clear to us how the state of the fairy world impacts the human:

Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,

As in revenge, have suck’d up from the sea

Contagious fogs; which falling in the land

Have every pelting river made so proud

That they have overborne their continents:

The ox hath therefore stretch’d his yoke in vain,

The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn

Hath rotted ere his youth attain’d a beard;

The fold stands empty in the drowned field,

And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;

The nine men’s morris is fill’d up with mud,

And the quaint mazes in the wanton green

For lack of tread are undistinguishable:

The human mortals want their winter here;

No night is now with hymn or carol blest:

Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,

Pale in her anger, washes all the air,

That rheumatic diseases do abound:

And thorough this distemperature we see

The seasons alter: hoary-headed frosts

Far in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,

And on old Hiems’ thin and icy crown

An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds

Is, as in mockery, set: the spring, the summer,

The childing autumn, angry winter, change

Their wonted liveries, and the mazed world,

By their increase, now knows not which is which:

Benjamin Prindable Photography-87

She is very clear, the climate is changing, weather and seasons have lost their predictability, and this has confounded human activity on the earth. Tempting though it may be, and I have seen this in productions, this is not a simple anthropogenic climate change analogy. Titania emphatically tells us:

And this same progeny of evils comes

From our debate, from our dissension;

We are their parents and original.

In other words, it is discord in the fairy world, not the human world, that has brought this about. So we need to dig a little deeper into who these fairies are. In the text they are referred to as shadows, and Oberon is addressed as King of Shadows. The humans allude to them, but do not usually see them (except for the transformed Bottom). The word fairy or faerie comes into English from the French, where it lived alongside the Anglo-Saxon word for the same thing, elf. I was drawn to these older ideas of faerie, which in our time we might be more likely to call elves and goblins (Puck refers to himself as goblin), satyrs and sprites, than we we have come to think of as ‘fairies’, with their dainty wings and ethereal voices. I was further inspired by the drawings and stories in Brian Froud and Alan Lee’s book Faeries (e.g. check this out).

I was also drawn to the idea of Shadow in a psychological sense – that part of the unconscious self which comprises all of our subverted urges and which our conscious mind would see as chaotic and amoral. That got me thinking about the relationship between the ‘royal couples’ – the human Theseus and Hippolyta, and the faerie Titania and Oberon. Our production follows in the tradition of having the same actor play both Titania and Hippolyta, and another play both Theseus and Oberon. According to the play, the reason that the faerie king and queen are in the forest near Athens is that they each have come to see their human lover marry – Titania having been Theseus’ lover, and Oberon having been Hippolyta’s.  Whether this notion of ‘lover’ is to be understood in a sexual sense, or in terms of having a human ‘favourite’, is open to interpretation, but of course classical mythology is bursting at the seams with stories of gods who take human sexual partners. Each of Titania and Oberon tell a story about how the other has been known to fool around with mortals of the opposite sex.

Benjamin Prindable Photography-52

What does this mean for a ‘shadow’ world, rather than an Olympian world of Gods? Olympus’ gods walk by day, their world is known to mortals. Faerie  is a world that awakes when humans sleep, and humans do not understand its workings. Theseus is in love with the shadow image of Hippolyta, a turgid and amoral fantasy version of herself. And vice versa.

This, along with the interference of the faeries in the matter of the Indian prince, are instances of the balance between light and shade breaking down. Our psyche is ill at ease – we succumb to our shadow selves mindlessly, rather than being aware of their presence. This causes us to act in ways that are unconscious, and perhaps unconscionable.

To return to the matter of the shattered environment in the play – the humans cannot fix it because it is the actions of their shadows that is the cause. Massive problems that confront us, like climate change, cannot be fixed without a fundamental shift in our psyches at the deepest levels. The unconscious urges that drive us to our own destruction are not tamed by simply attempting to mitigate the damage at the surface level. The psyche must be healed.

Benjamin Prindable Photography-137

So now we are ready to begin rehearsals. In a few days I’ll post about what we discovered there. With more of Benjamin Prindable’s wonderful photos.


2 Responses to “Midshizzle – the faerie connection”


  1. Midshizzle – in rehearsal | The Fifth Columnist - August 18, 2013

    […] This follows on from my last post – Midshizzle – the faerie connection. […]

  2. Midshizzle – the visual aesthetic | The Fifth Columnist - August 28, 2013

    […] maximum effect, read the first three posts, here, here, and here. Otherwise you are of course welcome to just enjoy the pretty pictures (by Benjamin […]

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