31 Dec“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” With a Nine-Year-Old
The other day my nine-year-old daughter asked me if we could watch “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” together. I raised my eyebrows and said, “Um, yeah.” Where had this request come from? It’s true that I have received a masters degree in English and love literature and the arts, but my children have not been raised listening to me quote Shakespeare. All the quotes I know could be given in 22 seconds or less. Glory seemed sincere and so one night after work I looked up this title on Netflix and found two versions—one from 1968 and one from 1996. My instincts told me that the 1996 version would be more relevant and palatable to Glory, but my love for old movies made me click on the 1968 version.
I called Glory over and we made ourselves comfortable in our clam chairs and stated our journey through a midsummer night long ago. I wondered if Gory would lose interest soon due to the language barrier. I had trouble understanding Shakespeare when I was in college let alone when I was nine. It didn’t happen—Glory was engaged with the movie the whole way through. She didn’t like the fairies as first because they were painted green and were wild looking. She was expecting the pretty little fairies from her books that sparkled as they flew. Titiana, the fairy queen, made her look twice. She made me look twice, too. Titana, played by a very young Judi Dench, was about as nude as she could get without being totally nude. There were just the tiniest pieces of moss placed in strategic areas on her green painted body. Glory commented, “She’s in her birthday suit.” Glory appeared interested, but not scandalized and so Titiana’s freedom from clothes did not stop the movie.
We thoroughly enjoyed the antics of Puck and Bottom. Titiana’s infatuation with the donkey was hilarious. We felt sorry for poor, spurned Helena (a young Diana Rigg), and then for poor Hermia. Oberon, the fairy king, showed a little responsibility which was refreshing. The wedding celebration play at the end by Bottom and his sincere, but simple cohorts, had us laughing out loud (“Oh Wall! Villainess Wall). I loved the choice of wardrobe for the lovers; they looked like they were running around in the 1960’s Star Trek uniforms. The final scene when the newly-weds go to bed and the fairies go throughout the house spreading their magic was truly magical.
Glory didn’t realize how much she liked the1968 version until we watched the 1996 version the next night. I was glad she wanted to watch another version. It would open her eyes to what a director’s vision is to see two different approaches to the same play. We didn’t make it halfway through this version. The staging was innovative, the costumes colorful and fun (Titiana was clothed), and the acting very professional. What was wrong was that the director had a mean and rather dirty vision to the subject matter. I won’t describe what we saw, but our tolerance level quickly filled up. Without any suggestion from me Glory wrinkled her nose and said, “I don’t want to watch any more.” I hit the power button without any hesitation.
My daughter speaks highly of her experience with the 1968 version of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in spite of the green fairies. But she didn’t speak so highly until after she saw the 1996 version. In spite of the nearly nude Titiana in the 1968 version she quickly sensed it was the 1996 version that had obscene intent even though the fairies weren’t green and everyone was colorfully and fully dressed. No, I don’t condone the wardrobe choice of Titiana in the 1968 version, but it gave a wonderful (if unexpected) opportunity for my daughter to understand that things aren’t always what they appear. And isn’t that what “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is about anyway?