Thursday, December 12, 2013

Wither Shakespeare? Part II - A Midsummer Night's Dream

Spring, 1960

Shakespeare first entered my life when my elementary school in Montreal planned to stage a version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Teachers were told to send their best and loudest readers to audition in the gym.  From my grade 2 class, I was the chosen one and was thrilled to walk right out of arithmetic class to the audition.

I read my best and loudest, but I did not make the cut.  I was heartbroken. 

My older sister won the part of a fairy.  She wore a skirt and top that looked like cobwebs spun by small spiders.  Shimmery material dangled from her arms and fluttered when she danced across the stage.

She remembers her lines to this day:


A wood near Athens

Enter a FAIRY at one door, and PUCK at another.

PUCK How now, spirit! whither wander you?

FAIRY        Over hill, over dale,
Through bush, through brier,
Over park, over pale,
Through flood, through fire,
I do wander every where,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the Fairy Queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.

The cowslips tall her pensioners be;
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours;
In those freckles live their savours;
I must go seek some dewdrops here,
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.

Only now, I see the fairy spoke in sonnets.  I am intrigued by the meaning of "to dew her orbs."  I suppose it means to place dewdrops into her flowers. Shakespeare is the grand master of the double entendre, but the erotic elements of a midsummer forest were not the subject of the school play.

My brother also went to this school.  He was a year older and a grade higher than me.  When I was in grade 1, he was in grade 2.  His teacher’s name was Miss Shakespeare. Whenever I saw her in the halls, she would gather me in her arms as if she, herself, were some kind of fairy.

At the end of his year with Miss Shakespeare, she skipped him up to grade 4. and from then on, he was two grades ahead of me.  It was so unfair.

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