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Mar 1, 2023

At the heart of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream is a fantastical world of fairies, magic, and mythical creatures, and in this episode, we explore the different influences that helped to shape this world.

First up, we look at the rich tradition of English fairy folklore, which was still very much a part of the popular imagination during Shakespeare's time. We take a journey back in time to the early medieval period, when the Anglo-Saxon and Celtic cultures first began to develop their own unique traditions around fairies and other supernatural beings. As we progress through history, we discover how these beliefs evolved and became woven into the fabric of English culture during Shakespeare's time.

We also delve into the influence of Greco-Roman mythology on the play, which is perhaps most evident in the characters of Theseus and Hippolyta. We will also explore how Greco-Roman mythology influences Shakespeare's depicition of the fairies. The fairy queen Titania, for example, takes her name from a figure in ancient Greek mythology, and her depiction in the play draws on this tradition as well as on the English fairy folklore that was prevalent during Shakespeare's time.

We will also discuss how appreciating the impact and influence of these cultural traditions today can impact productions and modern readings of this play. 

Shakespeare Anyone? is created and produced by Kourtney Smith and Elyse Sharp.

Music is "Neverending Minute" by Sounds Like Sander.

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Works referenced:

Calderwood, James L. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Anamorphism and Theseus’ Dream.” Shakespeare Quarterly, vol. 42, no. 4, 1991, pp. 409–30. JSTOR, Accessed 6 Feb. 2023.

HUTTON, RONALD. “THE MAKING OF THE EARLY MODERN BRITISH FAIRY TRADITION.” The Historical Journal, vol. 57, no. 4, 2014, pp. 1135–56. JSTOR, Accessed 11 Feb. 2023.

Olson, Paul A. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Meaning of Court Marriage.” ELH, vol. 24, no. 2, 1957, pp. 95–119. JSTOR, Accessed 11 Feb. 2023.