Plays & Screenplays

A Midsummer Night's Dream: Silly Shakespeare for Students

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This book will launch on Dec 1, 2020. Currently, only those with the link can see it. 🔒

Loved it! 😍

An excellent English language learning resource created from an old Shakespeare classic and rendered in delightful, couplet form.

Synopsis

The Silly Shakespeare for Students edition of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream simplifies the famous play without dumbing it down. It's perfect for introducing students to the Bard and helping English Language Learners practice speaking and oracy skills while grappling with the classics. Author Paul Leonard Murray, director of the Belgrade English Language Theater, has cut the play down to an hour or so and made the language more accessible. But he's kept all the funny parts! Not only that, the whole thing is written in rhyming couplets.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of Shakespeare's best-known plays for a reason. When Hermia's father forbids her to marry Lysander, the couple run away to elope. Demetrius, who is madly in love with Hermia follows them, and Helena who is in love with Demetrius, follows him. Little do they know that the fairies are watching them. The king of the fairies, Oberon sends his servant, mischievous pixie Puck, to fix these foolish mortals' woes, armed with a love potion. Hilarity ensues involving donkey-faced carpenters, dueling suitors, and some very confused Athenians.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Silly Shakespeare for Students by Paul Leonard Murray is an adaptation of the original that primarily seeks to bring the old classic within the reach of young English language students (probably, in the age group 10-15). To adapt it successfully to an audience of that age group, the author has shortened it to nearly a third of its original size (while keeping the story intact) and rendered what he retained in a rhyming, couplet form. Tough parts have been simplified, and the language used is modern. The result is a highly enjoyable textbook for learners of English.


The major reasons Shakespeare’s works figure as the best English language learning resources are: learning the art of story-telling; appreciation of classics—why they are universal and ever-relevant; a deep understanding of the human condition (i.e., the destructive power of emotions/desires like love, hate, greed, jealousy, power, ambition, revenge, etc. that are continually at work in us) and thus, a lesson on what’s right and wrong in life, and the values we need to develop; and learning the best verbal and written language skills. Examined critically along these lines, I found it an excellent English learning resource!


I also found a flaw that has resulted from the extensive 'pruning' carried out by the author on Shakespeare’s original work to create this book—the pruning may have removed too many details. Here’s an example: in the original, at the start of Act I, Scene I, the dialog between Theseus and Hippolyta reveals that there are still four days to go before their marriage; however, this detail is missing in this book. Kids at the lower end of the 10-15 age group may not care about it, but those at the higher end, being more mature, may find the book more trivial than they’re expecting because of the many missing details.


The best thing about this book is that it’s rendered in poetry form. It’s no simple task to rewrite a whole classic in the form of couplets, and the author rightly merits high praise for his commendable efforts in this regard.


I whole-heartedly recommend A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Silly Shakespeare for Students to all young native English learners. It will also serve as an excellent textbook for learners of all ages, all over the world, to whom English is a secondary language (ESL). However, a minimum prior background in English is necessary for ESL students, without which they may find it overwhelming/intimidating and consequently, unsuitable as a textbook of English.

Reviewed by

An engineer and part-time IT Consultant based in Bangalore, India. Part-time copy editor/reviewer. An IEEE Senior Member. Deep thinker and innovator. Highly analytical, clear, accurate, and thorough. Nearly 40 book reviews published to date-20 on Reedsy and 20 on Online BookClub.

Synopsis

The Silly Shakespeare for Students edition of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream simplifies the famous play without dumbing it down. It's perfect for introducing students to the Bard and helping English Language Learners practice speaking and oracy skills while grappling with the classics. Author Paul Leonard Murray, director of the Belgrade English Language Theater, has cut the play down to an hour or so and made the language more accessible. But he's kept all the funny parts! Not only that, the whole thing is written in rhyming couplets.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of Shakespeare's best-known plays for a reason. When Hermia's father forbids her to marry Lysander, the couple run away to elope. Demetrius, who is madly in love with Hermia follows them, and Helena who is in love with Demetrius, follows him. Little do they know that the fairies are watching them. The king of the fairies, Oberon sends his servant, mischievous pixie Puck, to fix these foolish mortals' woes, armed with a love potion. Hilarity ensues involving donkey-faced carpenters, dueling suitors, and some very confused Athenians.

Prologue and Scene 1


 

CHORUS

(Each actor to take at least one line and addresses the audience directly).

 

 

Good evening. Welcome to the show

Midsummer Night’s Dream, I’m sure you all know…

It’s a famous work by Will the Bard

But his language can be kind of hard

 

So this evening we will do our best

To simplify old William’s text.

As you can hear, we’ll speak in rhyme

And cut two hours off the running time.

 

So for those of you who have an aversion

To seeing Shakespeare in a modern version,

Best go now before we start

To pull this classic play apart.

 

But for those of you with short attention,

Our show’s a really great invention:

Only the highlights and none of the dross[1].

 

PUCK

And me, I’m Puck, I’m a fairy, of course

 

Now you may not believe that I really exist

Or think fairies and ghouls are just shapes in the mist

But in actual fact, that’s not really the case:

I stand here as real as the nose on your face.

 

With the help of one of Shakespeare’s shows

We’ll show how you humans we keep on your toes.

Talking of which here’s the King and the Queen

But don’t worry about me, cos[2] I cannot be seen!

 


SCENE I

 

Athens. The palace of THESEUS.

 

(Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, and Attendants)

THESEUS

Hippolyta, dear, well, here’s your new home.

It may not be so fancy but at least it’s not Rome.

In Athens we have far more manners and taste

So your beauty and charm will not go to waste.

HIPPOLYTA

Manners and taste? Have you muddled[3] your brains?

You stole me from home, and you keep me in chains

THESEUS

Oh, don’t be like that my dear Amazon queen

It’s old-fashioned romance…

HIPPOLYTA

…it’s not, it’s obscene!

I have not got a choice but to marry you here

THESEUS

Then you may as well face it. Crack open a beer

(THESEUS passes HIPPOLYTA a beer)

Philostrate, Philostrate! Where the heck is he now?

(PUCK enters disguised as PHILOSTRATE)

PHILOSTRATE

I’m right here, your Highness

THESEUS

…There is no need to bow

PUCK (aside)

Yes, it’s Puck here-you knew that-disguised as a man

I do this sometimes just to make good my plan

THESEUS

I’m worried my queen is getting cold feet.

And a little bit drunk. (to HIPPOLYTA) Here, love, take a seat.

(to PHILOSTRATE) This wedding you promise will win me her heart?

PHILOSTRATE

Don’t you worry ‘bout that Lord, I’ll just make a start

(He exits)

HIPPOLYTA

How long do I have to sit here like this?

THESEUS

Not long now, dear. Perhaps one little kiss?

HIPPOLYTA

Not likely, you heathen[4], not ‘til I am freed.

And even after we’re married, it’s not guaranteed

(Enter EGEUS and HERMIA)

EGEUS

Happy be Theseus…

THESEUS

…Oh, not you again?

EGEUS

It’s my eldest girl Hermia. She’s being a pain.

I told her to marry this upstanding lad:

Demetrius, step forward

(Enter DEMETRIUS)

HERMIA

…He’s an absolute cad!

EGEUS

Stop lying my child. He’s as sweet as a panda.

HERMIA

But I want to marry this man Lysander.

(Enter LYSANDER)

LYSANDER

We had a few dates and we saw some good bands.

EGEUS

And now she won’t do what her father commands

Please tell her, my Lord. I am wasting my breath

She either gets married or we put her to death

HIPPOLYTA

I’m with you, dear Hermia. It seems that we women

Around here in Athens don’t get an opinion

THESEUS

(To EGEUS) Well, thanks a lot, Egeus, your timing is great.

I know it’s a problem, but couldn’t it wait?

(turns to HERMIA) Now listen Hermia, it’s Demetrius or bust

And I’ll even let you get married with us

HERMIA

Well I don’t want to die, but this man ain’t no fun

THESEUS

Either marry him, dear, or you’ll live as a nun!

EGEUS

Oh, thank you, my Lord. I’m sure she’ll agree

THESEUS

She’d better do, mate…Now let’s go have tea.

(Exit all but LYSANDER and HERMIA)

LYSANDER

Well, the course of true love in our case is dead,

So I’d better be going, you heard what he said.

HERMIA

Is that it? Not so fast. Are you a man or a mouse?

Let’s run off to your Auntie’s house

LYSANDER

That cute little shack on the edge of the wood?

HERMIA

And there we’ll get married. You got it?

LYSANDER

Yes …

HERMIA

… Good!

(Enter HELENA)

HERMIA

Oh, Hi there, Helena. How are you?

Your hair looks great. Did you do something new?

HELENA

I’m trying to look more serious

To win that man Demetrius,

But whatever I say and whatsoever I do

He has only got eyes for you,

Your eyes, your ears, your mouth, your nose . . .

HERMIA

My head and shoulders, knees and toes?

HELENA

Don’t tease me so, it’s not a joke.

I’m obsessed with that Demetrius bloke.

I wish I had your gorgeous looks

To get in that man’s good books.

HERMIA

All other men, they say you’re hot

But Demetrius has lost the plot.[5]

It doesn’t matter what I say.

He’s waiting for our wedding day!

HELENA

But you love him (indicates LYSANDER). Did I get that right?

HERMIA

(nodding) Which is why we’re skipping town tonight

LYSANDER

Well, actually we leave tomorrow,

But we’ll put an end to all your sorrow.

HERMIA

We’ll never come back…

LYSANDER

…I swear it’s true

HERMIA

And then he’ll only have eyes for you.

(Exit HERMIA and LYSANDER)

HELENA

Oh, Cupid, such a cruel sprite

To land me in this awful plight.

He loved me once: Demetrius.

But Hermia she did ruin us.

And even when he knows their plan

I’m sure he’ll never be my man.

He’ll follow them into the trees

To catch a peek, but if you please

I’ll follow him to enrich my pain

Just to see him go …(hopefully) and come back again

(Exit all)

 


[1] Bad parts

[2] Short for because.

[3] Mixed up, scrambled

[4] Someone who is uncivilized

[5] Lost touch with reality

About the author

We are a small, independent publishing company that specializes in English language learning resources. All our products are author-led and all our authors are teachers practicing in the classroom now. That means our materials are 100% teacher-created, classroom tested, and student-approved! view profile

Published on May 01, 2020

Published by Alphabet Publishing

10000 words

Contains explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Plays & Screenplays

Reviewed by

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