By Judith M. Kennedy, Richard F. Kennedy
This research lines the reaction to "A Midsummer Night's Dream" from Shakespeare's day to the current, together with critics from Britain, Europe and the United States.
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Additional info for A Midsummer Night's Dream (Shakespeare, the Critical Tradition)
40], Snider [No. 47], Dowden [No. 49], Bates [No. 66]), but Furnivall (No. G. " I do not say a "play;" for .. 116 Lloyd (No. 35) had vigorously contested this view, but by the end of the century even those who share Lloyd's opinion are inclined to yield ground to the opposition, Wendell (No. 64) arguing defensively that 'the play itself could never have seemed to its writer only the beautiful poem which it chiefly seems to us' because Shakespeare 'made it for living actors, - men and boys'. Such modest voices of reason are drowned out by the enthusiasm of Swinburne, 23 SHAKESPEARE: THE CRITICAL TRADITION whose own lyrical bent responded ecstatically to 'that all-heavenly poem', finding it the 'consummation' of the 'young genius of the master of all poets', 'surely the most beautiful work of man', 'above all possible or imaginable criticism' (No.
The most attractive proposition was to ally it with masque, and to a lesser extent with pastoral, impulses encouraged by perceived analogies with Milton's Comus and Fletcher's The Faithful Shepherdess. As early as 1794 Whiter (No. 6) found masque concepts helpful in advancing his critical views, and by the middle of the nineteenth century Gervinus unhesitatingly calls the play a masque (No. 37), but the most influential statement of the position at this period was Elze's (No. 46). The attraction of the definition is not simply in the way it helps to explain the presence of elements such as song, dance, interlude, allegory and mythology, but because it combines with assertions of historical allegory, and with the idea of Dream as an occasional play for an aristocratic wedding.
55 More praise came from David Baker in his Companion to the Play-House (1764): 'This Play is one of the wild and irregular Overflowings of this great Author's creative Imagination'. 57 The last five words are from Dryden as quoted by Rowe above, and are quoted again by Elizabeth Montagu, who perhaps best sums up the romantic neo-classical attitude towards fairies when she says that like the Pagans, the western world too had its sacred fables. While there is any national superstition which credulity has consecrated, any hallowed tradition long revered by vulgar faith; to that sanctuary, that asylum, may the poet resort.