Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-ttngx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-19T03:48:03.756Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false
This chapter is part of a book that is no longer available to purchase from Cambridge Core

Translations in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Stanley Wells
Affiliation:
University of Birmingham
Get access

Summary

A Midsummer Night's Dream is profoundly and constantly—though also delicately and humorously—concerned with processes of change, of translation from one state to another, and its audience is frequently made aware that for human beings translation—any kind of translation—is likely to be a difficult process requiring that obstacles be overcome, and that it may involve loss as well as gain. The most prominent, and most frequently discussed, aspect of translation in the play is from the unmarried to the married state. In no other play by Shakespeare is the process of courtship leading to marriage so central a concern. Almost all his comedies portray attempts to overcome obstacles to marriage, but at the end of most of them marriage is deferred, not accomplished. This play, however, opens with preparations for marriage, continues with the story of wooings at first thwarted but then successfully concluded, and ends with the celebration of not one but three marriages. But the transition from the unmarried to the married state is not the only form of translation with which the play is concerned, and I shall consider the idea less in relation to the lovers than to the labourers, or mechanicals, and especially Bottom. ‘Bless thee, Bottom, bless thee’, says Peter Quince at a climactic moment, ‘Thou art translated’ (III.i.113). But Bottom is a translator as well. I shall look at both roles, and I start with the passive rather than the active.

At the moment of his translation, Bottom's appearance wearing an ass's head comes to Quince and his fellows as a total, and unwelcome, surprise. It is a surprise for the audience, too, though one for which there has been, in Shakespeare's usual manner, a good deal of subtextual preparation. We know of Oberon's plot to drop the liquor of love-in-idleness on Titania's eyes so that

The next thing then she waking looks upon—

Be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull,

On meddling monkey, or on busy ape—

She shall pursue it with the soul of love. (II.i.179–82)

We have seen him squeeze the juice on her eyes with the invocation,

What thou seest when thou dost wake,

Do it for thy true love take;

Love and languish for his sake.

Type
Chapter
Information
Translating Life
Studies in Transpositional Aesthetics
, pp. 15 - 32
Publisher: Liverpool University Press
Print publication year: 2000

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×