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ourselves with were these humours and pieces of plays, which passing under the name of a merry conceited fellow called Bottom the Weaver, Simpleton the Smith, John Swabber, or some such title, were only allowed us, and that but by stealth too, and under pretence of rope dancing and the like."*
The information which Pepys has given us relative to the representation of this play, on September 29th, 1662, is anything but satisfactory, and does not reflect much credit on the acting drama of the time. Here is his extraordinary opinion :-“ To the King's Theatre, where we saw Midsummer Night's Dream, which I had never seen before, nor shall ever again, for it is the most insipid ridiculous play that ever I saw in my life.” It was, perhaps, “ too etherially poetic” for the gross mind of the eccentric secretary.
In the year 1692 the Midsummer Night's Dream was changed into an opera under the title of The Fairy Queen, and performed at Dorset Garden. This alteration was printed at London the same year, and was produced on a very splendid scale. “ In ornament,” says Downes, “ it was superior, especially in cloaths, for all the singers and dancers, scenes, machines and decorations, all most profusely set off and excellently performed, chiefly the instrumental and vocal part composed by Mr. Purcel, and
* The Wits, 4to. Lond. 1673. A copy of this book is in the King's Library in the British Museum, and is an abridgement of Kirkman's Wits, or Sport upon Sport, 8vo. Lond. 1673. Both these contain the humors of Bottom the Weaver. It is said that Robert Cox, the player, was the person who adapted most of the pieces contained in The Wits.
† Diary, edited by Lord Braybrooke.
dances by Mr. Priest. The court and town were wonderfully satisfied with it; but the expenses in setting it being so great, the company got very
Richard Leveridge, in 1716, adapted from this play A Comick Masque of Pyramus and Thisbe, which was produced at the theatre in Lincoln's Inn Fields. It was printed at London the same year.
In 1755, Garrick produced, at Drury Lane, an opera taken from the Midsummer Night's Dream, under the title of The Fairies. The parts of the clowns were entirely omitted. The following prologue, spoken by Garrick, may be interesting to those who take delight in the history of our own operatic performances :
“ A moment stop your tuneful fingers, pray,
A Persian king, as Persian Tales relate,
This said, I made my exit, full of terrors !
Excuse us first, for foolishly supposing
Struck with the wonders of his master's art,
those faults, those errors, are his own;
They're sparks he caught from his great Master's blaze !" The music in this opera was composed by Smith, and contemporary journals speak of it in the highest terms,
Garrick again produced the Midsummer Night's Dream at Drury Lane on Wednesday, November 23rd, 1763. The interlude was restored ; but it was very coldly received by a limited audience, and only acted once. The St. James's Chronicle, in a critique on this revival, describes it as “ an odd romantic performance, more like a masque than a play, and presenting a lively picture of the ungoverned imagination of that great poet.” It was then cut down to an afterpiece by Colman, under the title of A Fairy Tale, the supernatural characters being alone retained, and produced in that form on November 26th, when it met with rather better success.
Colman's alteration was again produced at the Haymarket Theatre on July 18th, 1777, with some songs added from Garrick's version.
The Fairy Prince, also, acted at Covent Garden Theatre in 1771, contains a few lines taken from this play.
In 1816 another alteration of this play, in three acts, by Reynolds, was produced at Covent Garden Theatre on the 17th of January. In this revival, the part of Bottom was undertaken by Liston, Quince by Emery, Hermia by Miss Stephens, and Helena by Miss Foote. The music was by Bishop, and the journals agree that the piece was
got up in a most magnificent style. It was played about twenty nights, but cannot be said to have been very successful.
But all these representations of the Midsummer Night's Dream must give place to its recent revival at Covent Garden Theatre. Every thing that fine taste, a most liberal management, and an excellent cast could accomplish, have been called into action; and its success must have equalled the most sanguine expectations of the projectors. The alterations from the original version of the play are few, and made with that good judgment which characterizes every thing that Mr. Planché undertakes.
We would, however, suggest that the omission which is made of a portion of Hermia's speech, when she loses Lysander, destroys the climax, and causes the whole to fall languidly on the ear; it is better as it is in the original :
“ Lysander ! what, remov'd ? Lysander, lord !
Either death or you I'll find immediately." We would also ask how Theseus, unassisted by the Prologue's description of the dumb show, which Mr. Planché has omitted, can recognize the representation of moonshine? We are afraid that few of us possess so penetrating a vision ; but perhaps the heroes of old excelled the moderns in this as in other attributes.
“ Who first found out the man i' th' moon,
ALTHOUGH the legend of the Man in the Moon
is perhaps one of the most singular and popular superstitions known, yet we have been unable to discover early materials for a connected account of its progress, nor have the researches of former writers been extended to this curious subject.
It is very probable that the natural appearance of the moon, and those delineations on its disc which modern philosophers have considered to belong to the geographical divisions of that body, may originally have suggested the similarity vulgarly supposed to exist between these outlines and a man "
In fact, it is hardly possible to account for the universality of the legend by any other conjecture; and it may perhaps be considered