Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Big Deal, Bottom...Glenn Beck Wakes Up as an Ass Every Day

I started reading The Book of William  last night, a charming little book about the creation of--and ongoing marketplace intrigue surrounding--Shakespeare's First Folio. Early on, we find that the Folio's creators had to round up the text of plays from various London printers (who had varying degrees of scrupulous conduct), and in doing so, they discovered that at least three were no longer being printed. The absence of two of those "derelict" plays, King John and Titus Andronicus is perhaps not so surprising, as they remain relatively underwhelming components of the canon today. But...
...the third orphan really is a shocker: A Midsummer's Night Dream. It may be one of Shakespeare's most frequently performed plays now, but it's a mark of the vagaries of theatrical fashion that Puck and Titania couldn't get themselves arrested in the 1620s.
Actually, if you ask me, it's performed too often now. I'll take the angsty poetic whining of Hamlet, the spirited blood-letting of Macbeth, or the deliciously devious plotting of Iago or Richard III over those silly forest fairies any day.

In any case, it seems the apostrophed possessive migrated back one word in that title*. It should read: A Midsummer Night's Dream**.

*While we're on the topic of aprostrophes in Shakespeare titles, here's another trivia tidbit from the book with which to amuse your friends and confound your enemies: The play that goes by the extravagantly-apostrophed title Love's Labour's Lost is thought to have had a companion play, Love's Labour's Wonne, the manuscript of which has been, regrettably and ironically, lost. How sadde.

**There are, of course, a lot of variations on a lot of points in a lot of editions of Elizabethan works, and I did find a reference to a 1598 publication that mentions "a Midsummers night dreame." But that rendering doesn't seem to be at all common (see the original quarto title page, pictured above) and since he's using modern spelling (and an apostrophe), I don't think Collins was intending to go retro. So I'm still going to call it an error.