How to Read & Understand Shakespeare

Marc C. Conner, Ph.D.
Free via Kanopy and your library, or $50 directly via The Great Courses
12 hours

We spent a few super-enjoyable months covering this course. For many of the plays that are discussed, we’d also chose one or more movies of the play to watch (each of us choosing a version), which made for extra-rich conversation in comparing performances. We’re lucky to have a Shakespeare expert among us, too.

Below are notes on the movies and other material we watched/read.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Shiv wrote:

I have been watching this version, and it starts out silly but gets really funny as it goes on

Jeff wrote:

I guess I’ll take on this version from 1999:
Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Rupert Everett

From Sandeep:

I watched this version on youtube
“Directed by Sir Peter Hall and using The Royal Shakespeare Academy’s cast of actors — including Helen Mirren, Judi Dench and Ian Holm — this 1968 version of Shakespeare’s classic comedy is one of the wittiest and wildest of all versions produced. “

…along with the MIT version
Some passages are shortened in the film, and the order at the end of Act IV, beginning of Act V is reversed a bit in the movie vs the MIT notes, but by and large, the text and the movie sync well.
I watched the beginnings of a few other versions on youtube, but this version had the clearest pronunciations.

I also watched Shakespeare Uncovered, Season 2 episode on A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Hugh Bonneville (yes, Lord Grantham – apparently, he started as an understudy to Fiennes’ Lysander for Shakespeare in the Park…)
It is an interesting narration, and includes some scenes at the Globe theatre.

Betsy wrote:

A cartoon Cliff’s Notes version:

I started watching the BBS version on Kanopy but it was sort of dull.
I remember seeing the 1935 version as a kid and loving it (esp Mickey
Rooney as Puck

Here’s a magical little bit from the Globe Theater, wish I could see
the whole thing:

Mentioned in Emma Smith’s podcast.

Some of us also read the Lambs’ Tales From Shakespeare summary of the play. Again from Sandeep:

Lamb book on Project Gutenberg.  Enjoyed reading their synopsis of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – though some details are altered and the role of the mechanicals is omitted (except for Bottom’s role with Titania).

Harriet captured all of our Midsummer resources here on her website: