Author: William Shakespeare
Genre: Play; Fantasy; Comedy
First Performed: 1605
Number of Acts: 5
The play is set within the ancient Greek myth of Theseus, specifically on the eve of his marriage to Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. That being said, Theseus and Hippolyta have almost nothing to do with the major events of the play (though the actors who play them are often also cast as Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen of the fairies). The play mainly follows two story lines: the four young lovers, and the fairies/the mechanicals.
At the beginning of the play, we meet Hermia, Helena, Lysander, and Demetrius, who form a sort of love polygon. (Squares and rectangles require equal sides, and that is not the case in this situation.) Lysander is in love with Hermia, who loves him back. However, Hermia has been promised by her father to Demetrius, who is very adamant about marrying her. Meanwhile, he ignores Hermia’s friend Helena who is head-over-heels for him. In an attempt to stay together, Hermia and Lysander run away together into the woods, pursued by Demetrius with Helena on his heels.
Author: Markus Zusak
Published: Macmillan Publishers
Number of Pages: 396
Ed Kennedy freely admits that he has “not a whole lot of prospects or possibility.” A middle-child of four kids, he is, at 19, the only one still in the rundown Australian suburb they grew up in, working (illegally) as a cab driver for a shady taxi company. He knows that he is coasting through life. Part of him wants to change this, but not enough to actually change. Then he stops a bank robbery. Not long after this, Ed starts receiving mysterious messages that point him to different people in his community who are in need Ed’s off-beat brand of help.
*NOTE: I read this book because I absolutely loved The Book Thief and wanted to read more by the author. This book is nothing like The Book Thief, but it’s still a decent read.
The Ties That Bind
Warning: Spoilers for A Midsummer Night’s Dream abound.
(That being said, it’s Shakespeare, which has been around for centuries
and has soaked into our culture, so I don’t think it matters much.)
Although magic and fairies abound in only one of these stories, both feature characters whose actions are being, on some level, controlled by unseen and unknown forces.
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the woods outside Athens are ruled by Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the fairies. Most of the mortals who cross into the woods during the course of the play do not directly interact with the fairies or even realize they exist. Nevertheless, they, especially Puck, wreak havoc—relationships are shattered in one fell swoop of a flower. Oberon sees the four young lovers in the woods and instructs Puck to use a love-potion-like flower to make Demetrius fall in love with Helena and thus solve the problems of all the young lovers. Unfortunately, Puck enchants Lysander by mistake. Chaos and very passionate declarations ensue.
The one mortal who does interact with the fairies is Bottom, an over-confident mechanical who temporarily winds up with “the head of an ass.” In an attempt to humble Titania, Oberon uses the flower to make her temporarily fall in love with the donkey-headed Bottom.
In I am the Messenger, Ed is sent on missions by an unknown individual. Even figuring out what the messages mean is usually a puzzle, like deciphering a name or location from a movie or book. Once he works out the meaning behind the message, Ed is shown people who need help of some kind: a lonely old cinema owner; a teenage girl with low self-confidence; a priest with no real congregation. Armed with this knowledge, Ed devises his own method of solving the problem. His “solutions” are often unconventional or even controversial. At one point, he spray paints “Free Beer” on the ground in an attempt to entice people to attend church.
In both stories, the main character(s) suddenly find themselves or those around them at least in part controlled by someone or something. Their methods for coping with this fact vary: from doubt, to confusion, to anger, to acquiescence. In the Shakespeare play, those who are not being controlled are the ones who are most affected emotionally. Helena believes it is all a big joke at her expense—why would both Lysander and Demetrius suddenly profess love for her when she knows full-well they both prefer Hermia? Hermia, for her part, is first flummoxed—she fell asleep next to one lover and pursued by another, when she wakes up, they both profess to hate her. It doesn’t take long for anger to set in, though, “How low am I? I am not yet so low / But that my nails can reach unto thine eyes.” Bottom, meanwhile is so full of himself that he has no problem believing the Queen of the fairies does truly love him. In the Zusak book, Ed recognizes that his little missions are doing something positive for him, so he decides to go along with it.
In the end, the two works together provide an interesting commentary on the idea of free will, and what that really means.
Thank You for Arguing by Jay Heinrichs and The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins