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The Carnivalesque in A Midsummer Night's Dream David Wiles Shakespeare and Carnival after Bakhtin. New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc., 1998. Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 82. Detroit: Gale, 2004. From Literature Resource Center. Critical essay

Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2004 Gale, COPYRIGHT 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning [(essay date 1998) In the following essay, Wiles examines the festive and carnivalesque elements in A Midsummer Night's Dream. According to the critic, the play was historically part of an "aristocratic carnival" used to celebrate weddings in upper-class society.] Carnival theory did not begin with Bakhtin, and we shall understand Bakhtin's position more clearly if we set it against classical theories of carnival.1 From the Greek world the most important theoretical statement is to be found in Plato: The gods took pity on the human race, born to suffer as it was, and gave it relief in the form of religious festivals to serve as periods of rest from its labours. They gave us as fellow revellers the Muses, with Apollo their leader, and Dionysus, so that men might restore their way of life by sharing feasts with gods.2 This is first a utopian theory, maintaining that carnival restores human beings to an earlier state of being when humans were closer to the divine. And second, it associates carnival with communal order. Plato argues that festive dancing creates bodily order, and thus bodily and spiritual well-being. He clarifies his orderly view of carnival by dissenting from an alternative view, relating specifically to the worship of Dionysus, which maintains that Hera caused Dionysus to lose his reason, and Dionysus inflicts his revenge upon mortals, making them drunk and wild in their dancing.3 Plato thus dissents from an anarchic view comparable to the later Christian idea that carnival is an expression of the Devil. Aristotle's most relevant discussion concerns the music of the pipes, which troubles him because of its effect upon the emotions of player and listener. He cites the myth that Athena invented the pipes, but being rational threw them away. Orgiastic music, and implicitly the festivals associated with such music, placed Aristotle in a dilemma. He refused to let upper-class youth meddle with the pipes, but allowed the lower classes with their disordered minds and bodies to indulge; nevertheless he accepted some usage by the elite on the grounds of 'catharsis', observing that 'enthusiasm' (i.e. possession by the god) affects some people very strongly ... They are, as it were, set on their feet, as if they had undergone a curative and purifying treatment ... Cathartic music brings men an elation which is not at all harmful.4 Aristotle introduces two important notions to the debate about festive practice. One is popular culture, a debilitating or demoralizing form of recreation which the upper class must avoid. The other is catharsis, normally termed in discussions of carnival as 'safety-valve theory'.5 It is an important aspect of Aristotelian 'safety-valve' theory that it analyses the individual rather than the social process. Where Plato was concerned with the way choral dance binds the community together, Aristotle's analytic approach is concerned with the breeding of individual leaders. In the Roman republic the Dionysia was suppressed and in the course of the imperial period the Saturnalia emerged as the major festival. The festive focus shifted from the spring equinox to the winter solstice. Macrobius cites two major theories of the Saturnalia.6 The dominant theory is utopian, locating Saturn as the god who brought fertility to Italy in the golden age, teaching Janus the art of agriculture. There was no war in the age of Saturn, and most importantly no class distinction. The inversion of master and slave at the Saturnalia is seen as a means of honouring the god who symbolizes this uncorrupted, egalitarian past. The theme of class inversion becomes dominant in Roman rather than Greek carnival because Roman society at all levels was rigidly stratified. We should also take note in Macrobius of the explicit calendrical symbolism, for Saturn suddenly vanishes leaving two-faced Janus (January) to face forwards towards the new year. Saturn is associated with the Greek C[h]ronos, who symbolizes time and the orderly progress of the seasons. The main competing theory, which Macrobius attributed to Varro at the end of the Republican period, is propitiatory, and relates to the Greek settlement of Sicily. Masks and lights are a symbolic substitute for human sacrifice, and Saturn is linked to the god of Death. Varro's

theory is rationalistic and historicizing, and presumes that the human condition is advancing rather than declining. But it points up a negative aspect of Saturn, whose sickle is used to castrate the father as well as to reap the harvest. In the medieval period the Saturnalia, in its new guise as the 12 days of Christmas, remained important, but the focus of communal celebration in continental Europe shifted to Mardi gras, 'carnival' in the strict sense of 'farewell to flesh', flesh in the dual form of sexual intercourse and eating meat. Medieval education was steeped in Aristotle, and Aristotelian 'safetyvalve' theory provided an obvious means of theorizing carnival. Udall in the preface to Ralph Roister Doister speaks of how 'mirth prolongeth life, and causeth health; mirth recreates our spirits and voideth pensiveness.'7 The explanation turns on the Aristotelian and Hippocratic theory of the four humours. Celebration evacuates melancholy and thus restores the body to equilibrium. Similar thinking underlies the famous Parisian apologia of 1444: We do these things in jest and not in earnest, as the ancient custom is, so that once a year the foolishness innate in us can come out and evaporate. Don't wine skins and barrels burst very often if the air-hole is not opened from time to time?8 The humoral conception is here linked to a Christian conception, for the jest/earnest dichotomy relates to the Manichaean division of Devil and God within the human individual. If the Devil is innate, then by definition it cannot be overcome and must be rendered harmless in other ways. For scholars of the Enlightenment and Romantic periods, carnivalesque phenomena were either distasteful, or symbols of an idealized past. Whereupon, enter Bakhtin, with the impetus of Marxism behind him. In his study of Rabelais, Bakhtin identified 'carnival' as the basis of an autonomous and historically progressive popular culture. The 'carnivalesque' is for Bakhtin a genre synonymous with 'grotesque realism', but becomes also a sociological category. In the ancient world Bakhtin seems to have envisaged a homogeneous community with no distinctive 'popular' culture. The satyr play is cited as an example of how each genre has 'its own parodying and travestying double, its own comic-ironic contre-partie'.9 In the ancient world, Bakhtin declares, 'there could be no sharp distinction between official and folk culture, as later appeared in the Middle Ages.'10 In the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries feudalism had yet to take root, and the homogeneous classical tradition was still strong,11 and Bakhtin's folk culture seems to have appeared somewhere in the early Middle Ages. Rabelais is interpreted as a historically progressive figure, whose use of a residual popular culture supported monarchy against feudalism.12 Bakhtin sees this historically-specific popular culture as the means whereby people overcame their fears and freely expressed their views about authority. Bakhtin's theory of carnival is not a 'safety-valve' theory, and he extrapolates from the 1444 text cited above the alternative principle that human beings have two separate natures.13 Bakhtin's theory is, in the tradition of Plato and Macrobius, a utopian theory, positing a primal wholeness to which fallen humanity, ruined in this case by the devil of class, is temporarily restored. Bakhtin's most influential contribution to subsequent discussion of carnival is his semiotics of the body. The carnivalesque body with its orifices, protuberances and excretions is related to the flux of the self-renewing cosmos, whilst the hermetic classical body is individualized and sterile.14 One of the difficulties in using this theory is Bakhtin's tendency to lump all festivals together, slipping from carnival in the narrow sense of carnevale or mardi gras to the wide sense of popular celebration. 'Carnival' in the narrow sense is specifically concerned with the body, which has to be mortified during Lent, and its most potent symbol is the fat man who bloats his body to the point of expiry. The symbol of the classical Dionysia was the erect phallus, appropriate to the spring season and the renewal of life. The ithyphallic satyr of the Dionysia was sexually rampant, but not bloated, and his grotesqueness was specifically goat-like. The Saturnalia focused on structures of authority, and the ugliness of an inversionary Christmas king was in the first instance a symbol of class, not eating. Midsummer giants were grotesque in a very specific way, being occasions for setting a fire high above the ground on the night of the solstice.15 Bakhtin's generalizing tendency encourages us to see popular culture and the carnival grotesque as a more uniform entity than it is. The assumption that we can usefully separate out popular culture from official culture in the Middle Ages cannot pass unchallenged. Peter Burke, drawing his terminology from Redfield, allows a binary model of society, but argues that: There were two cultural traditions in early modern Europe, but they did not correspond symmetrically to the two main social groups, the elite and the common people. The elite participated in the little tradition, but the common people did not participate in the great tradition.16 The educated elite had access to a language and tradition from which the many were excluded, but the many had no autonomous cultural tradition of their own. Ladurie's analysis of carnival practices in Romans in the Shakespearean period demonstrates that all the different social factions in the town had their independent carnival traditions which served to emblematize local solidarities. It was members of the elite who constituted the jocular 'Abbey of Misrule', erected the annual

maypole, and policed marriage within the community.17 Bercé's wide-ranging analysis of French festival and rebellion in the period concludes that festival only thrives in a town where there is social solidarity. When solidarity breaks down, festive symbolism can be used temporarily to express dissidence, but the framework for such symbolism rapidly evaporates.18 Bercé emphasizes the discontinuities in festive traditions, which are for ever being renewed and reinvented, and he sees timeless ritual practice as a utopian myth.19 The work of Burke, Ladurie and Bercé obliges us to view with scepticism Bakhtin's overarching notion of an on-going autonomous popular culture. The situation in England in the Shakespearean period is in many specific respects hard to accommodate with the Bakhtinian paradigm. In Marxist terms one cannot see festivals as historically 'progressive', for the land-owning aristocracy began to use rites associated with the land to lay claim to authentic Englishness in opposition to the urban and bourgeois Puritan movement.20 King James' Book of Sports (1618) is the most blatant example of such ideological manipulation of carnival, but Elizabeth engaged in the same strategy. At court Shakespeare's plays were performed according to the rhythm of the festive calendar, whilst in the city his plays were performed according to the sabbatarian rhythm of the Reformation. When we look at the plays in their performance context, the festive or carnivalesque dimension relates to the experience of the aristocratic audience much more closely than it does to the experience of the 'popular' audience. 'Carnival' is a troublesome term because in its narrow sense the English festival bears the penitential term 'Shrovetide'. The festival was not the occasion for public processions as on the continent,21 and the 'King of Christmas' is the dominant celebratory figure, not the continental 'Carnival' who engages in mortal combat with Lent. Bakhtin's generalized view of carnival renders him blind to the highly specific way in which festivals organize and give meaning to the passage of time. He does not explore, for example, how the pattern of early modern festivals relates both to the narrative of Christ's life-cycle and to the major points of transition in the life-cycle of Everyman and Everywoman. Bakhtin's concern is with epochs, not with chronological minutiae, and he is content to identify a general festive merging of death with birth apparent in images of the harvest or the marriage bed. His concern as a critic is with genre rather than performance, and so for example the life/death nexus that he discerns in Aristophanes finds a 'significant kinship' in the Shakespearean clown.22 He is also preoccupied with the novel rather than drama, which, perhaps because of the dominance of naturalism at the time when he wrote, seemed to him a relatively monologic medium.23 The carnivalesque is experienced as a textual artefact belonging to a given historical moment rather than as a performance belonging to a specific calendrical moment. Michael Bristol, a critic sympathetic to Bakhtin, offers a reading of A Midsummer Night's Dream along broadly Bakhtinian lines. He criticizes C. L. Barber's 'saturnalian' approach to Shakespearean comedy as a version of 'safety-valve' theory. For Barber, 'release' is followed by a 'clarification' that Bristol rightly interprets as a reaffirmation of the status quo.24 For Barber, the maying in which Theseus engages is the dominant festive motif, the single critical key that unlocks the whole. Bristol attempts to effect a dialogic reading, contrasting the official discourse of the aristocracy with the heteroglossia of the mechanicals, so that the latter provides a critique of the former and the text becomes an open one. In the mechanicals he sees an emphasis on the body, and a denial of individual subjectivity.25 Bristol's reading offers us a more radical and progressive Shakespeare than before, but seems in some ways to force the play to fit the theory. Bristol emphasizes the aristocratic/popular binary in a play that is more obviously trinary, with its three layers of commoners, aristocracy and fairies. The activities of the fairies provide a more obvious critique of marriage than the activities of the mechanicals. It seems to be the unspoken assumption of a materialist modern age that the fairy couple are the superegos of Theseus and Hippolyta, and thus no more than psychoanalytic projections. The binaries of youth/age and male/female remain subordinate in Bristol's reading to the overarching Bakhtinian paradigm of them-and-us, officialdom and the folk. Another critic who has attempted a Bakhtinian reading of Shakespeare is Manfred Pfister, who adopts a position much closer to Barber, finding that the multiple inversions of the early comedies are safely contained 'within an over-ruling framework of a benign and flexible order'. Pfister dismisses these inversionary plot structures as 'instances of saturnalian revelling rather than subversive carnivalesque revelling'.26 A Bakhtinian reading leads Bristol and Pfister to focus on an apparently straightforward question: Are the texts univocal or dialogic? Are they ordered classical structures or open-ended carnivalesque structures? Posed in these terms, the question, I would suggest, is an unsatisfactory one because it implies that the text has immanent properties. The text under investigation has been extracted from its historical context of performance, and defined as a selfcontained and complete entity. To bind the text between the covers of a book is already to impose an over-ruling framework, and to define its level of discourse. The alternative, however, is not easy, for in addition to the literal heteroglossia provided by the multiple voices of the actors, and the more subtle heteroglossia provided by the different linguistic registers in the dialogue, we also have the language of gesture which may speak against the words. The twentieth-century director will often seek to create dialogism by playing against the text, and we may wonder whether Elizabethan performers did not also have critical attitudes to the texts they were given. More important still we have the voice of the audience. Through laughing, clapping, hissing and by their visible socially structured presence, the Elizabethan audience were necessarily an integral part of the performance event, interacting with the players far more than a modern audience would do.

The starting point for my own analysis will be the proposition that although we encounter A Midsummer Night's Dream as a text, it was historically part of an aristocratic carnival. It was written for a wedding, and part of the festive structure of the wedding night. The audience who saw the play in the public theatre in the months that followed became vicarious participants in an aristocratic festival from which they were physically excluded. My purpose will be to demonstrate how closely the play is integrated with a historically specific upper-class celebration. I have argued at length elsewhere27 that the play was written for the marriage of Elizabeth Carey, daughter of George Carey, who became patron of Shakespeare's company of actors and later commissioned The Merry Wives of Windsor. The argument, in brief, is that aristocratic weddings customarily took place on significant calendrical dates. The Careys eschewed Saint Valentine's Day in favour of 19 February 1596, because that day saw the planetary conjunction of the new moon and Venus, the most favourable conditions an astrologer could imagine, and both parties to the wedding took astrology very seriously. The parents of the bride and groom must have consulted an almanac, just as Bottom tells Quince to do. The moon changed (whilst remaining occluded) on 18 February and thus the fictitious setting of the action announced in the first lines of the play when 'four happy days bring in another moon' became Saint Valentine's Day, 1596. Lest the audience miss the point, Hippolyta repeats that Four days will quickly steep themselves in night: Four nights will quickly dream away the time: And then [on the fifth night] the Moon, like to a silver bow, Now bent in heaven, shall behold the night Of our solemnities. (1.1.7-11)28 The central action of the play inhabits a liminal, dream-like space characterized by the inversion of real conditions, being set out-of-doors, in the country, in summer and under a full moon. Saint Valentine's Day is only mentioned once, at the moment when the lovers return from the liminal world of their dream to the courtly world of Theseus. Within the closed system of the text, Theseus' jest on May Day seems inconsequential: 'Saint Valentine is past: Begin these wood-birds but to couple now?' (4.1.138-9). The importance of Saint Valentine's Day rites in structuring the narrative of the play has long been overlooked, because critics viewing the play as a purely textual entity have been fixated by the overt verbal references to May. Let us spend a while investigating those forgotten rites. If we step back to the world of John Paston, we can see how the Saint Valentine tradition shaped medieval courtship. Financial negotiations were under way, the girl was getting impatient, and the romantic interview had yet to take place when John Paston's prospective mother-in-law wrote inviting him to visit on Saint Valentine's eve: Cousin, upon Friday is Saint Valentine's Day, and every bird chooseth him a mate. And if it like you to come on Thursday at night, and so purvey you that ye may abide there till Monday, ye shall so speak to my husband. Soon afterwards, the prospective bride wrote a love-letter to Paston, her 'right well-beloved Valentine', lamenting that her father would not increase her portion. Her next letter, written in mounting distress, urged her 'good, true and loving Valentine' not to pursue the matter of marriage if he could not accept her father's terms. She signed herself 'your Valentine'.29 We discern from these letters the important part which Saint Valentine rituals played in shaping the emotional aspect of relationships within a system of arranged marriages. Like Paston's mother-in-law, Theseus alludes to the proverbial notion that birds choose their mates on this day when he asks: 'Begin these wood-birds but to couple now?' The major medieval poets--Chaucer, Gower, Lydgate--all made play with this tradition, and it continued to flourish in Surrey and Herrick.30 The tradition is strictly literary, for birds do not pair off at this time of year in the English climate.31 The poet normally seeks to develop a contrast between the natural behaviour of birds and unnatural behaviour amongst human beings. George Wither, in his epithalamium written for the marriage of James I's daughter on Saint Valentine's Day, reverses the motif, and suggests that the blackbird and thrush have learned from the human couple.32 Lydgate lists numerous wood-birds, while Chaucer and Gower both use the image of a 'parliament' of birds. John Donne, in his epithalamium for James' daughter, produces a similar listing of birds, both common birds like the robin and blackbird, and aristocrats like the goldfinch and kingfisher; at the head of this unparliamentary hierarchy, the marrying couple are likened to phoenixes.33

The tradition of a parliament of courting birds establishes a generic context for Bottom's musical catalogue of wood-birds: the ousel cock, the thrush, the wren, the finch, the sparrow, the lark and the cuckoo (3.1.120ff.). Bottom's song evokes the different musical qualities of the different birds. The birds in the first stanza are explicitly masculine, and implicitly phallic: The ousel cock, so black of hue, With orange-tawny bill, The throstle, with his note so true, The wren with little quill-While Donne's poem ends gloriously with the phoenix, Bottom ends with bathos. No man can deny that he is a cuckoo/cuckold: The finch, the sparrow, and the lark, The plain-song cuckoo grey, Whose note fully many a man doth mark, And dares not answer nay. Bottom's mating-song, which identifies the singer as the sexually inadequate cuckoo, culminates in the emergence of Titania the dominant female from her flowery bed, enraptured by what she hears. Perhaps the bed resembled a nest as in Brook's production, we do not know. Certainly, Bottom's bird-song contrasts grotesquely with the lullaby which laid Titania to rest in her bed, where the sounds are supposedly uttered by Philomel the nightingale (2.2.13). The bird motif ties the love of Bottom and Titania to the important Saint Valentine tradition, which likes to contrast the natural coupling found in the greenwood with the constraints which society imposes on human beings. Two other aspects of Saint Valentine's day relate closely to the plot structure of A Midsummer Night's Dream. First is the tradition of drawing lots on the night before Saint Valentine's day. This custom derives from the Roman Lupercalia on February 15th, when men drew lots with the names of women. One medieval poet describes how Of custom year by year Men have an usaunce in this region To look and search Cupid's calendar And choose their choice by great affection-Such as been moved with Cupid's motion Taking their choice as their sort doth fall ...34 'Sort' is of course the French word for 'lot'. The drawing of lots on Saint Valentine's eve is documented at Jesus College, Cambridge in 1608: a man was expected to give a pair of gloves to the girl whose name he drew.35 The custom is described in some detail by the Frenchman, Henri Misson, at the end of the seventeenth century: An equal number of maids and bachelors get together, each writes their true or some feigned name upon separate billets, which they roll up, and draw by way of lots, the maids taking the men's billets, and the men the maids'; so that each of the young men lights upon a girl that he calls his Valentine, and each of the girls upon a young man which she calls hers. By this means each has two Valentines; but the man sticks faster to the Valentine that is fallen to him, than to the Valentine to whom he is fallen. Fortune having thus divided the company into so many couples, the Valentines give balls and treats to their mistresses, wear their billets several days upon their bosoms or sleeves, and this little sport often ends in love.36 From an anthropological perspective, the drawing of lots is functional in relation to village life. Couples are not formed on the basis of individual inclinations (though force of personality must play a part in determining whether the boy finishes up with the girl who chases him or the girl whom he chases), nor are pairings going to reflect economic and political power blocs, as they must do in any system where marriages are arranged according to parental choice. The Saint Valentine's lottery was profoundly egalitarian. Ben Jonson's nostalgic Caroline reconstruction of Elizabethan life, A Tale of a Tub, was written soon after the reissue of James I's Book of Sports,37 and the play has a Saint Valentine's Day setting. The main plot centres on the attempt by the constable to marry his daughter, Audrey Turf, to a bridegroom called Clay. Squire Tub (i.e. a tub of fertilizer) is a rival, as is young Justice Bramble. The constable has chosen Clay because Mistress Audrey Turf Last night did draw him for her Valentine:

Which chance it hath so taken her father and mother, Because themselves drew so on Valentine's Eve Was thirty year, as they will have her married Today by any means. (1.1.45-50) Another character reminisces in similar vein that 'Sin' Valentine had a place, in last King Harry's time, Of sorting all the young couples, joining 'em, And putting 'em together; which is yet P'rformed as on his day ... (1.2.22-5) Jonson goes on to give his plot the structure of a Saint Valentine's lottery. The audience have no idea whom the heroine will marry, and it is pure chance that leads her at the last into the arms of a stranger, 'Pol Marten'. Apparently a bird (and thus an appropriate hero for Saint Valentine's Day), it transpires that the groom is really 'Martin Polecat', and knows how to burrow into the 'turf'. The game played on Saint Valentine's day whereby boy A chases girl B who chases boy C who chases girl D is startlingly analogous to the plot structure of A Midsummer Night's Dream. A random principle seems to govern the pairing of the young couples, and Shakespeare provides no clues to character which might suggest that the choices made by Hermia and Helena are anything other than arbitrary. Despite all odds, the two women pursue the men whom fate seems to have allotted them. Puck views the proceedings as a 'fond pageant' and a 'sport', and functions as a master of ceremonies by manipulating his magic potion (3.2.114, 119). Initially, Helena → Demetrius → Hermia → Lysander. The circle is complete when, thanks to the potion, Lysander → Helena. Oberon begins to move the game to a conclusion when Demetrius → Helena, and the final resolution is achieved when Lysander's eyes are re-anointed. The second custom which characterizes Saint Valentine's Day is the custom whereby one's 'Valentine' is the first person whom one sees when one wakes in the morning. For a full picture of this ritual, we can turn to Pepys' entries for 14 February. In 1666, the early morning ritual is associated with the lot-drawing of the night before. Pepys records that he was called up by Mr Hill, who my wife thought had come to be her Valentine, she it seems having drawn him last night, but it proved not; however, calling him up to our bedside, my wife challenged him. Mrs Pepys subsequently went off with her Valentine to an all-night party. The next day a lady who had drawn Pepys' name in a lottery appeared 'with my name in her bosom, which will cost me money'. Young people frequently present themselves at the Pepys' bedside, motivated by the fact that the wealthy older person will have to provide a present of money or gloves. There is a colourful entry for 1665, when Pepys was visited by the young wife of a ship's carpenter. Three weeks previously, his wife being incapacitated with period pains, Pepys had dined and had his pleasure with this lady, who wanted him to find work for her husband, and he subsequently swore an oath to let women go, in order to concentrate on business. He now complains on 14 February that this woman had the confidence to say she came in time enough to be my Valentine, and so indeed she did--but my oath preserved me from losing any time with her. There was always the risk that one might clap eyes upon a wholly inappropriate Valentine. When he went visiting in 1661, Pepys had to ask whether the servant about to open the door was male or female, and the servant, a negro male, teased him by answering 'a woman'. The next year, his wife had to cover her eyes with her hands all morning in order not to see the painters who were gilding the plasterwork.38 These early morning visitations, resurrected at the Restoration, were common practice in the Elizabethan period. In Hamlet, Ophelia's ballad describes the tragic plight of a girl who goes out early in the morning to seek her Valentine: Tomorrow is Saint Valentine's day, All in the morning betime, And I a maid at your window, To be your Valentine. Then up he rose, and donned his clothes, And dupped the chamber door--

Let in the maid, that out a maid Never departed more. (4.5.48-55) Nashe, in a rather different vein, also drains Saint Valentine's day of all idealism. His poem 'The Choice of Valentines' describes how young men rise before day-break in order to seek Valentines whom they will accompany dancing, eating cream and cakes, or watching a play. The girl whom the poet is seeking turns out to be a prostitute, who has been driven from her home and now works in a brothel.39 The sub-plot of Tale of a Tub centres on the middle-aged mother of Squire Tub, who decides to set off across the frosty fields to find a Valentine for herself. She wants her son for company, but he is said to be asleep, so she takes her serving-woman, Wispe. Since both are women, this causes complications. When they knock at the constable's house, the servant Hannibal Puppy comes to the door, and both women claim him: Lady: Come hither, I must kiss thee, Valentine Puppy. Wispe, ha' you got you a Valentine? Wispe: None, Madam. He's the first stranger that I saw. Lady: To me He is so, and such. Let's share him equally. (3.4.23-6) Puppy calls for help as the two women set upon him in order to claim him with a kiss. The women resolve that they will divide him in half: the right-hand side will belong to one, the left-hand side to the other. Lady Tub passes money to her servant in order that both can complete the ritual by giving a gift to the Valentine whom both have claimed. At the end of the play, courtship leads to marriage, and Wispe and Puppy marry. Lots were drawn on the eve of Saint Valentine's Day, and the game was thus a nocturnal one. We saw in Pepys that if one drew a name in the lottery, one might well choose to accost that person the next morning--or attempt to do so. Oberon's love juice, derived from Cupid's arrow, 'Will make or man or woman madly dote / Upon the next live creature that it sees' (2.1.171 -2), in a way that is precisely analogous to the rules which ritual prescribed for the morning of Saint Valentine's Day. When Theseus greets the lovers with the words: 'Good-morrow friends. Saint Valentine is past: Begin these wood-birds but to couple now?' the stage direction which immediately precedes his words in the Quarto text reads: 'Shout within: they all start up. Wind horns.'40 To the sound of horns, the ritual of 14 February is accomplished. The lovers transmit the kisses which secure their Valentines and bring the game to an end. Hermia confirms her choice via a socially prescribed ritual designed precisely to override parental efforts at match-making. The custom that one could claim as one's Valentine the first stranger of the opposite sex whom one saw could result in embarrassment for the gentry. We have seen Mrs Pepys' fear of being accosted by a workman, and Samuel Pepys' anxiety on account of a negro, and in a fictional context we have seen how a young male servant benefited from the largesse of Lady Tub. Titania's awakening to the sight of an ass represents an extreme version of a common occurrence, a temporary liaison between people of divergent status. When Titania plies Bottom with gifts and goes about the wood 'Seeking sweet favours for this hateful fool' (4.1.48) she behaves precisely as a Valentine ought towards a social inferior. As permitted by the ritual, the liaison ends as abruptly as it begins. The rituals of Saint Valentine's Day imply a considerable degree of sexual equality. While in ordinary life the male always initiated courtship, on Saint Valentine's Day women seem to have been free to approach men. A writer at the start of the eighteenth century commented that according to the rules of the lottery system 'the obligations are equal, and therefore it was formerly the custom mutually to present [gifts], but now it is customary only for gentlemen.'41 Helena and Hermia are forced in the play to pursue their respective men, and Helena complains that Daphne now has to chase Apollo: Your wrongs do set a scandal on my sex.

We cannot fight for love, as men may do; We should be woo'd, and were not made to woo. (2.1.240-2) The difference between the women's role in the greenwood, governed by festive laws, and the women's role at court, governed by social norms, becomes striking when the young women sit in respectful silence through 'Pyramus and Thisbe'. The rites of May, though more overt in the play, are no less pertinent to the narrative structure of A Midsummer Night's Dream than the rites of February. Although the journey into the greenwood before dawn is normally associated with May Day, we should remember that on Saint Valentine's Day likewise the young rose very early--though the weather did not encourage expeditions into the greenwood. It was not difficult for Shakespeare to draw the two festive contexts together. The literary tradition, whereby the poet on Saint Valentine's Day goes out into the greenwood into a surprisingly summery landscape to look at the pairing of the birds, helped to make the link an easy one. We find this linkage in one of Shakespeare's source texts, Chaucer's Legend of Good Women, where the poet goes out into the meadows on the morning of May Day and hears the birds singing of Saint Valentine's Day. I shall not dwell on the rites of May because Barber, Young and others have sufficiently signalled their importance.42 The expedition into the greenwood, the gathering of dew and the importance of the hawthorn bush all complement the scene in which Theseus and Hippolyta enter wearing (as we must assume) the garlands of hawthorn which were the main visual emblem of the ceremony. Perhaps less obvious is the relationship between the play and a 'midsummer night', for there is no trace of the corporate processions and bonfires that marked the solstitial ceremony. Shakespeare's title is in the first instance a homage to Spenser, whose 'Epithalamion' was published in 1595, and has been identified as a Shakespearean source.43 The poem celebrates Spenser's own wedding on the day of the summer solstice in 1594, and develops tight parallels between the internal structure of the poem, the hours of the day, the days of the year, and the bride's rite of passage.44 The transition of the year from its waxing to its waning correlates with the bride's transition from virgin to woman. It is relevant that maidens on midsummer night were supposed to dream of the man they were to love.45 Young women who had missed out on the annual cycle of renewal in one year positioned themselves for the next. Shakespeare creates an important image of midsummer night through the medium of stage iconography. While Hermia is short and dark--a 'minimus', an 'Ethiope'--Helena is tall and fair like a 'painted maypole'. As a pair, Hermia and Helena constitute an emblem of midsummer when the bright day is very long and the dark night is very short. The conflict between them reflects the battle of day and night, a battle which reaches its turning point at midsummer. The three festivals of Saint Valentine's day, May Day and Midsummer are interwoven in the central, liminal portion of A Midsummer Night's Dream, framed by the scenes at court. They are not selected at random for they reflect symbolically three phases in the life cycle of a young person: mate selection, courtship and marriage. And this is the process through which the young aristocrats pass in the liminal, greenwood section of the play. Calendar festivals provided Shakespeare and his audience(s) with a symbolic vocabulary which allowed them to relate the phases of an individual life to laws of nature inscribed in the cosmos. The three festivals thrived in the relatively stable social structure of rural early modern England, and were cherished by an Elizabethan aristocracy that wanted to preserve social stability. And so we return to the question of theorizing the carnivalesque. One of my favourite images of A Midsummer Night's Dream is a fresco at Buscot House in Oxfordshire, evidently of the 1930s. The image is part of a diptych, located under an arch that leads aristocratic bathers from their swimming pool to a view of the estate. One half of the diptych shows the local Faringdon Communist Party marching in the background, whilst in the foreground Lord Faringdon, the lord of the house, stands on a hay cart as if at the hustings, and is evidently warning his employees (who were doubtless fortunate to be employed during the depression) not to follow the red flag. On the other side Titania in her bower embraces the ass. The bower is constituted by a white valance at head height supported by four spears and embroidered with Tudor roses. The fairies who look on are evidently young women of the family. Oberon's green costume and position link him as a nature spirit to the estate that lies behind. The vista in the painting leads down a long avenue to an artificial lake, and precisely replicates the real landscape that belongs to Lord Faringdon and confronts him as he passes through the arch. The play is thus conceived as an idyll justifying in symbolic terms the appropriation of nature as property. Its political message is overt. On what grounds can we claim that the artist of the 1930s subverted Shakespeare's play? Or was he rather in a position that allowed him to share the viewpoint of the aristocrats who commissioned? It may be that the fairies were played by choristers in a wedding performance, and that those roles were taken over by adults in the public playhouse,46 introducing a new element of the grotesque to the public performance. It is, however, not upon the fairies but upon the slim and melancholy ass that we must focus if we are to mount a serious challenge to Lord Faringdon's painting and salvage some elements of the Bakhtinian carnival grotesque for a wedding performance in 1596. The ass-head has always pushed productions of the play

towards sentimentality, and Peter Brook substituted a simple black rubber nose in his production which sought to emphasize the rampant sexuality of Bottom, following Jan Kott's vision of the play. The time-honoured ass-mask has long helped to obscure in performance the symbolism of the bird song which is so important to the Saint Valentine motif. It seems to me far more likely that a fool's cap with ass ears was used to create Bottom's 'transformed scalp' (4.1.63). The ears could have been held up as a cuckold's horns when Bottom at the end of the song becomes the 'cuckoo'. The figure of Bottom/clown/Kemp seems to refer back to this fool's attire when he recalls Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was--there is no man can tell what. Methought I was--and methought I had--but man is but a patched fool if he will offer to say what methought I had.(4.1.205-8) The wooing of the fool seems more appropriate to the recurrent festive motif than the wooing of the ass.47 It is in the figure of Bottom the clown, the lower-class male locked in the arms of a queen, that we must seek the elusive Bakhtinian grotesque, the dimension of ugliness not proffered to the elegant bathers at Buscot. Bottom is part of a company of players. These players are a metaphor for Shakespeare's own company who, by performing A Midsummer Night's Dream at a wedding, intruded upon an elite gathering to which they would not normally have been admitted. Their 'Pyramus and Thisbe' is, as has long been recognized, a parody of the company's recent Romeo and Juliet. To present the players of 'Pyramus and Thisbe' as grotesques may thus be construed, in the context of a wedding performance, as a sign of deference, a humorous apology for the fact that the entertainment on such an important night is provided not by illustrious aristocratic masquers but by common players.48 The case becomes rather more complex in the public playhouse, where the audience are simultaneously positioned (a) as fellow spectators with Theseus, laughing at the folly of the players, and (b) as fellow commoners alongside the players, granted through their visit to the playhouse vicarious access to an elite private gathering. In the context of a wedding performance we may see Bottom's copulation with Titania as a kind of preparation for the real bedding ceremony. The 'grotesque realism' of Bottom would be a means of preparing the bride and groom for the intimidating and embarrassing rite of passage that social custom required of them. There is a clear correlation between Bottom's low social station and a low carnal aspect of human identity. Within the frame of an aristocratic wedding night, however, there is no cause to see the scene as a critique of marriage, or as a celebration that belongs in any way to the folk. There is nothing inherently subversive in the proposition that aristocrats have bodies just as estates have workers, and that these indispensable bodies/workers need to be controlled. In the context of a public performance the scene works rather differently, of course. The clown, representative of the commons, gains temporary access to the forbidden body of the aristocratic lady. To summarize: I have located Bakhtin's theory of carnival within a classical tradition which locates festival as the return to a lost Utopia. While 'safety-valve' theories stress how individuals adapt to the status quo, 'utopian' theories show how carnival envisages a better way for society to be organized--and they thus offer a more dynamic and positive view of popular culture. Bakhtin's theory is a blunt critical instrument, however, because the concept of 'carnival' is effectively monologic, postulating a single model and obscuring the differences which allowed festivals to function as a complex semiotic system--as we see in the interplay of festivals in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Dionysia, Saturnalia, Mardi Gras and English summer festivals are molten by Bakhtin into a single entity. The assumption that this entity dubbed 'carnival' is the property of the folk as distinct from the elite seriously obscures the mechanisms by which power was validated and maintained in the early modern period. Bakhtin's logocentric methodology is not easily adapted to the phenomenon of performance. In the analysis of theatre, the time and place of the performance, the placing and status of the audience all have to be considered before we can effect a satisfactory analysis of festive or carnivalesque elements.

1. By permission of the publisher, this essay reproduces some passages from chapter 6 of my Shakespeare's Almanac: A Midsummer Night's Dream, Marriage and the Elizabethan Calendar (Woodbridge: D. S. Brewer, 1993). 2. Plato, Laws, 654: translation adapted from that of T. J. Saunders in The Laws (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1970), p. 86. The untranslatable phrase epanorthontai tas ge trophas could be literally rendered 'set straight again their upbringings'. 3. Laws, 672, Penguin edn., pp. 113-14. 4. Politics, viii.5-7, The Politics trans. T. A. Sinclair (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962), pp. 307-14.

5. Important discussions include Peter Burke, Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (London: Temple Smith, 1978), pp. 202-5; and Michael D. Bristol, Carnival and Theater: Plebeian Culture and the Structure of Authority in Renaissance England (New York & London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 27-32. 6. A. T. Macrobius, The Saturnalia, i.7-8, trans. P. V. Davies (New York & London: Columbia University Press, 1969), pp. 55-65. 7. Dramatic Writings of Nicholas Udall, ed. J. S. Farmer (London: Early English Text Society, 1906), prologue. 8. Cited in Burke, p. 202. 9. 'From the prehistory of novelistic discourse' in The Dialogic Imagination, pp. 53-4. Contrast Tony Harrison's vision of the satyr play as popular culture in his play Trackers. 10. Rabelais and His World, trans. by Hélène Iswolsky (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), p. 121. 11. Ibid., p. 76. 12. Ibid., pp. 97, 452. 13. Ibid., p. 75. 14. Ibid., p. 312ff. 15. For examples, see François Laroque, Shakespeare's Festive World, trans. J. Lloyd (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), p. 141, with note p. 242. 16. Burke, p. 28. 17. Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Carnival in Romans: A People's Uprising at Romans 1579-1580, trans. M. Feeney (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), pp. 274-6. 18. Yves-Marie Bercé, Fête et révolte (Paris: Hachette, 1976), p. 88. 19. Ibid., pp. 9ff., p. 189. 20. See especially Leah S. Marcus, The Politics of Mirth. Jonson, Herrick, Milton, Marvell and the Defense of Old Holiday Customs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986); Peter Stallybrass, '"We feaste in our Defense": Patrician carnival in early modern England and Robert Herrick's "Hesperides"', English Literary Renaissance 16 (1986), pp. 234-252; also Laroque, Shakespeare's Festive World, p. 70. 21. Laroque, pp. 96-7. Bristol makes the most he can of the festival in Carnival and Theater, pp. 72-87. I have examined the festival in London in '"That day are you free": The Shoemaker's Holiday', Cahiers Élisabéthains 38 (1990), pp. 49-60. 22. 'Forms of Time and Chronotope in the Novel', in The Dialogic Imagination, pp. 216-19. 23. See Marvin Carlson, 'Theater and Dialogism', in Critical Theory and Performance, ed. J. G. Reinelt and J. R. Roach (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1992), pp. 313-23. 24. Bristol, pp. 30-2; C. L. Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1959), p. 9. 25. Ibid., pp. 172-8, following the discussion of Bakhtin on pp. 19-25. 26. Manfred Pfister, 'Comic Subversion: a Bakhtinian view of the comic in Shakespeare', Deutsche Shakespeare Gesellschaft West Jahrbuch (1987), pp. 27-43: p. 39. 27. Wiles, Shakespeare's Almanac, chapter 10. 28. Whilst 'Now bent' is the Quarto and Folio reading, modern editors prefer 'New bent'. All quotations are from Harold F. Brooks' Arden edition. 29. The Paston Letters, ed. J. Gairdner (London: Chatto & Windus, 1904), v.266-9.

30. See Chaucer, Parliament of Fowls, The Complaint of Mars, Complaint d'amours; Gower, Balades, xxxiiii, xxxv; Lydgate, 'The Flower of Courtesy' in Minor Poems Vol. II (London: Early English Text Society, 1934); Clanvowe, The Cuckoo and the Nightingale; Herrick, 'To his Valentine, on S. Valentine's day', in Poetical Works, ed. L. C. Martin (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1956), p. 149; Surrey, Poems, ed. E. Jones (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964), no. 15. 31. Note that 14 February in the Julian calendar is equivalent to 4 February on the modern calendar. 32. Juvenilia (Manchester: Spenser Society, 1871), ii.474. 33. Complete Poetry and Selected Prose, ed. J. Hayward (London: Nonesuch Press, 1946), pp. 103-6. 34. First printed by Joseph Strutt in Horda Angel-Cynna (London, 1776), iii.179, and attributed to Lydgate. R. T. Hampson, in Medii Aevi Kalendarium (London, 1841), i.162, cites the manuscript reference as Harl. MSS Cod.v.2251 fo.268b. The origins of St Valentine's Day were explored by Francis Douce, in Illustrations of Shakespeare (London, 1807). 35. William Boswell, cited in John Brand and W. C. Hazlitt, Popular Antiquities of Great Britain (London: J. R. Smith, 1870), i.32. 36. Misson's Memoirs and Observations in his travels over England, trans. J. Ozell (London, 1719), pp. 330-1. 37. For the ideological context, see Marcus, The Politics of Mirth, pp. 133-5. 38. Pepys' Diary, ed. R. C. Latham and W. Matthews (London: G. Bell & Sons, 1970-83), vii.42-4, vi.35, 20, ii.36, iii.29, etc. 39. Nashe, Works, ed. R. B. McKerrow (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1958), iii.403. 40. The stage direction in the Folio reads: 'Horns and they wake. Shout within, they all start up.' With the separation of music and ritual action, the festive context seems to have become lost. Perhaps Jacobean performers no longer associated the play with Saint Valentine's Day. 41. British Apollo (1709), cited in Brand and Hazlitt, Popular Antiquities of Great Britain, i.33. 42. Barber, Shakespeare's Festive Comedy; David P. Young, Something of Great Constancy (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1966). 43. See the Arden edition, ed. Harold F. Brooks (London: Methuen, 1979), pp. xxxv-xxxvi. 44. See A. Kent Hieatt, Short Time's Endless Monument (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960); also Wiles, Shakespeare's Almanac, pp. 67-9. 45. Young explores some of these links in Something of Great Constancy. 46. William A. Ringler 'The Number of Actors in Shakespeare's Early Plays', in G. E. Bentley (ed.), The Seventeenth-Century Stage (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1968), pp. 110-34. For the suggestion that choir boys were used, see E. K. Chambers, William Shakespeare (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1931), ii.86. T. J. King, in Casting Shakespeare's Plays (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992), opposes Ringler's view of the doubling. 47. See Laroque's documentation of the morris dance, in Shakespeare's Festive World, pp. 121-36. On Kemp as Bottom, see David Wiles, Shakespeare's Clown (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), pp. 74-5 and passim. 48. It is sometimes falsely asserted that plays were not performed at Elizabethan weddings, only masques. Players did perform at the marriage of the Earl of Northumberland in 1594 for a fee of ten pounds: Wiles, Shakespeare's Almanac, p. 44. Source Citation Wiles, David. "The Carnivalesque in A Midsummer Night's Dream." Shakespeare and Carnival after Bakhtin. New York: St. Martin's Press, Inc., 1998. 61-82. Rpt. in Shakespearean Criticism. Ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 82. Detroit: Gale, 2004. Literature Resource Center. Web. 19 July 2010. Document URL

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Magic Realist Elements in ‘Love in the Time of Cholera’ by G.G. Marquez

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