The opening scene of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is very significant to the play, as it introduces the audience to the main characters in the play, almost instantly, portraying to the audience the situation between the lovers. In concern to the Court, I would want the audience to immediately realise that Theseus is both a very important, and highly respected man. In order to achieve this, I would set the scene in a very lavish meeting hall, such as a royal press office, with Theseus sitting high above the rest of the court to show his superiority.
I would also like to express his immense wealth by using bold strong colours to decorate the hall, expensive shimmering metals, and many doting courtiers in the background of the scene, also showing his importance. I would also like to include a fanfare whenever somebody important entered of left the stage, as this would show that Theseus is a Duke, and more than a simply wealthy man. I would want Theseus to appear wise, knowledgeable, just and fair.
In order to highlight his fairness, I would have the actor emphasise the choice he leaves with Hermia, instead of enforcing his word onto her, he leaves Hermia with her own decision, and therefore, her own consequences. I would like the actors to play Hippolyta and Theseus deeply in love, so that Theseus is not portrayed as cruel, in forcing Hippolyta to marry him. This would also enable Hippolyta to empathise with Hermia once the ruling is passed apon her, highlighting the male-dominated world in which the play is set.
I would portray Hermia as bold, outgoing and new-thinking, and devoted in showing her courage in refusing to accept the previously acknowledged rulings about marriages. I would also like to have the actor play Hermia and Lysander completely enamoured to show to the audience that their love is a true love (before the confusion begins! ). I would like to convey the pompous, arrogant attitude of Demitrius to the audience, so that they feel sympathy towards Hermia and Lysander, and can empathise with them.
I would like the audience to feel that Egeus, Hermia’s father is unreasonable, but that they feel that the laws themselves are more unjust, because I feel it is important that the audience understand that the way in which the Court is run is extremely different to our lives today. When presenting the plot, I think that the staging has to be very precise and clear, because at first, it is difficult to understand. Luckily, the characters are introduced to the Duke and therefore introduced to the audience making things slightly easier.
I would have the Duke and Hippolyta enter first, to a fanfare, and be talking proudly about their marriage: showing that they are not ashamed of being in love. I would have Egeus enter obviously impatient and upset, but still have him bow to the Duke to show his respect. I would have the other characters step forward and bow or courtesy in turn, with Demitrius bowing lower than the other characters to show his sneering character. I would also create a lot of tension in the room; between Hermia and Egeus, and between Lysander, Demitrius and Egeus.
To portray this to the audience, I would have the actors glare at each other, and show who they favoured by their stances: Demitrius ready to lunge at Lysander, and Egeus trying to protect Hermia, whilst she stares longingly at Lysander. When Demitrius, Lysander, Hermia and Egeus are speaking to the Duke, stating their case, I would have them show completely different emotions in order to differentiate their characters: Hermia – strong and brave, Lysander – angry and upset as to why his love is not worthy of Hermia, Egeus – disappointed yet stubborn, and Demitrius – very sarcastic.
When the Duke takes Egeus, Egeus and Hippolyta away from Lysander and Hermia, I would want the audience to wonder as to why he would do it. Therefore, I would have Theseus speak slowly, as if wondering how to diffuse the situation, and show that he is far cleverer than he seems! When Helena appears, I would like to have her played as a strange, misguided character. I would also like the audience to feel sorry for her, but at the same time feel that she is a bit pathetic and melodramatic.
I would like to make her love for Demitrius seem more of a infatuation than true love such as Hermia and Lysander. Therefore, I would like Helena to speak of herself in a tone that is quite uncertain, so that the audience could not tell if she was being honest, or if she is joking about Hermia and Demitrius. I would also like to show a kind, and gentler side to Hermia in the second half of this scene, as she appears so brave in the first half, I think it is important that the audience see what a sweet girl she is.
Therefore, I would like Hermia and Helena to have a very childlike relationship: best friends, who tell each other everything with giggles. This would show the audience that the girls are close friends, and that they are both young at the same time- showing what young love can feel like. In Helena’s final speech of the scene I would show a change in her, from being envious of the relationship that Hermia and Lysander have, to feeling that she has been wronged, and then through her disillusioned thoughts, finds the idea that Demitrius will fall in love with her if she informs him of Hermia’s elopement.
At this point, I would like the audience to be cringing, realising that this was not going to be a good idea, and that Helena is being love’s fool. I think that by making the audience imagine the disaster that might occur when Helena tells the plot to Demitrius, they would start to feel closer to the play, and would understand why the characters make their ill-advised plans!