You will prepare and submit a term paper on A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. Your paper should be a minimum of 2000 words in length. It was also a time when a shift was started in the long-held class systems from that of the feudal organization made up of the traditionally wealthy and the barely recognized desperately poor to one consisting of a greater stratification of wealth and prestige, in which social mobility was possible with little more than a ready mind and a willingness to make the attempt. According to Stephen Greenblatt (1997), “This is a world in which outward appearance is everything and nothing, in which individuation is at once sharply etched and continually blurred, in which the victims of fate are haunted by the ghosts of the possible, in which everything is simultaneous as it must be and as it need not have been” (60). These issues are strongly addressed in the literature produced during this time period such as William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Although it is not known exactly when William Shakespeare wrote his play, perhaps around 1595 or 1596, the inspirations Shakespeare used for the play as well as the changing nature of his own time are worked into the play in such a way that it continues to capture the postmodern condition of the world today.
While many of Shakespeare’s plays can be traced to earlier stories, this particular play has fewer of these connections. One probable source for the play was Geoffrey Chaucer’s story of the Knight’s Tale in his Canterbury Tales (Mabillard, 2000). This is a story told from the perspective of the noble Knight who values above all things the concepts of chivalry and the ‘right’ place of women within this world. “His courtly preoccupation with truth, honor, liberality and courtesy shines through the noble soldiers Arcite and Palamon, illuminating the wise, righteous, merciful ruler Theseus and highlighting the faultless Lady Emily … Fortune and her false wheel control the plot as regal personas are maneuvered by chance and by the gods” (Dosik, 2006). The Knight’s story is full of the importance of honor and oath-taking among men of the nobility.