Exploring A Midsummer Night’s Dream Through Art

A purple flower on a collage.


AccessArt is pleased to have collaborated with four schools from around the UK to deliver a series of visual art activities that aim to explore two of Shakespeare’s plays: Macbeth and A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The project asks the following questions:

Can experimental and observational drawing activities help children gain an understanding of Shakespeare’s plays, improve their knowledge of drawing techniques and their sense of creative confidence?

Can the complexities of Shakespeare’s text, characters and themes be made more accessible to children’s early or introductory explorations of Shakespeare, particularly for children who find written communication a challenge?

Can using visual arts activities enhance and complement existing methods of teaching Shakespeare in Primary and Secondary schools? ie through Drama and English Literature?

Some practical considerations:

Each session comprises of a warm up, followed by a starter discussion/context that then leads into the main activity. The warm up itself is standalone and is aimed at ‘sowing seeds’ that the class can then feed into how they approach the main activity. The main activity has more of an emphasis on objective but should remain as exploratory as possible.

The timings recommended for the sessions are approximate only. Depending on the structure of your timetable, you may wish to make some of the sessions longer or spread them over two sessions. These sessions focus on a selection of plot points of the play, but not all of them. The banquet scene with the ghost is not included for example.

AccessArt wishes to extend our thanks to Cherry Grove Primary School for participating in these sessions and providing such vibrant photos!

A brief introduction to the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an unusual play in that it has three quite distinct groups of characters whose activities form their own plots. The play’s tangled structure creates the atmosphere of a dream where we are sometimes a little confused as to which way the plot is going!

The play opens in Ancient Athens with the first group of characters: members of the Athenian Court. The Duke of Athens, Theseus, is preparing for his wedding to Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons. Egeus, a wealthy courtier wants his daughter Hermia to marry Demetrius but is angry that she is in love with Lysander. Hermia and Lysander decide to elope. Meanwhile, Hermia’s friend Helena is herself in love with Demetrius and she tells Demetrius of the planned elopement. All four young Athenians journey into the forest.

Meanwhile the second group of characters, The Workmen, meet in the forest to rehearse a play they are performing as part of the wedding celebrations of Theseus and Hippolyta.

After this we meet a third group of characters: The Fairies. The King and Queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania are arguing. Oberon wants to play a trick on Titania and arranges for his servant Puck to source a magic potion so he can enchant Titania with it while she sleeps. The enchantment means she will fall in love with the first thing she sees when she wakes. Having also witnessed Demetrius being unkind to Helena, rejecting her profession of love – Theseus orders Puck to enchant him with the same potion.

Puck mistakenly puts love potion in the eyes of Lysander instead of Demetrius however, and when Helena finds him in the forest, Lysander wakes and falls in love with her, much to her confusion.

When Titania wakes from her sleep, the first person she sees is Bottom, one of the Athenian workmen rehearsing the play. As another act of mischief, Puck has transformed Bottom’s head into that of a donkey and so Titania falls in love with a man with a donkey’s head.

The resulting action is a comedic chain of events with confusion, magic, and complicated love at its centre.

The play ends with order restored – with Oberon and Titania making up, Lysander and Hermia’s love rekindled and Demetrius now loving Helena. The workmen successfully perform their play at the wedding.

At the end, Puck speaks directly to the audience and urges them to think of the play as if it were a dream….

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