My Shakespeare course wrapped up yesterday, so I thought this would be a good time to tell you about my final project for that class. I really struggled with the accelerated pace of this course, especially since I took an equally-accelerated acting class at the same time but in the end I got a B on this final project and since it was worth 40% of my grade, I’m pretty happy with that.
For my project I decided to create a website. I wrote about the queer performance history of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – hence the title of this post.
I chose this subject because Midsummer is my favorite Shakespeare play I’ve read so far and I enjoy seeking out LGBTQ+ media, especially retellings, adaptations, et cetera. When I realized that more queer retellings exist for Midsummer than for virtually any of his other plays, I knew this would be a fun choice for a project.
I created the website using WordPress because it was free and looked professional – not to mention that I’m very familiar with how it works thanks to almost six (!!!) years of blogging. The finished site is here, if you’d like to check it out.
I’ll take you on a brief tour of the website, explaining why I included what I did:
First up is a description of why Midsummer is such a popular choice for LGBTQ+ retellings. I won’t say too much about that here because I want to encourage you to check out the site for yourself – I’m sneakily self-promoting like that – but the gist is that the plot is, at its heart, about a “topsy-turvy world,” as one essay I read called it, and this allows for boundaries to be pushed.
Next, I talk about the necessity of diversity in modern adaptations of Shakespeare’s plays. Some of the conflicts found in his plays just don’t translate well for modern viewers – it’s a lot harder for most people to relate to a character who has to ask their parents for permission to marry. But struggles relating to sexual orientation, gender, race, class, et cetera? That makes for a compelling modern take on his stories that today’s audiences can relate to.
The bulk of my site is dedicated to two case studies of LGBTQ+ adaptations of Midsummer that premiered in 2016 as part of the celebrations surrounding the four hundredth anniversary of the Bard’s death. One production is currently at the Globe in London, and the other was filmed for BBC One. (The latter was written by Russell T. Davies of Doctor Who and Queer as Folk fame, which should give you a good idea of just how GAY it is.)
On those pages, I discuss things such as internalized homophobia, heteronormativity, genderbent casting (and how that is a great tribute to how acting worked in Shakespeare’s time, since all the roles were performed by men!), and more. Other than that, there is a page listing other LGBTQ+ adaptations of note, and another where I cite all my sources. And that’s it – my project!
I had a tremendous amount of fun creating this website. I plan to explore LGBTQ+ adaptations of some of Shakespeare’s other plays in the future, and I’d like to be able to watch more of them as well. It was really cool to dig around and find queer versions of a play that is all too often viewed as overwhelmingly heteronormative. (Four straight couples?!) I’m very pleased with the final result, and I hope you enjoy looking through it as well!