British Museum’s Reading Room, what will happen?


This video says about itself:

Reading Room of the British Museum

16 April 2007

The British Museum in London is one of the world’s greatest museums of human history and culture. Its collections number more than 13 million objects from all continents. The centre of the museum was redeveloped in 2000 to become the Great Court, surrounding the original Reading Room.

By Jack the Blaster in London, England:

What future for the British Museum‘s reading room which inspired Karl Marx?

Friday 31st July 2015

THE British Museum opened a new wing last year which cost £135 million to build and was designed by New Labour’s favourite “starchitect,” Sir Richard Rogers.

The museum was thrilled to announce a purpose-built exhibition area providing the public with a new way of looking at its treasures.

But as the debate as to whether our museums should be allowed to charge an entrance fee raises its head again — the new wing is used for ticket-only events — the British Museum faces a tricky question as to what it now does with one of the greatest assets it possesses.

It is not an artefact pillaged by a Victorian grave-robber, but Sir Sydney Smirke’s astonishing round reading room, found in the very centre of the museum.

Built in 1852 and based on Rome’s Pantheon, it gave Karl Marx a desk, its shelves were browsed by Lenin, and was the place for Victorian novelists such as Bram Stoker and Conan Doyle to be seen slaving over their manuscripts, and later other writers such as the Bloomsbury set.

To construct what was originally the main reading room for the British Library, Smirke used cast iron and concrete — ground-breaking construction techniques for the time.

Its spectacular interior boasts huge windows that flood leather-topped desks with natural light. Shelves packed with tomes curve gently round the walls and history seeps from every nook and cranny.

We can also assume it is in fairly good nick. It was spruced up by a three-year renovation programme after the library’s 1997 move to new headquarters in nearby Euston Road, its original decorative scheme reinstated and post-war additions removed. Desks were discreetly updated so computers can be used.

From 2007 until last year the museum used it as a temporary place to host ticket-only blockbuster exhibitions, including acclaimed shows as The First Emperor: China’s Terracotta Army and Life and Death in Pompeii.

But while its glorious history as a “temple to the deification of bibliography,” as one Victorian scholar described it, is celebrated, its future is not so certain.

The museum had temporary planning permission to shroud its beautiful features in scaffolding and planks during the construction of the new wing so it could host shows that cost more than a tenner to go and see.

It boosted income while wriggling round the free-entry rule. They said it was a temporary solution while the new wing was completed — but it seems the museum has no idea what happens next.

This is particularly important today, as new calls for museums to charge come at a time when access to public study spaces is under attack.

The idea that the state should fund libraries is increasingly being whittled away in this neoconservative age. Everything must have an immediately obvious economic cost and public services are seen as luxuries, not the corner stone of a civilised society.

Your correspondent has been asking the museum for five long years what the future holds for the room.

I have requested interviews with the directors in charge of its future — but been stonewalled. Instead, after regular badgering, press officers finally answered written questions.

Their answers were far from enlightening.

“The reading room is currently closed while the museum undertakes a programme of work to remove temporary exhibition staging,” they said — a case of stating the bleedin’ obvious.

What happens after this, nobody wants to discuss in any detail. The museum says a new director is to be appointed in 2016 after the current incumbent Neil MacGregor steps down, and then its fate will be considered.

“There are no specific ideas on the table,” the spokesman added. “It is a case of keeping an open mind and considering all options.”

This case of kicking the can down the road is concerning.

Surely MacGregor, widely praised for his stewardship of a collection that, to many, carries the distasteful whiff of Britain’s imperial past, should have a vision for this extraordinary room at the very heart of the institute?

It can only further heighten fears that spaces which can be used for coffer-boosting ticketed exhibitions are just too valuable to hand back to the public.

Surely with Bloomsbury’s massive student population facing further pressures on study space, and the neighbourhood’s schoolchildren — many living in crowded conditions where homework is a logistical issue — the room should be returned to its original role forthwith?

Support is out there. Museum trustee and Nobel prize-winner Sir Paul Nurse told me that opening up Smirke’s masterpiece once more would be a advantageous.

“I can’t second guess what will happen — but I’d like to see its integrity returned,” he said.

“I’d like to see the fact it was this great library and intellectual centre for London celebrated. It means making its structure obvious and some connection maintained to its intellectual history. It is a space that spawned ideas.”

Others are more forthright. Architectural historian Dan Cruickshank queries why a plan has not been long in place.

“It is an extremely important interior and the museum must find an acceptable use for it soon,” he told me. There were promises it would be restored and reopened and they have not done that. So much has happened there of truly international importance. “It is a marvellous place to work — it is so conducive to intellectual achievement.”

Architect Spencer de Grey, senior partner and head of design at Rogers’s practice, worked on the redesign of the museum’s great court between 1994 and 2000.

He says the room’s future must be at the top of the to-do list for MacGregor’s replacement.

“London is short of civilised, free places of study,” he said. “Surely the round reading room could immediately reopen as such. It is an uplifting space that inspired the likes of Karl Marx and should be available to the students and researchers of today.”

The museum holds in its trust treasures lifted from civilisations from around the globe.

Now it must show, as a matter of urgency, how it intends to care for one of its own.

Harper Lee’s new book, first chapter on Internet


This video from the USA says about itself:

Harper Lee‘s ‘Go Set A Watchman’ Features Iconic Characters All Grown Up

10 July 2015

The first chapter of Harper Lee’s new book, “Go Set A Watchman,” ran in Friday’s editions of The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian, and the iconic characters from To Kill A Mockingbird have come a long way. Atticus Finch is 72 and suffering from rheumatoid arthritis; Scout is a grown woman who has a suitor most anxious to marry her. And Scout’s older brother, Jem, apparently has died. The book takes place in the 1950s, 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird. Much of the excerpt published deals with the landscape and history of the fictional town of Maycomb and the banter between Clinton and Scout, who playfully resists his marriage proposals. The book hits shelves July 14.

On the site of British daily The Guardian, there is an extract from Go Set a Watchman, the new novel by Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Children’s story about bats


This video is called Fun Facts About Bats.

From the site of NASA in the USA, where the story continues:

THE STORY OF Echo the Bat

In the upper elevations of Arizona, there was a forest of tall Ponderosa pine trees. The forest was covered with snow and the evenings were quiet as animals slept through the cold winter nights. When spring arrived, the snow melted and a colony of female bats made their home in a hollow pine tree to raise their young.

Echo and his mom hang upside down safe in their tree. Echo is under his mom’s wings. There is a crescent moon outside.

Unlike birds who hatch from eggs, bats are mammals. The mother bats will give birth to their young and feed them mother’s milk. Because their pups are too young to fly and catch their food, Mother bats care for their pups during the first month.

As the warm days of spring led to summer, a baby bat was born. He had a tiny, furry body with awkward wings. His mother held him close to her and wrapped him in her wings. All day long, she could hear his chirping cry echo through the hollow tree. From that day on, his mother called him “Echo.”

Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley, new biography


This video from Britain is called The Life of Mary Shelley.

By Susan Darlington in Britain:

Gripping account of romantic outlaws’ pains and pleasures

Saturday 27th June 2015

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley by Charlotte Gordon (Hutchinson, £25)

THE SHELVES are already groaning under the weight of books about Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley. Romantic Outlaws, however, distinguishes itself by being a dual biography about mother and daughter.

Charlotte Gordon, who has previously written about poet Anne Bradstreet, examines the lives of the radical authors in parallel chapters in what is a hefty tome and in doing so shows how their lives were inextricably linked, despite Wollstonecraft dying 10 days after giving birth as a result of puerperal fever.

It would have been difficult for Shelley not to grow up in awe of her mother. She learned the alphabet from her headstone and Wollstonecraft was venerated by her father, the political philosopher William Godwin, and the intellectuals who visited their house, including Coleridge and Percy Bysshe Shelley, with whom she would elope at the age of 17.

Her upbringing, surrounded by enlightened views, was far removed from that of Wollstonecraft, whose political views were formed as an adolescent growing up with a weak mother and an alcoholic father who squandered the family’s money on failed projects. This made her determined to live on her own terms, free from financial or social dependence on men.

It was a resolution that resulted in her chasing pirates in Scandinavia and visiting Paris during the revolution. It was a city her daughter would visit 20 years later under very different circumstances, amid concerns over the new industrial age.

This would affect their writing — Wollstonecraft’s travel journals were largely optimistic while Shelley’s Frankenstein voiced a note of caution about science without ethics.

Yet while this writing gave both mother and daughter a degree of financial independence, their lives had a central contradiction in their emotional subservience to the men they loved. Wollstonecraft became obsessed with unscrupulous businessman Gilbert Imlay while her daughter suffered periods of depressive anxiety over the faithfulness of Shelley.

Their belief in free love affected not just on their own lives but had tragic consequences for women on the periphery, the book being littered with the suicides of Shelley’s first wife Harriet and Wollstonecraft’s daughter by Imlay, Fanny.

It’s a pain for which Shelley would later come to feel she was being punished for inflicting and this absence of sisterhood where love was concerned is an area that deserves more detailed analysis.

Another aspect that could be covered in more depth is the footnotes of their lives, with Godwin’s memoir of Wollstonecraft having the unintentionally damaging effect of portraying her as a hysteric. Shelley’s reputation was equally damaged by her conservative daughter-in-law Jane, who shaped her as a respectable literary wife at the cost of her desire to live along feminist ideals.

These minor points aside, this is an engaging book that shows clear affection for its subjects. It subtly points out how little progress feminism has made in some areas — the central tenets of chick lit being the same as the ones Wollstonecraft decried in 18th-century novels — and it certainly demonstrates both the excitement and pain of being a romantic outlaw.

British ranting poetry, 1980-2015


This video from Britain says about itself:

Attila The Stockbroker – Airstrip One (Official Video, 1984)

Attila the Stockbroker (born John Baine, 21 October 1957, Southwick, Sussex, England) is a punk poet, and a folk punk musician and songwriter. He performs solo and as the leader of the band Barnstormer. He describes himself as a “sharp tongued, high energy social surrealist poet and songwriter.” He has performed over 2,700 concerts, published six books of poems, and released 30+ recordings (CDs, LPs and singles).

By Roxanne Escobales in Britain:

Ranting poets stand their political ground

Thursday 25th june 2015

Stand Up and Spit: the Main Event
Camden Centre, London WC1
5/5

If the only thing you know about ranting poetry in the early 1980s is Rick from the TV show, The Young Ones, it’s time to march yourself out to the yard and shoot yourself.

You remember Rick — he’s the self-proclaimed “People’s Poet” and adorably unlikeable character who wears badges of dissent pinned onto his suitably black jacket and pretends to be an anarchist.

I reckon readers of this fine publication know better than to think the ranters were of the same ilk as the puffed-ego wannabe that was Rick hiding behind his stuck-on badges.

Sure, ranters wore badges. Thing is, they haven’t taken them off. Unlike Rick it was no folly of youth, no lark for them.

They marched the march, arming themselves with the only instrument that was truly theirs — their voice — to protest against the misuse of power as they saw it. To this day they still fight the good fight, over 30 years since the mostly working class, white ranting youths and marginalised young West Indian dub poets found they were more alike than they were different.

Turns out that not much has changed since they were younger and slimmer. The government always gets elected back in. The poems and the poets still pack a punch that one cannot duck. The truths they speak remain true, and the messages have travelled through the years as fresh and as relatable as the first time they were performed — even if the poets themselves have grown distinguishably greyer.

Here’s the scene. A publicly funded civic centre, a stage with a single microphone in the centre, a simple black backdrop.

No fancy projections or banners to distract one’s attention. This was the original DIY generation, sticking together fanzines and starting indpendent record labels.

The audience queued up in front of the venue — old rockers, teenagers, ladies with dreadlocks, pensioners, 20-somethings, black, white, blue, red — every stripe accounted for.

Who else could compere a night like this but Mark Thomas. Witty, dynamic and unapologetically brazen, he warmed the crowd with his charismatic tales of travelling round the country building a manifesto or talking about his 100 acts of dissent, which included imagining the end of the monarchy, and encouraging German tourists in front of Buckingham Palace to do the same (illegal under the Felony Treason Act of 1848, an anachronistic law still on the books).

The line-up could read like a well-worn, hand-written, photocopied flyer. Tim Wells (the man behind Stand Up and Spit), Little Dave (now a healthcare worker), Ginger John (now bald and not so ginger), Janine Booth (trade unionist who still hates the Tories), Attila the Stockbroker (still stockbroking in any squat that needs a bard), John Hegley (with his ukelele and geeky love of facts), Linton Kwesi Johnson (LKJ, the elder statesman of dub poetry), Emily Harrison (not technically a ranter, as she was born in 1992), Joolz (“Ranting poetry was invented in my sitting room in Bradford”), John Cooper Clarke (no comment needed) and Porky the Poet (that’s Phill Jupitus to you).

While the ranting poets are known for their strident voices of political dissent, they didn’t bash the audience over the head with the sledgehammer of ideology, although they did deliver this in measures.

These are poets after all, humans highly attuned to humanity. Humour, tragedy, love, mental health — all made an appearance.

Wells’s I like My Flag I Do, written when he was a teenager, set a youthful tone pointing out the hypocrisy of the British ruling classes. Little Dave, who’s Being Short can be found on the seminal album The Oi! Of Sex, wrote compassionately about the challenges of being a nurse. Ginger John used absurdity to great comical effect while describing the life of someone on the outside looking in and scratching his head in wonder — his poem about making excuses as to why he wasn’t able to sign on on time took one surreal and hilarious turn after another.

Booth, a ranter who took a decades-long break to become a trade unionist and campaigner for disability rights, got the audience chanting along to her Mostly Hating Tories from her new collection of poetry by the same title.

The spirit of the late original ranter, Stephen “Seething” Wells, was kept alive by Attila the Stockbroker who read Wells’s Roger and who also brought the audience to tears with his poem about his step-father.

Seething Wells’s partner in crime Joolz delivered grave and ponderous observations so heavy the words plunked into our ears like rocks into a still lake. Her poem about watching the prostitutes outside her flat get exploited by the male punters delivered a line that could be a slogan for the ranting and dub poetry scenes: “I’m not supposed to talk about this./I’m not supposed to notice.”

Clarke had everyone in stitches and in awe at how he could have such cutting insight into the human condition and make it all rhyme and scan at the same time. His banter between poems is equally entertaining and it’s difficult to separate the two, although Get Off Drugs, You Fat Fuck pretty much sums it up.

Porky the Poet managed to rescue the difficult spot of having to follow Clarke, which he realised, he couldn’t. Like a true pro he played this up by described himself as “like that bloke who had to come after The Beatles on the Ed Sullivan Show.”

Upcoming talent was represented by Harrison, who writes about her mental health issues with self-effacing grace and humour. “When Your Girlfriend Tells You She’s Bi- But You Soon Find out She Meant Polar” is all you need to know.

If you’re reading this and you didn’t attend, you missed this century’s rarest and most valuable performances by one of the country’s most important living poets.

When LKJ, the definitive voice of British West Indians from the ’70s and ’80s, took the stage — “It was apparent to the black youth of my generation that the police had declared a war on us,” he said as an opener — the audience already knew they would be treated to an unforgettable experience, but they didn’t realise the significance of the venue to him, or to dub poetry.

During his time helping organise the International Book Fair of Radical Black and Third World Books in the Camden Centre, the very hall where this event was taking place, a young Jamaican by the name of Michael Smith read poetry and blew the minds of everyone there at the time.

LKJ understood his audience, a crowd who knew Smith was a commanding Jamaican dub poet in early-’80s Brixton who, at 29, was killed in Kingston, Jamaica, allegedly by political thugs because of his views.

When LKJ began reading Smith’s iconic Mi Cyaan Believe It this was the closest anyone was every going to get to hearing Smith perform himself — LKJ channeled a voice from beyond the grave in the very place where he first heard the poem.

The next Stand Up and Spit event, Crossing Over: The Legacy of Ranting Poetry, a Michael Smith tribute at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton on Thursday, 25 June. You can find more about the upcoming Stand Up and Spit series of events at: www.speaking-volumes.org.uk/sus/. Tim Wells has been documenting the ranting poetry scene and you can read about it at: standupandspit.wordpress.com/.

See also here.

Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, play and film


This video says about itself:

A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM Trailer

19 August 2014

An immersive cinematic record of director Julie Taymor’s (The Lion King) virtuosic stage production of Shakespeare’s immortal fantasy.

By David Walsh in the USA:

Julie Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

24 June 2015

Directed by Julie Taymor; written by William Shakespeare

Julie Taymor’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream was screened in a number of movie theaters in North America this week for one night only (on or about the summer solstice). The film was shot during a run of Taymor’s version of the play at the Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn in 2013-14.

Scholars theorize that Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream, perhaps for an aristocratic wedding, in the mid-1590s. The comic-magical play, one of the few whose basic outline the dramatist did not derive from another source, has several interconnected plot strands.

Duke Theseus of Athens and Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, are making preparations for their wedding day; four young lovers—Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius—attempt to sort out their relationships, in the face of a host of external and internal pressures; Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of Fairyland, are in the midst of a quarrel, with all sorts of implications for the natural world around them; a group of Athenian “mechanicals” (workmen) are rehearsing a play, the tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe [a story that resembles Romeo and Juliet], to be performed at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta.

Much of the play takes place in the moonlit woods presided over by Oberon and Titania. Angered at his queen, Oberon has his “sprite,” Robin “Puck” Goodfellow, locate a flower whose juice, smeared on the eyes, will make any creature fall in love with the next person—or animal—he or she sees. Puck changes the head of one of the workmen, Bottom the weaver, into a donkey’s, and Titania, on seeing him, falls madly in love.

Meanwhile, the four lovers are stumbling around the forest. At first, both Lysander and Demetrius are in love with Hermia, much to the unhappiness of Helena, who adores Demetrius. After Puck drops some of his potion in the wrong eyes, Lysander and Demetrius direct their affections and attentions toward Helena, who becomes convinced that the other three have conspired to play a cruel prank on her.

Bottom passes the time with Titania and her attendant fairies, until Oberon and Puck intervene and restore him more or less to his previous condition. In the end, Oberon and Titania are reconciled, the three other couples find their way to the altar, and Bottom and his fellow workmen stage their play successfully at the wedding reception.

Taymor (born 1952) is best known for spectacular theater stagings, especially of The Lion King (1997) and Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark (2010). She has directed a number of films, including Titus (1999, based on Shakespeare’s bloody Titus Andronicus), Frida (2002), Across the Universe (2007) and The Tempest (2010). While visually intriguing, none of these films was an artistic success. Frida, about the life of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo, was significantly misconceived.

Taymor’s work in general has seemed a triumph of style over substance. Fortunately, with A Midsummer Night’s Dream she has taken on a work that brings her considerable skill to the fore. Imaginatively staged and exuberantly performed, Taymor’s effort is largely a delight. If it does not explore the play or its themes deeply, and it does not, it certainly allows an audience to experience something of the work’s relentless beauty and poetry.

The play takes place on a stage deeply thrust into the audience at the Polonsky Shakespeare Center in Brooklyn. A central image is a giant silk bed-sheet that makes itself into a balloon, a sky, a sort of hammock, a projection screen and a good deal more. Taymor makes great use of lighting, harnesses, trapdoors and a variety of equipment, especially in the Titania-Oberon-Puck scenes.

Kathryn Hunter as an androgynous Puck, who twists herself into any number of poses, is thoroughly engaging, as are David Harewood as Oberon and Tina Benko as Titania. A crowd of small children charmingly represent the fairies. To her credit, Taymor has made the play accessible to contemporary audiences, without sacrificing the original play.

There is something genuinely breathtaking, almost “unbearable” (as I noted in a review of Michael Hoffman’s 1999 film version of the play), about the sweetness of the language in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This is Oberon to Puck:

Thou rememb’rest
Since once I sat upon a promontory,
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin’s back
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath
That the rude sea grew civil at her song
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
To hear the sea maid’s music?

And further:

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and eglantine.

And that sweetness is powerfully brought out here, by Taymor, Harewood, Benko and Hunter in particular.

As we noted in 1999, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is perhaps “the gentlest of Shakespeare’s works.” That review went on:

“Puck plays his pranks, and Oberon takes his relatively harmless revenge on Titania, but this is not a nightmare, it is a dream born of a warm summer night. Oberon takes pity on Helena, ‘a sweet Athenian lady … in love with a disdainful youth.’ Puck says, although mistakenly, of Hermia lying near Lysander: ‘Pretty soul, she durst not lie / Near this lack-love, this kill-courtesy.’ Later Oberon instructs Puck to prevent a fight between jealous Demetrius and Lysander, and declares his intention to release Titania from her spell, ‘and all things shall be peace.’ Or, as Puck puts it, even more suggestively, ‘Jack shall have Jill, / Naught shall go ill.’”

One of the remarkable themes of the play, bound up of course with great changes in social relations in Shakespeare’s time, is the extraordinary and novel malleability of human personality and emotions. Granted that Oberon and Puck intervene supernaturally from time to time, but the four young people, as well as Titania herself, demonstrate that love, for example, is hardly a sentiment fixed for eternity.

Demetrius observes that his love for Hermia—which he was only cured of the night before!—“seems to me now / As the remembrance of an idle gaud / Which in my childhood I did dote upon.”

Titania declares her undying love for Bottom at the beginning of one scene (“O, how I love thee! how I dote on thee!”) and, only a few scant moments later, once having woken from her “visions,” exclaims, “How came these things to pass? / O, how mine eyes do loathe his visage now!”

As we noted in 1999, A Midsummer Night’s Dream suggests “a world of infinite possibility. After all, this is the only one of Shakespeare’s plays in which a man on the Bottom sleeps with (or by) a Queen, at her instigation no less. In the forest in the middle of the night in a dream all things pass into one another and are transformed, love and hate, man and animal, spirit and matter.”

The rapid, dramatic changes of Taymor’s set and design have the advantage of suggesting something of this transmutability.

The weakest point here is Max Casella’s Bottom, or rather, not the actor, but Taymor’s direction. Casella is far too broad, with his clichéd New York-New Jersey accent, and works far too hard for broad and rather cheap laughs.

Shakespeare was not writing his play principally for “mechanicals,” for laborers, although they formed a section of his audience. And certainly there is a degree to which the playwright laughs along with Duke Theseus and the rest of the Athenian elite at the artistic-theatrical pretensions of the weaver (Nick Bottom), carpenter (Peter Quince), bellows-mender (Francis Flute), tinker (Tom Snout), joiner (simply “Snug”) and tailor (Robin Starveling).

As occasionally foolish as the “mechanical” actors are, however, their essential geniality, solidarity and sincerity come through. Is there a genuinely warmer moment in Shakespeare than that in which Bottom makes his reappearance, after losing his asses’ head, among his fellow artisans?

BOTTOM

Where are these lads? where are these hearts?

QUINCE [and the others]

Bottom! O most courageous day! O most happy hour!

BOTTOM

Masters, I am to discourse wonders: but ask me not what; for if I tell you, I am no true Athenian. I will tell you every thing, right as it fell out.

QUINCE

Let us hear, sweet Bottom.

Essential to the success of the “mechanical” scenes is the workers’ spirit of togetherness. Despite their various idiosyncrasies, they stick up for and stand by one another. In Taymor’s version, Brendan Averett as Snug, Joe Grifasi as Quince, William Youmans as Starveling, Jacob Ming-Trent as Snout and Zachary Infante as Flute all do well, even memorably. Infante’s “death scene” as Thisbe is quite remarkable. On the other hand, portraying Bottom as something of a scene-stealer and “ham,” and not simply an enthusiast, is a mistake and detracts from the work.

Whatever intentions he had in his head to begin with, Shakespeare was Shakespeare, and once he began to work through a character’s situation, he generally got to the heart of things. We recently noted the comment by Orson Welles that Shakespeare’s Falstaff (who appears in a number of the history plays) was “the most completely good man, in all drama.” Then Bottom is certainly one of the kindest and most endearing.

He is the favorite of the artisans; during the time he spends away from them in Titania’s company, they are at a loss. He has, according to Flute, “the best wit of any handicraftman in Athens,” and he is “the best person, too,” adds Quince. “O sweet bully Bottom,” cries Flute, sadly.

We noted in 1999: “The weaver is unfailingly thoughtful and considerate, and apparently unfazed by any of the astonishing things that befall him. When Titania unexpectedly proclaims that she loves him, he replies, ‘Methinks, mistress, you should have little reason for that.’ Nonetheless, it is not unthinkable, for ‘to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays.’

“Offered the part of a lover in the workmen’s theatrical, Bottom expresses the desire to play a ‘tyrant’ instead. No one is less fit for such a part. So concerned is he about the ladies in the audience becoming frightened, because a lion appears in the piece, he explains that were he to play the part, ‘I will roar you as gently as any sucking dove. I will roar you an ‘twere any nightingale.’

“Worried as well about the impact on the female spectators of his character killing himself, Bottom suggests adding a prologue in which he will explain that ‘we will do no harm with our swords, and that Pyramus [his character] is not killed indeed; and for the more better assurance, tell them that I, Pyramus, am not Pyramus, but Bottom the weaver. That will put them out of fear.’ I think Harold Bloom is entitled to assert in his Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human that Bottom is ‘a sublime clown … a great visionary … and a very good man, as benign as any in Shakespeare.’”

In any event, despite the missteps in this regard, Taymor’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is enjoyable and absorbing. It will open more widely later in the year.