For the past four centuries, artists, writers and actors have been inspired by Shakespeare to create their own works of art. There have been films, sculptures, songs, t-shirts and jewelry all inspired by Shakespeare and his work.
Theatre companies reinterpret his stories again and again, and help people to see his plays in new ways. Behind the scenes there is also artistry. Not only are set pieces produced for enactment of his plays, but costuming, scripting, and advertisement pieces are created. Sound effects need to be developed. Let’s look at one of Shakespeare’s plays and produce our own artwork based on a short scene from the story!
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s earliest comedies. It was written between 1595-96 and was first performed on January 1, 1605. It reads like a fairy tale with magical beings in a forest, love potions, humor and tricks. Shakespeare was inspired by the folklore of fairies and magic that he had heard and read throughout his life. And like any bedtime fairy-tale, this story ends “happily ever after.” Let’s look at the story plot before we start our project.
The play is about four confused young lovers, a group of clumsy workmen, the royal court of Duke Theseus, and the royal fairy court of King Oberon and Queen Titania. The play is set mostly at night in the woods near Athens. Fairies use a love potion to try to end the quarrels of the two young couples, but everyone ends up in love with the wrong person! In the end, all of the problems are solved and everyone gets married.
In the scene we are using for inspirations, a mischieveous fairy named Puck has been doling out love potions to trick the four lovers and Queen Titania. Here in Act 3, Scene 1, Queen Titania has fallen in love with Bottom, one of the workmen rehearsing a play for the Duke. At this point in the play, Bottom has the head of a donkey - one of the tricks Puck has played. Now Titania is instructing her tiny fairy attendants to take care of him:
Titania [to Bottom]:
I’ll give thee fairies to attend on thee;
And they shall fetch thee jewels from the deep.
And sing while thou on pressed flowers dost sleep.
And I will purge thy mortal grossness so,
That thou shalt like an aery spirit go.
Peaseblossom! Cobweb! Moth! And Mustardseed!
Where shall we go?
Tatiana [to fairies]:
Be Kind and courteous to this gentleman,
Hop in his walks and gambol in his eyes; (to gambol = to run about)
Feed him with apricocks and dewberries,
With purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries;
The honey-bags steal from the humble-bees,
And for night-tapers crop their waxen thighs, (night-taper = slow burning candle)
And light them at the fiery glow-worm's eyes,
To have my love to bed and to arise;
And pluck the wings from painted butterflies,
To fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes.
Nod to him, elves, and do him courtesies.
Read through the scene two or three times. It is helpful to read it aloud to yourself or someone else to get a feel for the flow of words. Don't worry if you don't understand all of the words or everything they are talking about. Close your eyes and try to get a feel for the scene. What images come to mind? What colors do you see? What can you hear or smell? Are there plants? Animals? What are the characters wearing? There are no right or wrong answers, so don't worry!
What you will need:
A copy of the script
Any medium you would like to use (acrylic or watercolor paint, chalk, charcoal, crayons)
Brushes and water
A piece of paper, canvas or board to paint onto
What to do:
After you have read the script through several times and closed your eyes to put your imagination to work, go ahead and start laying down colors or marks on your paper or canvas. You can plan your piece carefully or simply put your medium to paper and see what happens. There is no right or wrong way to create a work of art. Your images may be recognizable (realistic) or abstract (showing feelings and color movement).
You might even want to go a step further and add some collage elements to your work with glue or mod podge - paper, string, cloth, sequins, even noodles! Just have fun with it! Share your work with us in the comments section below! Shakespeare would be very excited by this project I think!
Project source: Shakespeare for Kids: His Life and TImes, 21 Activities by Colleen Aagesen and Margie Blumberg, 1999.