IMPROVING SHAKESPEARE—Okay, Scholars, What Do You Think?


I just completed a short run in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. One of the characters I played was Egeus, father of Hermia. He’s the one whose threat—that she be put death if she doesn’t marry his choice of suitors—sets off the main plot of the play.


In a later scene Egeus is with the Duke of Athens when they come upon Hermia with Lysander, the man she loves, as well as the man she doesn’t and Hermia’s friend who loves the latter fellow. The Duke overrules Egeus, directing Hermia to marry Lysander.


In the text, Egeus exits with the Duke after that. One assumes Egeus would skulk out—or leave in a huff of outrage—like others of Shakespeare’s vanquished villains. During rehearsal, though, I felt that was not a satisfying conclusion to the father-daughter narrative. With the approval of the director, I added an action to the text: I looked at Hermia for a long time and then crossed the stage to where she stood with Lysander. I embraced them both, giving us a moment of love and reconciliation before my exit.


There had to have been a lot more action on the stage than indicated by the sparse stage directions in Shakespeare’s printed works. What I came up with may have been more sentimental than Elizabethans would have wanted, even in a romantic comedy. But it felt right to me.








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