Best of Series,  Shakespeare,  Show Notes

Episode 207: “Best of” Series – A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act III, Ep. 120

Today on The Literary Life podcast, we continue our “Best of” series discussing Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with coverage of Act 3. Angelina talks about the pacing of this act and the importance of the characters’ madcap, lunatic behavior. She also highlight’s Shakespeare’s wrestling with the relationship between the imagination and art and reality. Thomas highlights the structure of the play as reflecting a dreamlike state. Cindy shares some of her thoughts on being concerned about making sure our children know what is real and pretend.

To sign up for Thomas Banks and Anne Phillips’ webinar on Herodotus taking place January 30, 2024, head over to

Find Angelina’s webinar “Jonathan Swift: Enemy of the Enlightenment” at

Even though the spring 2022 Literary Life Conference “The Battle Over Children’s Literature” featuring special guest speaker Vigen Guroian is over, you can still purchase the recordings at

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Commonplace Quotes:

The most insipid, ridiculous play that I ever saw in my life.

Samuel Pepys, describing “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in his diary

Or the lovely one about the Bishop of Exeter, who was giving the prizes at a girls’ school. They did a performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and the poor man stood up afterwards and made a speech and said [piping voice]: ‘I was very interested in your delightful performance, and among other things I was very interested in seeing for the first time in my life a female Bottom.’

C. S. Lewis in a conversation with Kingsley Amis and Brian Aldiss

Still, if Homer’s Achilles isn’t the real Achilles, he isn’t unreal either. Unrealities don’t seem so full of life after three thousand years as Homer’s Achilles does. This is the kind of problem we have to tackle next–the fact that what we meet in literature is neither real nor unreal. We have two words, imaginary, meaning unreal, and imaginative, meaning what the writer produces, and they mean entirely different things.

Northrop Frye

A Dream

by William Blake

Once a dream did weave a shade
O'er my angel-guarded bed,
That an emmet lost its way
Where on grass methought I lay.

Troubled, wildered, and forlorn,
Dark, benighted, travel-worn,
Over many a tangle spray,
All heart-broke, I heard her say:

"Oh my children! do they cry,
Do they hear their father sigh?
Now they look abroad to see,
Now return and weep for me."

Pitying, I dropped a tear:
But I saw a glow-worm near,
Who replied, "What wailing wight
Calls the watchman of the night?

"I am set to light the ground,
While the beetle goes his round:
Follow now the beetle's hum;
Little wanderer, hie thee home!"

Book List:

Of Other Worlds by C. S. Lewis

The Educated Imagination by Northrop Frye

The Elizabethan World Picture by E. M. Tillyard

The Meaning of Shakespeare by Harold Goddard

The Golden Ass by Apuleius

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