ORIGINAL TEXT CHOSEN
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a late 16th Century play written by the famous English playwright of all times, William Shakespeare. The play is a portrayal of medieval societies, which were often ordered and structured along social-class boundaries. It presents the influence of parents over their children in the choice of marriage partners, and how even the authorities were skewed to assert the parents’ wishes. Particularly, the play explores the concept of love and marriage, especially how the two overlapped each other: arranged marriages that preceded love and occasional instances of the reverse, such as the characters Hermia and Lysander being in love, and then eloping with the intentions to marry at the latter’s aunt’s place. Nonetheless, the play also integrates both Greek mythology and fairy-tale dimensions to reflect the role of supernatural powers in ancient times, such as the use of love potions to charm people’s hearts and evoke feelings of love. In this regard, the play is more or less a presentation of a parallel view of love, i.e. from a fairy perspective in a magical world, as well as from a more realistic perspective. In the former context, the power of magic overrules any personal convictions, and thus makes perfect matches of the most incompatible partners. Hence, life is made easier and predictable, reflecting the common trend in fairy tales, which always climaxes in the characters last-minute fulfillment of their desires by overcoming obstacles, and living ‘happily thereafter. In the second context, however, reality is presented as usually unpredictable and at variance with individuals’ plans, for instance Egeus’ desire for his daughter to marry Demetrius and not Lysander. The paper discusses the transformation of the play a Midsummer Night’s Dream into a movie, the Color of Love.
ORIGINAL CONTEXT AND SETTING
The setting of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is situated within the context of classical English society, where nobility was regarded highly by distinguishing the commons from the upper class members of society. It takes place in a cultural setting where nobility and the belief in the supernatural world significantly influenced people’s actions and effectively, their lives. The place of superstition in society is particularly portrayed by the play’s adaptation of Greek mythology, suggested by the casting of the characters of the fairy king and queen, Oberon and Titania respectively. This integration of superstition into the play underlines the overlap of superstitious beliefs into social life, especially those of a religious nature, such as the belief in gods and their powers of mortals. At the same time, the casting of fairies is employed to dismantle the socially constructed wall of distinction and by extension separation, between the noble and lower classes of society. For instance, Shakespeare mocks the assumed importance and reverence accorded the noble classes when, by a touch of Puck’s magical flower, fairy queen Titania falls in love head over heels, literally speaking, with the lowly craftsman Bottom, hence dismantling the believe that the noble class cannot merge with the lower class in marriage.
The original text targeted a section of society, especially the noble class and scholars. This is due to the fact that its presentation makes meaning to be achieved at an allegorical level, indicating that only the learned and truly critical audience can decipher its connotative references. At the same time, 16th century theatre goers usually composed of the high class, who could afford to buy tickets. It should be noted that acting and actors at the time were preserves of the nobility such as kings who had frequent performances at the palaces. On the contrary, the transformed text has been modified in form and presentation to be accessible to a wide audience. At a cathartic level, it appeals to all ages and groups who can understand English or follow the storyline. At the level of thematic concerns, the transformed text targets especially overprotective and imposing parents who often the private lives of their children by planning their marriages and consequently, manipulating their future. This practice of arranged marriages is commonly witnessed among the high class, who prefers to intermarry amongst themselves rather than open their tightly guarded circle of nobility to the commons. In this respect, the transformed text is targeted for a general audience as it relates to the aspects of life experienced by all members of society.
EFFECT OF NEW AUDIENCE ON TRANSFORMATION
The new audience’s effect on the transformational process was significant in the choice of the plot, setting and the casting. The modern audiences are most effectively enthralled by an interesting, suspense filled, and simple yet intriguing episodes. The media industry today is more tended towards entertainment than informing, largely due to economic considerations to gain popularity and in return, high income form commercial adverts or sale of records. Thus, the transformed plot departs from the slow-paced manner of the original text. The plot has been simplified to focus on the major characters and a single storyline, so as to avoid the boredom that often results from frequent digressions of plot. The main thematic concern will be the endurance of love on the part of the heroes over the machinations of their opponents, who at the end will emerge as villains. Similarly, the modern audience’s ambivalence towards the supernatural world and the influence of magic, or its reality, necessitated the removal of all scenes pertaining to the natural setting. In terms of setting, the 16th century jungles and inhibited forests (perhaps the inspiration for the fairy scenes) is a far cry from today’s world of technology and civilization. The modern audience is more at home in a Hollywood setting than in a strange dark forest- which is only best suited for horror films. Accordingly, the forest setting is overlooked in favor of a park garden, which is the closest depiction of nature in a civilized setting. It makes an appropriate romantic setting for the film, particularly on scenes where the lovers could meet. In place of the king’s palace, the transformed text adopts a mansion setting for the rich. This is because palaces are not a common feature today, and the modern audience is more used to privately owned high-rise residences. This is more realistic compared to an imitated palatial setting.
The characters of the original story consist of noble man (Egeus) who takes his daughter (Hermia) to the king (Theseus), to have her forced to marry the man of his choice (Demetrius). He also takes along the man who the daughter loves (Lysander) but is not allowed to marry, as well as Hermia’s friend Helena, who is in love with Demetrius, although he doesn’t love her back. The king is also arranging for a wedding to Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. There are also craftsmen to perform at the wedding, as the fairies of the forest: king Oberon, Queen Titania and Puck, the king’s servant.
The characters of the transformed text will comprise of characters acting on a relatively similar capacity, but with profound changes. The role of the king will be replaced by the rich parents of the son (Demetrius), and who have considerable political influence- Eliano, Demetrrius’ father, is the local mayor. For his own selfish ends (Egeus is a local businessman and wants to win government contracts through his intended relations to the mayor) he would like Hermia to marry Demetrius. Presently, Egeus has gone to see his future in-laws to discuss Hermis’s stubbornness. The state of affairs between the two will remain the same as in the original text: Demetrius is rich (apparent heir of his father’s estate) and in love with Hermia, (equally rich, being Egeus’s only daughter) but she is not willing to marry him, hence the fury of her father. In place of the fairy characters administering to the fairy king and queen, the new text will have servants of both families. In this case, Helena will not be Hermia’s friend, but rather her maidservant. On his part, Lysander will be a commoner from a poor background, with whom Hermia has fallen in love.
The new casting will consist of well known actors and actresses who will appeal to the modern audience.
The transformed text will incorporate well known Hollywood celebrities, largely because of their fame and popularity. This strategy is intended to make the film appeal to a wide fan base and ensure its success. In this regard, the role of Egeus will be taken by Harrison Ford, due to his experience in acting and age to fit the role of a father. Similarly, Bruce Wills will take the place of Eliano, the father of Demetrius, played by Willard Christopher Smith (Will Smith). His role in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air makes him suitable for the role. On the part of actresses, Angelina Jolie will play Hermia, due to her experience in a similarly transformed movie, Beowulf. Helena will be played by actresses Catharine Zeta Jones, who is a famous Hollywood Star. Finally, Tom Cruise will take the place of Lysander, especially for his charming looks which beguiled Hermia.
Original Text Plot
In the original plot, the king gives Hermia an ultimatum to make a decision, with the threat of banishment to the convent or death if she defies her father. Upon an opportunity to escape, she elopes with Lysander into the forest, but are soon tracked down by Demetrius, with Helena following him with the hope of winning his love. In the forest, the fairy king Oberon has planned to gain the queen’s love by dropping on her eyelids the juice of a magical flower- with the effect that the recipient falls in love with the first thing he/she sees upon waking up. However, he instructs Puck to administer the magic on Demetrius to reverse his cruelty to Helena. Puck makes a mistake and inflicts Lysander instead, who in turn falls in love with Helena when he saw her. Hoping to undo the mistake, he gets to Demetrius with the magic, and both falls in love with Helena. However, the day is saved when Puck deceives the two men to move in opposite directions, and makes a timely administration of the magic on Lysander to turn his love to Hermia, hence both lovers end up with their originally desired partners.
New Text Plot
In the new text, Egeus has known the mayor from his previous dealings with the local council, and the two are good friends. They arrange for the marriages of their children to strengthen their family ties. Initially Hermia is not opposed to the plans since she respects her father. One afternoon a few days to the wedding, while on a walk in the park garden with Helena, Hermia sees Lysander and is instantly attracted to him. Meanwhile, Helena secretly admires Demetrius, but cannot express her feelings for fear of reprimands from her masters. At the same time, Demetrius finds her charming, but dismisses her as a mere maid not worth his tender feeling- least of all love and marriage.
Hermia tries to ignore the pangs of passion that surges in her chest when she thinks of Lysander, but it gets to a point where she cannot stand it. She confides in Helena, who, for her secret reasons- though apparent to the audience, encourages her to seek him. She soon confronts her father with the news and vows that she will never marry Demetrius. Enraged, her father gets the unsuspecting Lysander and drags them to the mayor’s place- with the intention of having Lysander warned against marrying his daughter.
While they are gathered in the living room discussing the issue, Demetrius comes home and pumps into Helena in the corridors. They stood staring at each other, her blood racing, and his conscience at war with his feelings. Unable to control himself, he reaches out and embraces her, and walks her into the living room. The mayor has just warned Lysander and ordered his guards to see him off, and presently they are waiting for Demetrius. They are jolted when the two walks in hand-in hand. In the tension of the confusion, Hermia rushes out and follows Lysander to the woods, where they embrace each other and resolves to run away. However, a messenger arrives to inform them that her father and the mayor to talk to Lysander and Hermia- apparently to formally arrange for their marriage.
Discourse and Ideologies
As noted before, the ideologies of the original text were about the place of nobility and superstition in society. It showed how the two determined people’s actions and their social relations. In the new text, the explored ideologies will include class-differences and their impact on social relations, especially on the institution of marriage. It will portray a changing trend, in which the younger generation has dismantled the barriers of class status that previously punctuated social relations.
Sound Track for the Transformed Text
Finally, the sound track from the song Stuck with You by Lionel Richie will be adapted for the film. This is because its message echoes the sentiments the characters’ wishes, which was ‘sticking’ to their beloved ones. While Demetrius stuck with her decision to marry Lysander, Demetrius chose Helena.
In conclusion, text transformation is important in making an original text set within a different context appeal to a new audience. Through transformation, the new text identifies the contemporary trends and issues most relevant to the audience, and adapts them to achieve acceptance and positive reception. For instance, the film Beowulf is an adaptation of a narrative by the same title, which was set in ancient Denmark. However, the film has a modern touch to it by incorporating characters familiar to the audience, such as the hero Beowulf by Ray Winstone and Angelina Jolie, who acts the role of Grendel the monster. Its success demonstrates that transformation is an inevitable process when adapting written stories for screen viewing. It is for this very purpose, then, that the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare gives birth to the intended film, The Color of Love.
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