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In Act 1, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Theseus and Hippolyta speak about the four days before their marriage.

THESEUS:
Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
Draws on apace. Four happy days bring in
Another moon. But, O, methinks how slow
This old moon wanes! She lingers my desires
Like to a stepdame or a dowager
Long withering out a young man’s revenue.
HIPPOLYTA
Four days will quickly steep themselves in night;
Four nights will quickly dream away the time;
And then the moon, like to a silver bow
New -bent in heaven, shall behold the night
Of our solemnities.

Here, I thought that it was implied that Hippolyta wanted to be married to Theseus. But, in a Globe Theatre production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, this scene was acted out with anger; Hippolyta did not want to be married. Was I wrong in my understanding of this passage, or did the Globe incorrectly add to the play?

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2 Answers 2

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I saw a production on TV that included a similar interpretation; I think Hippolyta even appeared handcuffed in her first scene, and Theseus ended up being murdered!

No, the Globe didn't 'incorrectly add to' the play. Directors like to think up new interpretations of Shakespeare's plays, using the same words but understanding them in different ways. This is a feminist interpretation which imagines that Hippolyta, as an Amazon (female warrior) might have resented being forced to marry Theseus.

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  • Indeed, much of Shakespeare is dependent on interpretation since, for the most part, what has survived are copies of copies of the original scripts, and there's little doubt that Shakespeare's actors would have similarly changed the spin of the characters over time to keep things fresh, and as they come to new revelations of the ineractions. Apr 17 at 16:39
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It's ambiguous. There's a curious asymmetry in how Theseus and Hippolyta talk to each other: Theseus uses endearments and talks about his feelings for her, while Hippolyta is more matter-of-fact. None of her lines clearly indicate resentment, but the text is not at all incompatible with the interpretation that Hippolyta isn't in this for love, that she's either submitting to her vanquisher or cementing an important political alliance. Nor is it incompatible with the interpretation that she's just a practical, matter-of-fact gal. For that matter, one could play Theseus as either genuinely besotted with Hippolyta or just gamely trying to soothe her in the service of said political alliance.

Novel interpretations of Shakespeare are common, and IMO often far more of a stretch than the Globe's take on this is.

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