Ten Lessons from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Below is an excerpt from a speech I made at the end-of-the-year Awards Ceremony.

When we started studying this play, I asked the students what theythought the lessons of the play were. They came up with a few things, but since then some have asked a number of times, What are the Lessons of Midsummer Night’s Dream? So, I decided to sit down and come up with ten lessons of A MSND.

Here they are. I hope you add to them for years to come.

  1. Use the front door, gentlemen. Fathers must be faced.
    So do mothers. If you’re smart, you’ll learn to speak their language.
  2. Do not believe every thought you have; let alone act on it.
    The certainty with which you hold that thought is no measure of its sanity. That goes doubly at night.
  3. Speaking of night, when you find yourself lost in the woods in the middle of a moonlit night, do not count on rationality to make sense of the situation. Rationality can take you very far afield.
  4. On the subject of moonlight, moonlight often reveals just enough to get you into trouble, but not enough to get you out.
  5. Try to give others the benefit of the doubt; assume the best.
    If that’s not possible, stop talking and go to sleep.
    Things may well look very different in the morning.
  6. We all know that the obvious “solution” to a problem is not always the right one. But here’s another little-known fact: No matter how bad things are, you can always make them worse.  Consider that before you do anything!
  7. Don’t count on fairy charms to protect you. You may not realize it, but a number of fairy charms are called upon in this play and not one of them works. Only the flower juice actually does anything. Which brings up the one lesson every actor repeated about this play: Don’t do drugs. They actually do work.
  8. Whether fairy charms work or not, whether fairies exist or not, was of great concern to me when we began studying this play. Eventually I realized that these questions were of no concern to Shakespeare. Some things are just charming and beautiful and worth putting on stage. And with all the awful stuff about witchcraft and devils we see today, benevolent, if imperfect fairies deserve at least as much time.
  9. Dancing is a perfectly lovely and often more effective form of communication than talking.
  10. You can learn a lot about a man by way he takes on roles he doesn’t want. Witness Nick Bottom, who can play a tyrant, a lover, a girl, the lion, or a kidnapped fairy king, with equal aplomb.