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Shakespeare 400: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream Painting

2016 is the year of Shakespeare. It is a festival which marks the great Bard’s birth, and his death, and above all things a celebration of his incredible works, masterpieces which have shaped generations, been interpreted and reinterpreted across the centuries, and which are a core of both British and global theatre. In exploring my own reinterpretations of his plays, some 20 years after I completed my first Shakespeare collection at the age of 13, I have moved onto my second work, painted in my new interpretative abstract style.

The play is A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a comic frolic of cross-purpose love affairs, mischievous spells, sparkling forest fairies and of course the famous Donkey metamorphosis of Bottom, all set between the trees of a forest near Athens. That wonderfully magical forest setting forms the background of my work, a simplified design of vertical brown stripes, creating a sense of the darkness and depth of the forest which characterises the tone of that mystical Midsummer’s Night.

Midsummer FINAL

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2016 ©Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, acrylic on canvas)

Central to the piece is a large yellow shape, representing the wall in the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, whose chink provides the only channel for communication for the two forbidden lovers after whom the story is named. Creating something of a play within a play, the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe (originally told by Ovid) is acted out at the end of the play by the theatre troupe from whom the actor-turned-donkey Bottom comes, and which likewise reflects the theme of forbidden love which is played out in the forbidden love between Hermia and Lysander.

It is in fact that disallowed love affair which sends Hermia and Lysander fleeing to the forest, where in their wake Helena, Hermia’s friend, and Demetrius, the man Hermia’s father wishes her to marry, follow. These four characters then become the pawn of Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen of the forest fairies whose own conflict results in a series of magical mischief which in turn results in the four youngsters of Athens variously falling in and out of love with one another while under the bewitchment of the “love-in-idleness” flower. That same juice is used to bewitch Titania, who in turn is caused to fall in love with the metamorphosed Bottom.

All this is represented by my painting of shapes and lines. The energetic lines which cross the canvas are those of Titania and Oberon, whose ballet of magical conflict weaves in and out of the play’s plot. Where they meet, and form shapes within their overlaps, these shapes represent the four young lovers, Helena, Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius. The grey triangle is of course the donkey head of Bottom, and when Titania’s “line” traverses the space, it is transformed blue, as though bewitched by Oberon. Meanwhile above Oberon’s line, the blue curve represents his faithful assistant Puck, the cheeky little fairy who mischievously applies the love-potion, and above the red triangle of Titania, the four little pink lines are her flying little fairy assistants, Peaseblosom, Cobweb, Moth and Mustardseed.

For those unaware of this brilliant play, the description above may bamboozle the mind. Where that is the case, please enjoy the painting instead, whose simplified lines and structure make, in themselves, what I hope is a thoroughly pleasing image for Midsummer’s Night.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at

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