A Midsummer Night's Dream

Silly Shakespeare for Students

Fiction - Drama
91 Pages
Reviewed on 10/20/2020
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Author Biography

Paul Leonard Murray has worked as an actor and educator for over 30 years. He graduated in Theatre, gained an MA in Educational Theatre and a PhD in Applied Theatre. Originally from England but now living and working in Belgrade, Serbia, Paul is a passionate believer in the power of theatre to engage, educate and amuse children of all ages.

He is currently the director of Belgrade English Language Theatre which is a youth theatre for young people for whom English is not their native tongue. The plays in the Silly Shakespeare for Students series were developed with the help of his youth theatre members and can be read in class or performed. Inspired by the humour of the Goons, Monty Python and Commedia dell Arte (and of course the Bard himself) Paul hopes that these adaptations can help to inspire further appreciation of theatre, the English language, Shakespeare and silliness.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Louise Hurrell for Readers' Favorite

A Midsummer Night’s Dream might be one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays, with countless stage, film, and tv adaptations performed over the years. It is a brave task to readapt a story many people recognize, but Paul Leonard Murray has successfully pulled it off. While he has reduced the running time to around an hour, Murray has lost none of the core themes and ideas explored in the original. Instead, they are discussed in a way that younger or foreign students can understand, but still keeps the spirit from the Bard’s play. The love square featuring Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius, and Helena was brilliantly done and engaging, with perhaps the mischievous Puck stealing the show.

The use of rhyming couplets to tell the story was great. It was reminiscent of the iambic pentameter used by many of Shakespeare’s characters, and helped the story flow incredibly smoothly. The plot was just as bizarre and hilarious as ever and, despite having read A Midsummer Night’s Dream countless times, I still found Murray’s text funny. Between the couplets and the storyline, it was a very joyful, wacky reading experience and I breezed through the entire play in under an hour. It is incredibly readable, and Shakespeare novices will certainly have a great time with it. Long gone are impressions of Shakespeare being difficult. If all of the plays in the Silly Shakespeare for Students series is as good as A Midsummer Night’s Dream, then Murray will have helped make the Bard accessible for a whole new audience.

Lois Henderson

Magic and mayhem rule once more in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (one in the series of Silly Shakespeare for Students) as rewritten in rhyming couplets by Paul Leonard Murray, with the help of members of the Belgrade English Language Theater, of which he is the director. In his prefatory summary, Murray asserts that their version is “very close to the original in terms of plot, characters, and narrative.” All that has been added is a brief introduction by the overseeing narrator and, so as to simplify the plot and characterization, certain of the minor fairy characters have been combined into the part of Fairy. Otherwise, the play, in context, setting, and development, closely resembles the original comic masterpiece, dominated by the theme of falling in and out of love, subject to the misalliances resulting from the administration of a magic potion to prospective lovers in a wood adjoining the regal court of ancient Athens.

I thoroughly enjoyed the care taken by Paul Leonard Murray in rendering the Elizabethan text of the drama A Midsummer Night’s Dream highly palatable for English as a Foreign Language cast members and audience. The rollicking humor of William Shakespeare’s somewhat bawdy play is retained despite the simplification of the text, and the innate rhythm of the English language still dominates the script. Murray’s flexibility is shown in him encouraging the cast to ad-lib where they feel that doing so will free performing the work from unnecessary restraints. As he states in his helpful forescript on playing style: “Overall, this version should be fun to play and watch.”

K.C. Finn

A Midsummer Night's Dream (Silly Shakespeare for Students) is a work of adapted drama for educational purposes which was penned by author Paul Leonard Murray alongside the original text and ideas of playwright William Shakespeare. As the series title suggests, the text aims to take the central storyline of the classic tale of four lovers lost in the Athenian forest and present it in a fun and accessible way, and hopefully, one which helps students to learn the nuances of the story and characters a little better. This version of the play still contains all of the confusion and bemusement of the lovers and the fairy folk toying with their lives but is reduced to an hour in playing time for classes to act it out.

Author and educator Paul Leonard Murray has crafted a great introduction to the wit and wisdom of William Shakespeare in a fully accessible fashion for the modern age. Whilst I adore the classic language of the bard, it’s not every child’s favorite in the classroom, but having it introduced in this shortened and simplified version allows students to understand the storyline and characters better before tackling the full-on text. I also really appreciated the fact that much of the rhyme and rhythm of the original text is kept in place so that it still feels true to the bard’s lyrical style. Many of the rewordings play into the new couplet rhyme scheme beautifully, and the incidents are indeed as funny as ever. Overall, I would highly recommend A Midsummer Night's Dream (Silly Shakespeare for Students) for classrooms worldwide.