Thither and Back Again

An Exploration of A Midsummer Night's Dream

in Critical Survey
Sue Emmy Jennings University of the Witwatersrand

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In A Midsummer Night's Dream, the experience of the other world is a central theme, symbolised by the world of the fairies. The play traces a journey from the rigid laws of the court to the seeming chaos of the forest to a return to a place of compromises. It is within the forest that several characters experience ‘other worldliness’; indeed, the forest itself becomes the other world. In my fieldwork with the Senoi Temiar peoples in Malaysia, there is also a belief in other world journeys. In addition to the other world, there are issues addressed in terms of applying Shakespeare with children with special needs as well as troubled teenagers and adults. I describe my own learning from the tribe in terms of understanding child attachment and development. Finally, I suggest that Shakespeare's plays, in particular Dream, provide rites of healing. These are provided in other societies by their own culturally embedded rituals of healing.

Contributor Notes

Professor Sue Emmy Jennings is Distinguished Scholar, University of the Witwatersrand, Honorary Research Fellow University of Roehampton. She has pioneered Dramatherapy and Neuro-Dramatic-Play in many countries including Malaysia and India. Her doctoral fieldwork ‘Theatre, Ritual and Transformation’ was conducted with the Senior Temiars. They inhabit the Malaysian rain forest, where she lived for eighteen months with her three children. She has published over fifty books and is currently researching ‘Attachment in A Midsummer Nights Dream’.

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