Artifact: A Midsummer


A Midsummer’s Night Dream is a comedy play written sometime between 1590-1596 and is one of his most popular works. The play revolves around the events of four lovers from Athens a troupe of six actors.

However, what most people don’t know was that Midsummer’s Night Dream was actually produced for the court for her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I of England. Queen Elizabeth was a patron to Shakespeare and overall she was a huge supporter of the arts. Elizabeth’s rule sparked a golden age of peace and prosperity across England which meant there was money and time to support the arts. Elizabeth gave Shakespeare the money and support for him to be able to write full time. It is argued that without the support of the Queen Shakespeare would possibly not even have become an author.

When Shakespeare finished Midsummer’s Night Dream it was most likely performed for Her Majesty in her court as the Queen never visited a public theatre. It is said that Shakespeare was presenting one of the most beautiful passages of the poem and Elizabeth was beyond flabbergasted-

“That very time I saw — but thou couldst not —
Flying between the cold moon and the earth,
Cupid all arm’d: a certain aim he took
At a fair vestal throned by the west,
And loos’d his love-shaft smartly from his bow
As it should pierce a hundred-thousand hearts:
But I might see young Cupid’s fiery shaft
Quench’d in the chaste beams of the watery moon,
And the imperial votaress passed on,
In maiden meditation fancy free.” — Act II., Sc. i.

Apparently as Shakespeare was reciting this passage he was pacing in front of Her Majesty and to grab his attention she dropped her glove. Shakespeare fetched it for her and upon doing so he added;

“And though now bent on this high embassy,
Yet stoop we to take up our cousin’s glove.”

The Queen was beyond swept away and amazed at her patron’s skills and talents. The bond between Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth was a strong one, she provided him support and she was constantly amazed by his works. He performed for her court multiple times afterwards performing other works for Elizabeth such as King Henry VI. 

When Elizabeth died in 1603 Shakespeare had a verse written in his poem Threnos which very obviously relates to the death of his dear friend and patron.

“Beauty, truth, and
Grace in all simplicity,
Here enclos’d in cinders lie.”

“Truth may seem, but cannot be;
Beauty brag, but ‘tis not she;
Truth and beauty buried be.”

Elizabeth was a guiding light to Shakespeare and without her, some of Shakespeare’s works would most likely not have been possible.

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