Another day, another Shakespeare discussion between Bardfilm and I. I’d found a Shakespeare lesson that asked, “How is Hippolyta’s reasoning concerning how quickly the next four days will pass different from that of Theseus?” and I was about to rip that lesson plan a new one about asking such stupid questions that focus the student’s attention on the minor details that do nothing but prove they read it, rather than appreciating the play as a whole.
“No, that’s a good question,” Bardfilm argued, “It involves interpretation of Hippolyta’s character and how to understand her relationship with Theseus—and whether it changes over the course of the play.” (I’m sure he won’t mind me quoting him here).
He goes on to discuss how a powerful statement can be made here. You’re starting with a prisoner of war being forced to marry someone unwillingly (he’s seen a production that involved bringing in Hippolyta in a cage!). Then you double Titania/Hippolyta, go on about the play, then return to a “softened” Hippolyta.
Now, I understand the “Every word Shakespeare wrote was important and he put it there for a reason, so find depth in it” school. So I totally understand that you can find a powerful interpretation of Hippolyta’s transformation in what few lines she has. What I’m wondering is whether the audience, in general, cares? If I started polling audiences coming out of Midsummer, asking what parts they liked most, how many would pick anything about Theseus/Hippolyta at all? If I started asking “What did you think about Oberon? Bottom? Hippolyta?” how many would say, “Wait, which one was Hippolyta?”
I’m just being realistic. She’s at the beginning of the play for a couple of lines, then at the end where most of her lines, like everybody else’s, involve heckling the mechanicals. Is it a stretch to go making powerful statements in what little material she has? Is it asking too much for the typical audience to get it at that level?