Post by coke & comics on Jul 31, 2020 15:30:42 GMT -5
Today is the 30th anniversary of the release of Sandman #19, "A Midsummer Night's Dream", by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess.
I'm not sure I've come across a finer 24 pages of comic storytelling. We learn that Shakespeare and Sandman had made a bargain. Sandman opened a door within Shakespeare to allow him to write great and enduring stories, to give men lasting dreams. In exchange, Shakespeare would write two plays celebrating dreams.
The first, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is performed for the first time to an audience consisting of many of the very characters who appear in the play. Sandman intended this play as a gift to the people of Faerie. The world has changed, and they have left for other realms, but this story will endure, and Auberon and Titania will not be forgotten.
Even as he is pleased with Shakespeare's half of the bargain, Sandman wonders if the bargain was entirely fair. For Shakespeare did not understand the true price of dreams.
As both a diehard Shakespeare fan and a pretty solid Gaiman/Sandman fan, I was never as impressed with this story as everyone else seemed to believe I should be. Still, it's a solid story, and I love the effect it has clearly had upon everyone else who has read it. Really, is there such a thing as a bad issue of Sandman?
Yeah, this was a great issue. I only encountered it for the first time in the last year, having only recently gotten around to reading The Sandman. Here's what I wrote about it in my Sandman Collected Editions review thread...
A Midsummer Night's Dream For me, the very best issue in this book was "A Midsummer Night's Dream", in which William Shakespeare performs his new play (the titular A Midsummer Night's Dream) for the first time. This story is linked to events in Volume 2 of The Sandman, "The Doll's House", in which Dream and Shakespeare struck a deal. As a result, the Bard has to drag his company of actors out into the rolling English countryside to premier A Midsummer Night's Dream, his newest play, seemingly without an audience. However, when an audience does finally appear from a door in the earth – out of the Long Man of Wilmington hill figure in Sussex, no less! – it is a congregation of faerie folk, including such key characters from the play as Oberon, Titania and Puck...
OK, full disclosure time: I'm really not much of a Shakespeare fan. There, I said it! (Oops, wrong thread!) But I do love A Midsummer Night's Dream, and I consider it by far the Bard's best work (at least among those that I have read or seen performed). So, I got a real kick out of this chapter, which, I must just say, is beautifully drawn by Charles Vess.
Gaiman's writing in this issue is thematically complex, often touching, beautifully eloquent, and just downright brilliant from start to finish. The story is kind of anchored upon Shakespeare's relationship with his son, which serves to give it some earthbound heart amid the parade of supernatural sprites and faeries. Actually, while I'm talking about the assembled faerie folk, there's some nicely humorous dialogue between two sprites in the audience, which runs throughout the issue...
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" is not just a retelling of the play: it is an episode of The Sandman which explains how the play is actually an homage to the faerie that was commissioned by Morpheus himself, so that King Oberon and Queen Titania of the faerie, "will be remembered by mortals, until this age is gone." In return, Dream grants Shakespeare what he thinks he most desires: everlasting fame and glory (which, it's hinted, is a double-edged sword). Interestingly, Puck – Robin Goodfellow himself – remains behind in our world, once the faerie folk depart, with the suggestion being that he's still out there somewhere, causing mischief in the present day. I suspect we might see more of Puck later on in the series.
"A Midsummer Night's Dream" really is excellent and an absolute master class of a comic.
Last Edit: Aug 1, 2020 8:51:11 GMT -5 by Confessor