The puzzle of the indian boy in a Midsummer Night's Dream

Buchanan, Henry (2007) The puzzle of the indian boy in a Midsummer Night's Dream. MPhil(R) thesis, University of Glasgow.

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The Puzzle of the Indian Boy in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” challenges interpretations of the play which posit an east Indian prince and an east Indian location for Titania’s lengthy description of “India” in Act Two, Scene One. Such interpretations appear to have originated in Purcell’s late 17th century opera The Fairy Queen when English trade with India and the east was well under way, but at the time of the first performance of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1595-6 there is no connection with the east Indies.

At the time of the first performance of the play “India” still signified America or the west Indies, as it does in many Shakespeare plays and in contemporary discourse -- a fact overlooked by the dogma of an eastern Indian boy which actually has no definitive textual authorisation in the play itself. At the time of the play the English desire for the west Indies is paramount, and this is manifested in Sir Walter Ralegh’s voyage to Guiana in 1595 when he returns with a real Indian prince.

America as “India” in the play therefore grounds it in its historical context, places Titania’s description of “India” as an early modern English perception of the New World, and radicalises centuries of received wisdom on its interpretation: pixie-dust trivialisations of Oberon, Titania and fairyland are set aside in favour of historical analysis of England’s hopes for American empire which was made possible by Ralegh’s return with a real Indian prince.

Item Type: Thesis (MPhil(R))
Qualification Level: Masters
Additional Information: Due to copyright restrictions the full text of this thesis cannot be made available online. Access to the printed version is available once any embargo periods have expired.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Cummings, Mr. Robert
Date of Award: 2007
Depositing User: Geraldine Coyle
Unique ID: glathesis:2007-765
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 13 May 2009
Last Modified: 19 Aug 2013 15:20

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