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Online Exhibition


Peter Brook's A Midsummer Night's Dream 1970

The Lovers

Brook stressed the play’s darker theme of passionate sexuality inspired by the essay on A Midsummer's Night Dream by Jan Kott in his influential book Shakespeare, Our Contemporary published five years earlier.

Clive Barnes, theatre critic forThe New York Times wrote that:

 ‘Oberon and Titania, even when quarrelling, kiss with hasty, hungry passion... the lovers seem to be journeying through some inner landscape of their own desires toward maturity.’

Brook doubled the roles of Theseus/Oberon, Hippolyta/Titania and Puck/ Philostrate, to give the impression they dreamt themselves into those roles. An idea which has now become commonplace in modern productions, this drew clear lines between the characters and their relationships in the real and the supernatural worlds.

When they entered the forest the four lovers removed long cloaks to reveal simple tie-dyed tunics and blouses, then donned the cloaks again at the end. The enchantment of the forest also revealed the worst of their characters, unrestrained and unanchored by social restraint. Brook’s lovers demonstrated the dualities of love and hatred, which were brought out by the dreamworld and then covered up when emerging from the forest’s enchantment.


Demetrius, Helena and Lysander enchanted in the forest. 
Theseus warns Hermia of the consequences of disobeying her father. Watched by Lysander, Demetrius and Hippolyta. 
The lovers. Hermia, Demetrius, Helena, Lysander. 
(1977) The lovers in the forest. As the lovers wandered further through the autumnal forest, their fine clothes grew bedraggled and stuck with leaves, as though the forest itself was breaking them down and remaking them.
(1981) Opening scene. Hippolyta and Theseus watch Lysander and Demetrius argue with Egeus over his daughter Hermia. This was a tense, formal Athens, fearful of sexuality and literally buttoned up and strait-laced. The repressed fantasies of Victorian sexuality escaping into the forest were key in this production.
(1994) The lovers: Demetrius, Lysander, Hermia, Helena. Photographer: Malcolm Davies. Note the similarity of costume to Brook’s production. In the lover’s confusion, doors rose up from the forest floor, locking unexpectedly to prevent escape. When the lovers fell asleep under Puck's spell they were encased in chrysalis-like body bags and hoisted mid-air, ready to wake renewed. Again note the similarity to Brook's hammocks. Most critics agreed that the design's visual imagery sometimes dominated human feeling so that the lovers appeared very two dimensional.
(1994) Opening of play. Theseus and Hippolyta. Photographer: Malcolm Davies Note the swing and the comparison with Brook’s trapeze. When the lights came up Hippolyta sat musing on the swing in the middle of a white box set. As in Brook's the roles of Theseus/Oberon and Hippolyta/Titania were doubled. Noble also doubled Philostrate/Puck, and the Mechanicals/Fairies strongly suggesting the links and crossovers between the mortal and immortal worlds.

To continue, select a topic:

Stage Devises The Mechanicals
The Fairies  Bottom's Transformation
The Lovers Pyramus and Thisbe
The Forest The Blessing of the House

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