Every piece of literature aims at using style and textual features to bring to the fore the author’s interpretation and perception of the world (Farmer 458). This essay compares two pieces of work; A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare and Angels in America by Kushner.
Both works focus on the events surrounding marriage, but each approaches marriage in a different style. Hence, the similarities and differences depicted in the two plays in terms of plot, general structure and the way the issues are brought up.
The two works have some similarities as discussed below. First, both authors had the intention of passing a message on the prevailing conditions in the society. While Shakespeare’s intention was to create a happy mood contrary to the brutal and harsh renaissance era at that time, Kushner concentrated on the problems and vices of his era.
Kushner wanted people to see things as they are hence his straightforwardness with the message. In contrast, Shakespeare brought up his message in a humorous manner that can help in relieving tension. Shakespeare’s play has several humorous discussions between characters, which do not exist in Kushner’s play. For example:
Hermia: O cross! too high to be enthrall’d to low.
Lysander: Or else misgraffed in respect of years-
Hermia: O spite! – too old to be engag’d to young.
Lysander: Or else it stood upon the choice of friends-
Hermia: O hell! – to choose by another’s eyes. (Crystal 30)
Second, both authors illustrate the complexity that surrounds love. Shakespeare through Lysander says, “The course of love never did run smooth” (Crystal 30). In Kushner’s play, the actors are self-centered and do not show true love. For instance, Kushner depicts Louis as a ruthless betrayer and presents the play as a society intertwined with infidelity and the misery of AIDS.
Third, both pieces of work put a lot of emphasis on forgiveness. In Kushner’s play, Belize declares that forgiveness is only valuable because human beings can never be flawless and so he pities and forgives Roy (Kushner 35). Further, Prior forgives Louis, and Harper relieves herself from dependence on her husband by peacefully parting ways with him (50).
In Shakespeare’s play, there is forgiveness between Theseus and Hippolyta and their lovers (Crystal 85). The authors’ use of forgiveness in their pieces of work reminds the reader that forgiveness is necessary for peaceful existence.
Despite the similarities, the two plays have a lot of differences. First, the plays differ in their setting. Shakespeare’s play is in the ancient Greece and he uses Greek classical literature and myths as well as English legends in his setting. On the other hand, Kushner uses the 1980s American setting where the society is characterized by great ambition for money and power resulting from the prevailing political and social conditions. This is reflected in statements such as:
Not ideology, or sexual taste, but something much simpler: clout. Not who I fuck or who fucks me, but who will pick up the phone when I call, who owes me favors. (Kushner 45)
Second, the two plays differ in terms of tone. While Shakespeare’s tone is comedy, Kushner uses a serious tone. Shakespeare uses a lighthearted and merry tone to tell the story whereas Kushner uses a straightforward tone to bring out the ordeals that couples went through in the year that HIV/AIDS was first detected in humans.
Third, the two plays differ in their usage of characters. In Shakespeare’s play, events are illustrated through characters. As such, Shakespeare’s play is built around incidents. His characters are very easy to understand. In contrast, Kushner demonstrates the psychological maturity of his characters through incidents.
As such, Kushner’s characters are complex and are not easily understood by the reader. The characters are not opposite of each other like Shakespeare’s characters, but are the opposite of themselves. For instance, Louis changes from a harsh coward betrayer to a sincere trustworthy person (Kushner 15, 92).
Finally, the two plays differ in how the authors present dialogue issues. Dialogue is important because it brings up the plot and theme through the words said by the characters. Kushner’s play structure is presented in complicated two parts. The two parts have a deep meaning, which the reader has to keep in mind as he/she reads the play to be able to understand the story.
Each dialogue contributes to the overall understanding of the play and is presented in prose form. On the other hand, Shakespeare uses a mixture of prose and verse in his play. The style is light and easy to understand.
A lot of transformations have taken place in American literature, but the standards have remained the same. While Shakespeare’s play was written in the 14th century, it has a lot of similarities with Kushner’s play written in the 20th century. A comparison of these two pieces of work has revealed that the new literature texts have a lot to borrow from old texts.
Crystal, Ben. Springboard Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream. London: A & C Black, 1993. Print.
Farmer, Paul. “Literature Goals: Myth or Reality?” The English Journal 56.3 (1967): 456-460. Print
Kushner, Tony. Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. Revised ed. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 2013. Print.