English KS2: Shakespeare Retold - A Midsummer Camp's Dream
A Midsummer Camp's Dream - Laura Dockrill retells the story of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Read by Shirley Henderson.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Shakespeare’s magical, romantic comedy. In this retelling of the story by Laura Dockrill, Puck takes centre stage. In Shakespeare’s play Puck is also known as Robin Goodfellow and here he becomes a girl called Robin, a keen magician and brother to Obie (Shakespeare’s Oberon). The story takes place in a Midsummer Camp, where Obie has forgotten his magical powers in favour of his girlfriend Tania (Shakespeare’s Titania).The camp leader is Nick Bottom and the lovers are Dem, Sander, Helen and Mia. Robin is disgusted by all the smoochy lovey-doviness in camp. She accidentally turns Nick into a donkey and the mix-up with the lovers is retained as the main plot of the story. Eventually, Robin’s expert use of magic impresses brother Obie.
Ideas for use in the classroom
In the retelling the boys Dem and Sander begin to argue over Helen’s love when the Smoochie Flower starts to affect them. Look at their lines:
‘You puny, onion eyed, pigeon egg!’
‘You rank, sheep-biting, maggot pie!’
Believe it or not, these are real Shakespearean insults, picked and mixed from various plays! Pick and mix Shakespearean insults are huge fun. You could ask the children to travel around the classroom space as Dem and Sander. When you give a signal they should meet up with a partner and insult their partner in the context of the story. They could preface their insult with, ‘Helen loves me. She couldn’t possibly love you, you…’
In the original play, the girls fight too. Helena thinks that the boys’ love for her is some sort of set up, and Hermia thinks that Helena has stolen her boyfriend. This leads to a hugely funny fight, where the insults fly – many focussing on Hermia’s small stature. Children could develop their Midsummer Camp insults above by role playing this scene with the original (abridged) text.
Hermia - You canker-blossom, you thief of love! What, have you come by night and stolen my love’s heart from him?
Helena- Fie, fie, you counterfeit, you puppet, you!
Hermia - Puppet? Why so! Because I am so little and so low? How low am I? I am not yet so low But that my nails can reach unto thine eyes.
Helena - Though she be but little, she is fierce.
Hermia - ‘Little’ again? Nothing but ‘low’ and ‘little’? Let me come to her!
- As there are a number of differences between this story and the original (most notably the Mechanicals are missing other than Bottom and Titania doesn’t fall in love with Bottom-as-donkey!) children could be encouraged to compare and contrast plots. Look at this BBC introduction to the play for KS2: https://www.bbc.co.uk/teach/class-clips-video/english-ks2-introducing-a-midsummer-nights-dream/zrd9wty
Children could then consider the 10 point summary below and create a table of similarities and differences between the original and the retelling.
- Hermia wants to marry Lysander but her dad tells her she must marry Demetrius!
- Hermia runs off to the forest with Lysander. Demetrius is in love with her and follows her. Helena (who loves Demetrius) follows into the woods too.
- A group of workmen are rehearsing a play in the woods. They aren’t very good actors and the play looks like it will be terrible.
- Oberon is the King of the Fairies. He and his wife Titania are having a fierce argument. All the fairies of the wood take sides.
- Oberon asks his servant Puck – a terrible mischief-maker – to use the juice of a magic flower to make Titania fall in love with whatever she sees when she wakes up. Oberon hopes it will be something horrible.
- Oberon sees Demetrius trying to get rid of Helena and takes pity on her. He tells Puck to put some flower juice in Demetrius’s eyes to make him fall for Helena.
- Meanwhile Puck watches the workmen practising their play in the woods. He gives Bottom a donkey’s head. When Titania wakes up the flower juice makes her fall in love with Bottom!
- Puck gets mixed up and puts the juice in Lysander’s eyes too. Lysander and Demetrius wake up. They both see Helena and fall in love with her. Neither of them is interested in Hermia anymore and the two sets of couples have a huge fight!
- Oberon tries to fix Puck’s mistakes. He makes it so that Lysander and Hermia are in love again. He also makes it so that Demetrius and Helena love each other. He lifts the spell on Titania, who sees that she has been in love with a donkey! Bottom’s donkey head disappears!
- The two couples get married. The Mechanicals perform their terrible play and Oberon and Titania become friends again.
Poetry and performance
In the retelling, Robin says she is great at magic spells. Children could write their own spells with titles such as ‘A spell to turn someone into a donkey’, ‘A spell to make people fall in love at first sight’, ‘A spell to impress your older brother’ etc. Children could perform their spell-poems and they could be collected in a book of class spells.
English - creative writing
Children could write a sequel to the retelling, incorporating some of the elements that this retelling doesn’t include. Perhaps Nick Bottom could plan a Midsummer Camp show but it all goes horribly wrong. Perhaps Robin could put Smoochie Flower juice on Tania’s eyes to make her fall in love with Nick Bottom. What will Obie think if that happens? Mind map ideas and use scaffolding to help the children write their own Midsummer Camp inspired story.