Scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream

Scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream

This is a scene from a famous production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, produced by the actor-manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree. Spectacular scenic effects were all the fashion during the Victorian age, to the point where the action of the play was in danger of becoming secondary to the setting. Each scene was treated as a living picture and this kind of 'pictorial' staging involved detailed costumes and huge casts on vastly elaborate sets with sophisticated special effects. By the end of the 19th century, great store was set by how realistic everything looked and Tree's production was the epitome of this intention. Real grass covered the stage, and live rabbits scampered around to give the impression of a real forest. The actor playing Bottom became so irritated by being upstaged by a rabbit, that he caught it and made one entrance clutching it under one arm, whereupon it promptly bit him. Oberon, King of the Fairies, was played by a woman who sang his most famous speech, 'I know a bank where the wild thyme blows', and who wore a headdress fitted with electric lights.