In the nineteenth issue of The Sandman, we learn how Dream made a deal with William Shakespeare, and it gave us one of the best plays in the history of the world. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read The Sandman.
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Sweet christ, this issue is just so ridiculously good. There’s so much about it that represents what I’m coming to love about The Sandman as a whole. Quite a few shows over on Mark Watches have inspired me to write about my love of fictional narratives offering up explanations for bits of history, so it’s absolutely no surprise that I would fall in love with an entire issue of The Sandman devoted to the idea that Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Let me first say that OH MY GOD I LOVE SHAKESPEARE. So this issue is like a dream come true. There are so many layers to it! It bends the reality of the story Shakespeare wrote in a way that lovingly accepts the premise of it! It deals with the moral implications of Dream interfering with time and history! It is gorgeously rendered and colorful! Help me I am full of so many feelings.
- I think one of the most entertaining things about The Sandman is the fact that Dream can choose to appear however he wants, and I think his outfit in this issue might be the most fabulous one yet.
- Until Dream ordered Wendel to open his door, I didn’t get why we were seeing this. Why would Dream commission this play? Why force these humans to act in the middle of nowhere? Why should I care? And then the creatures of Faerie are invited into the mortal world, and my brain instantly melted at the implications of this. I mean, first of all, it was kind of a sweet gesture on the part of Dream, wasn’t it? Like, he invites these beings from another dimension to see a play about themselves and their realm (sort of) just because? Ugh, see, it’s moments like this that make me want to be friends with Dream because as distant as he is, he can seriously be a good friend. Then I remember what he does if you get on his bad side, and I’m perfectly fine with him being a fictional character.
- oh my god oh my god these demons and faeries are basically Mystery Science Theater 3000 aren’t they? Statler and Waldorf for the Faerie world. I CAN’T DEAL WITH HOW HILARIOUS THIS IS TO ME.
- The human and faerie world interacting with one another, the same characters in the play watching themselves, Puck’s insistence on playing himselfâ€¦ no, for real, this might be the most clever thing Neil Gaiman has ever written, and I’ve seen “The Doctor’s Wife” like fifteen times since it aired.
- Sweet summer child, the entire subplot with Hamnet. WAY TO SHATTER MY HEART, GAIMAN. Fuck.
- Why doesn’t Gaia welcome the Faerie folk to earth anymore???
- No, for real, I adore that Dream has this moment with Titania where he vocalizes his fear that he’s actually done something terrible instead of good. I’d like to think that in the context of the history that’s happened since then, Dream did a good thing. But the very fact that Gaiman has his main character question himself like this is impressive to me. His self-reflection is a powerful moment in an already-strong story.
- “Things need not have happened to be true.” THANK YOU. THANK YOU FOR THIS BRILLIANT LINE, GAIMAN. And I’d like to think that what I’ve written about here on Mark Reads has driven home that point, too. Nearly everything I’ve read on Mark Watches has never happened and may never happen. That does not mean the fictional nature of these stories negates their impact on us. It does not mean that there is no truth in fiction. If anything, fiction has given me more wisdom than a thousand teachers, and without it, I don’t know that I could have become who I am today.
- Ending this with Puck’s monologue from A Midsummer Night’s Dream is just too brilliant for words. This issue is a monumental achievement of both fiction and literary criticism, and I hope Neil Gaiman is proud of it. I’d be proud to accomplish something like this.
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It might interest you to know that this issue won the World Fantasy Award for short story, if it didn’t say so in the book.
The absolute SCOPE of Sandman is incredible, isn’t it? I was surprised by all the worlds in Doctor Who — but Sandman and its multiple dimensions. I do love that Dream says that line — to be true. Because that’s who he is. Dream/Dream Lord/whatever, these dreams and ideas are EXACTLY WHAT HE’S ABOUT.