Barber, Cesar Lombardi. Shakespeare’s Festive Comedy: A Study of Dramatic Form and Its Relation to Social Custom. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972.
This study by the respected Shakespeare scholar C. L. Barber discusses the role festivals play in Shakespeare’s comedies. Seasonal festivals like May Day and Twelfth Night had both social and psychological importance during the Elizabethan period, and in this book Barber traces the relationship between the social customs of such festivals and the dramatic forms to which they helped give rise.
Bonazza, Blaze O. Shakespeare’s Early Comedies: A Structural Analysis. The Hague: Mouton, 1966.
Although dating from the 1960s, Bonazza’s study remains useful for its formal analysis of four Shakespearean comedies. In particular, Bonazza emphasizes the developments in Shakespeare’s craft, beginning with his experiments with form in The Comedy of Errors and concluding with his mastery of dramatic structure in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Briggs, Katharine M. The Anatomy of Puck. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1959.
This landmark study from renowned British folklorist Katharine Briggs provides an in-depth examination of fairy lore in the works of Shakespeare as well as the works of his contemporaries and successors.
Foakes, R. A., ed. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
This New Cambridge Series edition of the play includes a substantive introduction, which contains a useful discussion of the play’s composition and its numerous literary sources. The editor has also added a brief overview of recent stage and critical interpretations of the play.
Kehler, Dorothea, ed. A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Critical Essays. New York: Garland, 2001.
Kehler’s edited volume contains twenty-three essays that trace the play’s modern critical and performance history. The essays take a wide variety of approaches that draw on contemporary critical discourses such as feminist theory, queer theory, and poststructuralism.
Nevo, Ruth. Comic Transformations in Shakespeare. New York: Routledge, reprint edition 2005.
Initially published in 1980, Nevo’s study examines the “dynamic of comic form” that Shakespeare developed as he composed his first ten comedies, from The Comedy of Errors to Twelfth Night. Nevo emphasizes the roles the characters Falstaff and the Fool played in this development.
Rhoades, Diana. Shakespeare’s Defense of Poetry: A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986.
In her focused analysis of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and The Tempest, Rhoades explores the agonistic relationship between poets and politicians. In addition to providing insight into prominent characters and themes in these plays, her study also offers a useful examination of the relationship between literature and politics.
Thompson, Stephen P. Readings on A Midsummer Night’s Dream. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 2000.
Thompson has assembled a variety of sources to assist students of the play. Sources include a short biography of Shakespeare as well as essays on the play’s structure, themes, characters, and use of humor.
Young, David. Something of Great Constancy: The Art of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1966.
Based on his doctoral dissertation, Young’s book argues that despite being a comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a serious play whose significant artistic achievements are worthy of scholarly consideration. In particular, Young emphasizes how the play succeeds in synthesizing numerous opposing—or at least dissimilar—elements, such as English folklore and classical mythology.