Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Midsummer Night

Midsummer in the Northern Hemisphere falls on June 21, although Midsummer Day is traditionally on the feast day of St John the Baptist, June 24. This period, particularly St John's Eve, is ripe with Legends and Folklore, some no doubt arising from the notion of Midsummer madness, traditionally attributed to the workings of the supernatural. On Midsummer's Eve all the sprites, hobgoblins and Fairies become manifest and play their tricks. Similar stories relate to Mayday Eve and Walpurgisnacht. The most famous use of this is in A Midsummer Night's Dream (performed 1596; 1600) by William Shakespeare, where Oberon and Puck play their games on Theseus's wedding party. Other examples include: "St John's Eve" (1831; vt "The Witch") by Nikolai Gogol, where the Devil plays to humanity's greed and evil on that night; "Midsummer" (in Ornaments in Jade coll 1924) by Arthur Machen, where a young man witnesses a ghostly procession; and "How Pan Came to Little Ingleton" (in Nights of the Round Table coll 1926; vt "Mr Minchin's Midsummer") by Margery Lawrence, where Pan tempts a rigidly puritan vicar back to more homely ways. J B Priestley wrote the libretto for Sir Arthur Bliss's comic opera The Olympians (1949), about the Greek Gods coming alive once a century on Midsummer Day; he also chose Midsummer for his play Summer Day's Dream (performed 1949; 1950), a Visionary Fantasy of mankind returning to Nature. [MA]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.