Shakespeare and Steampunk
What in the world is steampunk (and how does it connect to “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”)? The Google Search definition of steampunk is “a genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology”.
So, then, Shakespeare’s comedic play becomes a steampunk retelling complete with intriguing characters, love triangles, and a world wrapped up in war. You might be thinking, “This doesn’t sound like my kind of thing,” or “This isn’t something I would normally read.” But take a moment to read Tabitha Rice’s review, and let her convince you otherwise…
In his 2015 novel, “A Midsummer Night’s Steampunk,” Scott E. Tarbet takes his readers on a journey through alternative Victorian England in a dramatic social commentary based on William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The Hub: Your Connection to Teen Collections, a teen collections blog for the Young Adult Library Services Association, describes some of the characteristics of a steampunk novel as, “[the main character] may be fighting for a cause or movement. Many times the plot of a steampunk novel involves good vs. evil, where the good guys and bad guys are clearly defined.” Mixing this particular characteristic of the steampunk genre and Shakespeare’s comedic love story makes for a depiction of social injustice that isn’t to be ignored.
The main characters, Pauline, or Hermia from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream;” Clementine, or Helena; Alexander, or Lysander; and Winston, or Demetrius, are fighting the forces of evil on the eve of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in a world where men who served in the military come back from war with mechanical attachments that condemn them to specific jobs and social exclusion for the rest of their lives. After teaming up with a band of these mechanized soldiers, the quartet fights against Doctor Malieux, one of the doctors who developed these alterations to the human form who has turned from his once noble pursuit to other more heinous ones, to keep him from developing a mechanized army ultimately devoted to the German Kaiser and plunging the world into war.
While she works with her friends to fight against this evil, Pauline also works to change the way mechanized men are seen in society. Because of Doctor Malieux’s experimentation on unconscious, wounded soldiers, it was not the mechanized men’s choice to exist as they are, especially not after Doctor Malieux moved from giving men new legs to changing their basic form completely. As such, Pauline believes the mechs, as they are called, don’t deserve the social judgement and ridicule they are receiving and makes it one of her ultimate goals to change the way her society perceives them.
Not only is this novel a fight between good and evil as well as a cry against ostracizing a group of people for no reason, it is also a flawless merging of alternative Victorian technology and one of William Shakespeare’s classic love stories. While it does have one flaw, namely the need for transferring a paper that is never brought up again, this novel is an excellent read for any Shakespeare enthusiast looking for a new twist on the Bard’s work. It is also an excellent choice for anyone looking to get into the steampunk genre.