Solstice of Midsummer

Busy week! Bloomsday last Tuesday, Juneteenth yesterday, and now here comes the Midsummer solstice this evening of the 20th. It is the moment when the sun reaches its zenith at the Tropic of Capricorn, and this time around, it occurs at 5:44 PM Eastern Daylight Time. More or less––the precise moment will depend upon where you’re at within your time zone. But you get the general idea. It brings the arrival of summer by the almanac, though in traditional circles we think of this as midsummer, for once this moment passes, already the days are beginning to decrease in daylight, and in the constant rearrange––each day being slightly different than the one before and the one to follow––we are on the way now toward winter.

The calendar will continue to be busy. In Sweden and other Arctic countries, it is the annual Midsommar celebration. Here in the States, it is Father’s Day on Sunday. And the celebration of Midsummer in other places is set around St. John’s Eve on June 23 and St. John’s Day on June 24, celebrations you might think of as opposite sides of the coin from Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. In fact, the early Church assigned the birth of Christ to the days that follow the Midwinter solstice, and the birth of St. John the Baptist to the days that follow the Midsummer solstice. This was done by design: Christ is depicted as the Light of the World, coming in the darkness of Midwinter. Legendary magic attends both: at midnight on Christmas Eve, animals are said to speak or kneel and pray, and St. John’s Eve is the setting for William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Some will say it’s set at May Day, but I would disagree, and so would Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, which is currently closed due to Covid-19 quarantine, yet streaming for free, online, until June 28th, its 2013 production of the A Midsummer Night’s Dream… the photo above is a promotional shot from the play (and please join me in making a donation there, if you can, in exchange for the performance––the Globe operates thanks to the support of those who visit, and right now, no one is visiting).

Glad Midsommar to you, solstice greetings. A very happy Father’s Day to all our fathers––those that were given to us and those that we’ve chosen. My dad, he used to joke about it, calling it Jack Ass Day, a habit he picked up from his own dad, my grandfather, Lazzaro Cutrone. I never got to meet that grandpa––he died long before I was born. I think of that sometimes. I see pictures, and a few home movies, and he looks like a great guy. I think about the children of my nephews: how they all knew my dad, their great grandfather, and that makes me happy. And then I get to wondering about the great celestial workings: our planet spinning on its axis, orbiting the sun, the sun spinning as well, the Milky Way spinning, too, in the even greater mechanics of the expanding universe. Sometimes it makes my head hurt, and sometimes I have a fleeting grasp that it’s all connected: you and me, the people we love, the planets and stars to the edge of the universe, and even the parallel ones, as well.

If I can, I’ll write again come St. John’s Eve. Happy Midsummer.


5 thoughts on “Solstice of Midsummer

  1. Michael Coughlin says:

    Not sure how you can mention anything about Shakespeare in a positive tone. His theater should be leveled-or at least, renamed, according to the cancel culture. You do know, don’t you, that he was a confirmed racist just as much as Robert E. Lee or Stonewall Jackson? For shame! When you virtue signal, be consistent!

    • John Cutrone says:

      Hi Michael, and thank you; actually, I did not know this. I have long loved A Midsummer Night’s Dream but honestly have not delved deeper into Shakespeare’s work beyond the few plays we were taught in high school, which, at the time, did not interest me much––but not much did, back then. This conversation does interest me, though, and I’ve begun reading more into this, just tonight, thanks to your comment. There are a good many scholarly articles posted at the Globe’s website about this topic. One alarming statement from the Globe: “Shakespeare’s work has been put to sinister use in the past, co-opted by white nationalism.” I assure you I am the last person who would want to support white nationalism. I’ve also learnt in the past few weeks that we often fail in unintentional ways.

      There is a lot for me to read, and I am going to. I still love this play, but I promise to learn more. Thank you.

  2. professor betty gray says:

    I think The Globe is not the same today, women are after all allowed to perform on that stage, which was not the case in Shakespeare’s own life time. There are productions of many Shakespeare plays that have black actors and women are playing parts of men in some plays. As for interpreting Shakespeare’s plays and the attitude of the English audience of the Elizabethan Period, it would be safe to say that the English had a great fear of “foreigners.” “Ethiope” and “tawny Tartar” come to mind from Midsummer Night’s Dream —so should we not perform that and of course there’s Othello ( who is viewed as the victim by many) and The Jew of Malta. Shakespeare was somewhat a mystery as a person, he did just up and leave his home and head off to London to work in the theatre, which is “suspect” in itself! Some people think he didn’t even write all that stuff by himself, and some “researches” have convinced themselves that he was Marlowe’s lover. But I would not “level” THE GLOBE!

  3. professor betty gray says:

    I appreciate Michael Coughlin’s post and I think a lot of black actors struggle with portraying characters from other time periods and an even greater sense of racism from those times. Chris Jackson from HAMILTON was really struggling with playing the character of George Washington as was David Diggs with Jefferson. There is no real end–you just learn as you go: —we get better –we learn more

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