“Now is the wall down between the two neighbors.”*

*from Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Act V, Scene 1.

Justin Alexander, who started the American Shakespeare Repertory in 2009, posted on August 31st that year:

“…I think there’s also something perverse about looking for problems where none exist when there are plenty of places in Shakespeare’s works where we have actual problems… some of them without any clear solution.

In Act 5, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream there is a play-within-a-play. During that play, the character of Wall exits the stage and one of the audience members says, “Now is the mural down between the two neighbors.”

Or, at least, that’s what it says in many modern editions of the play.

But we have only two primary sources for A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The First Folio (1623) and a quarto edition (1600).

The 1600 Quarto reads: “Now is the Moon used between the two neighbors.”

The 1623 First Folio reads: “Now is the morall downe between the two neighbors.”

These lines don’t make any sense. Clearly something is wrong. In 1725, Alexander Pope — the first English poet to make a living from sales of his published work — produced an authoritative edition of Shakespeare’s plays. In that edition, he created the emendation “mural down”.

But using the word “mural” to mean “wall” was something that Pope made up out of wholecloth. (In many dictionaries you will, in fact, find the origin of this definition cited to A Midsummer Night’s Dream.) But what are the odds that Shakespeare made up a word, the typesetters screwed it up, and then Alexander Pope reinvented it?

Many modern editions (including, for example, the Oxford edition) instead render this line as: “Now is the wall down between the two neighbors.” In doing so, they are imitating a line Bottom has later in the scene, when he says, “No, I assure you, the wall is down that parted their fathers.” Is that right? I dunno. It certainly sounds more plausible to me than “mural”. On the other hand, it has a significant influence on Bottom’s line — so if it isn’t right, the impact is felt beyond this single line…”


“…At the CSCE conference in Helsinki in 1975, the SED agreed in principle, albeit without wanting to admit it, to the rights of people to move freely and enjoy freedom of travel. Afterwards, more and more GDR citizens submitted applications to immigrate permanently to West Germany. An opposition movement also developed in the 1980s that expressed pointed criticism of the political and social conditions in the GDR. The general public, angered by environmental pollution and economic stagnation, turned away from the SED state. Similar developments were taking place in other Eastern Bloc countries, such as Poland, where the independent trade union Solidarność achieved national recognition in November 1980. After Mikhail Gorbachev became General Secretary of the Communist Party in the Soviet Union in 1985, the political situation in the Eastern Bloc slowly began to change. Gorbachev introduced internal political reforms to solve serious economic and social problems. In 1988 he abandoned the Brezhnev Doctrine, a central political principle of Soviet foreign policy that demanded limited sovereignty of the Warsaw Pact nations. This change allowed the Eastern Bloc states to set their own national policies. Hungary’s shift towards the West led it to demonstratively dismantle its border fence on May 2, 1989. The first hole was made in the “Iron Curtain.”
The SED was not interested in adopting the Soviet Union’s reform course in the GDR. But the country’s growing protest movement and the migration wave to the West in the late 1980s brought the dictatorship to an end in 1989. The SED had been compelled to make concessions, such as opening up travel to its citizens. When a new travel law was mistakenly announced on November 9, 1989, crowds rushed to the border, which was opened under the onslaught of so many people. The fall of the Wall led to the ultimate collapse of the GDR.

The demolition of the Wall began soon after the border opened. So-called “wall peckers” broke off pieces of concrete as souvenirs. New border crossings were created, leaving behind large gaps in the Wall. Border soldiers began dismantling the signal fence and other border obstacles. Both the GDR government and the border troops began thinking about ways of marketing the Wall. Pieces of the Wall were sold all over the world.
In June 1990 the systematic dismantling of the border grounds began at Ackerstrasse, between the districts of Wedding (West Berlin) and Mitte (former East Berlin), and was basically finished by the year’s end. The East Berlin magistrate placed the first sections of the Wall, including the section on Bernauer Strasse, under protection as a historical monument in 1990.”

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