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Midsummer Night’s Dream

Midsummer Night’s Dream

William Shakespeare, born in 1594, is one of the greatest writers in literature.
He dies in 1616 after completing many sonnets and plays. One of which is A
Midsummer Nights Dream. They say that this play is the most purely
romantic of Shakespeares comedies. The themes of the play are dreams and
reality, love and magic. This extraordinary play is a play-with-in-a-play, which
master writers only write successfully. Shakespeare proves here to be a master
writer. Critics find it a task to explain the intricateness of the play,
audiences find it very pleasing to read and watch. A Midsummer Nights
Dream is a comedy combining elements of love, fairies, magic, and dreams.
This play is a comedy about five couples who suffer through loves strange
games and the evil behind the devious tricks. This play begins as Theseus, the
Duke, is preparing to marry Hippolyta. He woos her with his sword. Hermia is in
love with Lysander. Egeus, Hermias father, forbids the relationship with
Lysander and orders her to marry Demetrius. Demetrius loves Hermia, but she does
not love him. On the other hand, Helena is in love with Demetrius. To settle the
confusion, Theseus decides that Hermia must marry Demetrius or become a nun. In
retaliation to her fathers command, Hermia and Lysander run away together.
Amidst all the problems in the human world, Titania and Oberon, the fairy queen
and king, continually argue about their various relationships that they have
taken part in. (Scott 336) Titania leaves Oberon as a result of the arguments.
Oberon is hurt and wants revenge on Titania. So he tells Puck, Oberons
servant, to put a magic flower juice on her eyelids while she is sleeping. This
potion causes the victim to desperately in love with the first creature that
they see. Oberons plan is carried out, but the potion is also placed on
Lysanders eyes. Lysander awakes to see Helena, who is aimlessly walking
through the woods, and instantly falls in love with her. She thinks that he is
making fun of her being in love with Demetrius, so she leaves and Lysander
follows. This leaves Hermia to wake up alone. Puck now has journeyed to the area
where several actors are rehearsing. He uses his magic to turn one of them into
a donkey, in hopes that Titania will awake to see it. Just as planned, she
awakes and falls in love with the donkey. Oberon and Puck overhear Demetrius and
Hermia arguing about their relationships and realize that they had made a
mistake. In hopes of solving the problem, Puck places magic juice on Demetrius
while he is sleeping. He awakes to Helena, who now has two men in love with her.
Hermia is devastated because Lysander does not love her anymore. Helena and
Hermia argue because Helena thinks that Hermia is in on the mens joke.
All four argue and leave. Puck persuades them to sleep all together and more of
the antidote is placed on the eyes of Lysander. Titania also receives another
dose of the potion, and awakes to her husband Oberon. A triple wedding is
planned and everyone is happy. (thinkquest.com 1-3) Throughout the play there
are many references to the gender and sex roles of the characters. As described
in the critical essay by Shirley Nelson Garner, the dominating male power and
strange sex roles of the characters is fluent throughout the play. The ordering
of the fairy, human, and natural worlds is a movement toward satisfying mens
psychological needs; but it also disrupts womens bonds with each other. The
argument between Titania and Oberon arises from Titanias focus of attention
toward a stolen Indian boy. Oberon uses his authority to force Titania to give
up the boy, and he is shocked when she disobeys him and leaves. Her attachment
to the boy is erotic, because she treats him similar to Bottom after she falls
in love with him by a spell. The underlying reason for Oberons complaint of
Titania and the boys relationship is that he secretly wants the boy for
himself. Oberon takes action because his power is threatened by Titanias love
for the boy. He needs her too, so he wins the boy for himself to make her feel
inferior. In other words, Titania gave up something that she loved to make her
husband happy. This is seen in everyday life, women give up their wants to make
their men happy. Titanias sacrifice for Oberon cost her to lose both her
Indian boy and his mother, her women lover. When men dont make women happy,
they turn to their friends for what they need, whatever it may be. (Scott
370-373) Male domination not only exists between husband and wife, but also
between father and daughter. Theseus will not allow Hermia to marry Lysander.
Theseus wants her to marry Demetrius. Egeus, a ruler, will force Hermia to
become a nun unless she marries Demetrius. In retaliation to his demands,
Lysander and Hermia run away together. Hermia is scolded by Egeus for being in
love with the man she chooses. This suggests that men cause women to feel forced
and obligated to do as they say. (Scott 373) Another example of male domination
is the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta. Theseus first wife was frail and
yielding, and he divorced her. Hippolyta has been a warrior, and Theseus
victory over her makes her unable to resist. By conquering the female warrior
and marrying her, he fulfills his need for the exclusive love of a woman while
satisfying his homoerotic desires. Close bonding fulfills this homoerotic desire
with a male companion, such as Demetrius and Egeus. (Scott 373-373) Male
jealousy and need for dominance ruins womens relationships with friends and
also turns to brutality. Hermia and Helena were once intimate friends, but
Helena is suspicious of Hermias involvement in the mens joke. Bonds
between women are just as important as mens bonds with each other, but
jealousy leads to the end of womens happiness. When Helena pursues Demetrius,
his male brutality is revealed when he rejects her for another woman, insults
her, and threatens to rape her. Also, when the men fall in love with her, she
feels like the butt of a joke. This stirs female insecurity and pain,
again caused by previous abuse from men. The submissive nature of women enables
Hermia and Helena to bear their lovers abuse. (Scott 374-376) The
reconciliation between Titania and Oberon, at the end of the play, brings
blessing to the human world. This suggests that the happiness of the world
depend on the amount of love between couples. The problems caused suggest the
heterosexual bonding is best. Just as women have insecurities, men feel that if
women joined together there will be no need for men, possibly excluding them or
preferring the friendship and love between women to a man-woman relationship.
This fear is partially based on reality, but also by projection. Since men have
stronger bonds with each other, they exclude women from participation in tings
in which they care about; they assume that woman, if granted the opportunity
would do the same. Mens main belief is that separating and conquering women
is the only way to keep their power. (Scott 376) The essay written by George A.
Bernard shows the fantasy and reality issues in the play. The fantasy world and
real world exist apart from each other, never meeting at any point. The
inhabitants of the fairy world are unreal in the sense that they lack feelings
and intelligence. The dream world, beyond mortals comprehension, strongly
influences the entire realm of ordinary life. By nature of their humanity,
Oberons power causes vulnerability in the human world. This fairy kingdom is
essentially a dream, which appears whenever reason goes to sleep, and during
this time Oberon controls all things. Such illusions and dreams, created by
Oberon, can be dangerous if they block out humans perception of reality. As
the play proves, these dreams perform an important function in life. (Scott 381)
Fairies, part of the fantasy world, live in the kingdom in the vague, dream-like
East. In this area, legends, myths, and impossible stories originate. This
placed is more commonly called the dream world. The East exists both
during and after sleep. The fairies bring the stories to you from the East. The
fairies never think and love, which explains all of the deceit and odd events
that go on during the play. This is acceptable in their world, because all the
laws that govern the world of reality have no existence in the dream world. The
lovers fall between these two worlds and are affected by both. The fairies
make fools of the lovers, because humans are no accustomed to the fairys
realm. In the real world, Hermia is sensible and Lysander is reasonable. They
want to be together even against Egeus commands, which is reasonable
thinking. As soon as the two are alone, imagination takes control of them and
they are blinded as to the misfortunes that are bound to cross the course of
true love. This causes them to run away. (Scott 382-385) Mark van Doren explains
the language and poetry in A Midsummer Nights Dream as an immense
expanse of Shakespeares extraordinary poetic imagination. This imagination is
vast enough to house fairy realms and the world of reality, including all the
peculiar manifestations of either place. Also the ability to describe the
separate and often quite dissimilar regions of the plays universe by drawing
on the rich resources of poetry. The words moon and water dominate the poetry of
the play. (McIntosh 3) four happy days bring in another moon: but, O, me
thinks, how slow. This old moon wanes! She lingers my desires (McIntosh 1-3).
As a result of their enormous allusive potential, these images engender am
entire network of interlocking symbols that greatly enrich the text. The moon,
water, and wet flowers conspire to extend the world of the play until it is as
large as all imaginable life. The moon and water also explain the plays
mystery and naturality. The lovers fall in and out of love like dolls, and
like dolls they will go to sleep as soon as they are laid down. (McIntosh 3-4)
Since the world is very large, there is plenty of room for mortals and fairies.
Both are at home and sometimes seem to have exchanged functions with one
another. Also, both mortals and fairies move freely in their own worlds.
In this world, the moon governs. (McIntosh 4) The choice of ballad emphasizes
the enormous difference between the intellectual and cultural assumptions of
Bottom, the author and the audience. Meanwhile the definite movement from
spiritual transformation to dream is referred to as art. This mirrors the
informing structure design of the play as a whole. The art form now becomes a
way containing and triumphing over unbearable reality. Consider, then, we
come but in despite. We do not come, as minding to content you, Our true intent
is all for your delight, we are not here. (McIntosh 5) A Midsummer
Nights Dream is a play concerned with dreaming. Shakespeare reverses the
categories of reality and illusion, sleeping and waking, art and nature, to
touch upon the central theme of dreams. Dreams are truer than reality because it
has a transforming power. Dreams are a part if the fertile, unbounded world of
imagination. The Athenian lovers flee to the wood and fall asleep, entering a
charmed of dream. After their eyes were anointed, the world of supernatural at
once takes over the stage, controlling their lives in a way they cannot guess
at. The dreams come true, but are made to appear fruitless. Without
knowing the dimension of dream in our lives, there can be no real
self-knowledge. (Garber 59-62) Delusion is the prelude to illusion. Lysander
should produce this speech at a point when his actions are completely
supernaturally or subconsciously controlled without the slightest hint of either
reason or will. Reason has no place in the dream state, and when characters
attempt to employ it, they frustrate their own ends. (Garber 62-63) The memory
of the dream itself is vague, because as the mind tries to rationalize what has
been dreamed it only distorts the image. The instinct of the mind sets
boundaries, while the process of dream blurs and obliterates those boundaries.
(Dutton 51) The pattern of the play is controlled and ordered by a series of
vital contrasts: the conflict of the sleeping and waking states, the interchange
of reality and illusion, reason and imagination, and the disparate spheres of
the influence of Theseus and Oberon. All is related to the portrayal of the
dream state. (Garber 65-72) In this dramatic world where dreams are a reliable
source of vision and insight, consistently truer than reality, they seek to
interpret and transform. (thinkquest.com 1) The imagery establishes the dream
world in A Midsummer Nights Dream. The night creates a mysterious mood.
At night, the fairy realm takes control. These fairies are brainless and
deceitful, which leads to controversy between the mortals. The two worlds,
united by moonlight, are active during their respectable times of the day. In
the play, the fairy world is dominant, because there is only one scene
containing daylight. The sounding of the horns while the sun rises announces the
return of mortal sanity. The setting is imagery itself. The forest, with
flowers, water, and the rest of nature seems to be away from the human world.
This is a necessary setting for the dream world. (Draper 3173) The main theme in
the play is dreams. As discussed before, dreams are truer than reality because
they are part of the unbounded world imagination. (Magill 26) The fairies
control the dreams; therefore they control your state of mind. Also a
love-madness theme weaves together unrelated portions of the play. Shakespeare
creates unity by flooding the play with moonlight. (Kenneth 29) Irony is a large
element in the play. Many of the situations are ironic. Instead of attracting
and falling in love with a gentlewoman, Theseus won Hippolyta with his sword.
Also, Helenas affection for Demetrius seems to make him hate her, but the
hatred eventually turns to love. Helena constantly pursues Demetrius, just as
deer chase tigers in the dream forest. Demetrius cruel treatment ironically
compels her to love him more. The fairy world has greater impact than the real
world. This is ironic because the fairies have no intelligence or emotions like
mortals. (Dutton 32-34) A Midsummer Nights Dream is said to be the most
romantic of Shakespeares comedies. The fantasy world and erotic nature of the
play draws interest to the play. This interest leads to the making of several
different movies, and countless number of theater performances. The viewing of
the play adds to its dramatic nature, allowing first hand contrast between how
we felt and how someone else felt about the text. (Dutton 147-150)
Shakespeares masterpiece, A Midsummer Nights Dream, parallels with
Romeo and Juliet. The similarity in characters and the plot suggest that
Romeo and Juliet was written before A Midsummer Nights Dream.
This play is a natural reaction of Shakespeares mind to Romeo because of his
attitude toward love and life. (Draper 3152) The similarities between the
beginning of the Dream and the main situation of Romeo and Juliet are obvious.
The forbidden love, deceit, and pain are all elements in the comparison. This
suggests that Shakespeare borrowed and condensed material from Romeo and
Juliet. The two fathers, Capulet and Egeus, give the same orders to their
daughters. Capulet: An you be mine, Ill give you to my friend. An you be
not, hang, beg, starve, die in the streets. Egeus: As she is mine, I many
dispose her: Which shall be either to this gentleman or to her death. (Magill
72-75) Egeus is less brutal, but just as threatening as Capulet. Lysander and
Hermias artificial complaint of love, the first in a series of hindrances in
the course of true love. This is evidently a recollection of Romeo and
Juliet. Mercutios description of Queen Mab seems to have clearly been
borrowed from A Midsummer Nights Dream. It has exquisite delicacy and
daintiness of the Dream, but is not an integral part of Romeo and Juliet.
One element shared between the two plays directly is the moon. In Romeo and
Juliet, the moon brings the two star-crossed lovers together at night. The
Moon unites the mortal and spiritual worlds in A Midsummer Nights
Dream. The two catastrophes are almost identical, making it strange that he
wrote a serious play directly after the comedy. (Magill 74-76) Many people, due
to its magical plot, read A Midsummer Nights Dream. Shakespeare
wonderfully combines mystery, love, disaster, and comedy into one play. This
play is the most romantic and intricate plays written by Shakespeare. Many
people, past and present, find it to be popular due the interesting elements and
storylines in the play.


Draper, James P. Critical Essays on Major Shakespeare Plays. World
Literature Criticism. 1992. Dutton, Richard. A Midsummer Nights Dream. New
York: St. Martins Press, 1996. Garber, Marjorie B. Dream in Shakespeare: From
Metaphor to Metamorphosis. London: Yale University Press, 1974. Kenneth, Muir.
Shakespeare the Comedies: A Collection of Critical Essays. New Jersey:
Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1965. Magill, Frank N. A Midsummer Nights Dream.
Masters of World Literature. 1989. McIntosh, Heather S. Critical Essays on
Shakespeare Plays: A Midsummer Nights Dream. www.calpoly.edu/libraryservices.com,
1999. Scott, Mark W. and Joseph C. Tardiff. Shakespeare for Students. Detroit:
Gale Research, Inc., 1992. A Midsummer Nights Dream. www.thinkquest.com,

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