Essay, Pages 4 (858 words)
How does Shakespeare use the two settings of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ to explore the two sides of human conciousness This essay will be discussing the play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, written by the popular playwright William Shakespeare. The play is a romantic comedy, it addresses many issues that were around in the period it was written. These issues include such things as women’s rights and the dominance of male society and quite severe class divides.
The play is set in two different places, the domestic and public sphere, represented by the city of Athens and the home, this is the waking concious world where there are rules and regulations and everyone has a set place, the other setting is the woods, this is the subconscious world ruled by fairies and full of magic, in this world anything can happen, people change roles in society and spells are cast.
This essay will be discussing the importance of these factors and also discussing aspects of control and other topics that are visible throughout the essay.
We see the first aspect of control in the play in the first act of scene one, when Theseus is talking to Hippolyta in his palace the day before the wedding: “Hippolyta, I wooed thee with my sword, And won thy love, doing thee injuries; But I will wed thee in another key, With pomp, with triumph and with revelling. ” This shows that Duke Theseus sees Hippolyta as a possession and a trophy that he won in battle, even this early in the play we can clearly see large aspects of male dominance which escalates throughout and shows how men were socially above women and are dominant in the waking concious world of Athens.
This immediately shows the audience that Theseus is at the top of society and sets the places of the characters. This control was normal in the time period as women were seen as subordinate. This is a restriction that is applied in the restriction boundaries of human conciousness. There is other aspects of control in the play but from different sides of society and not necessarily over females, this is shown when the mechanicals have to escape the city and Peter Quince says:
“But masters, here are your parts, and I am to entreat, request you, and desire to con them by tomorrow night; and meet me in the place wood, a mile without the town, by moonlight; there we will rehearse , for if we meet in the city we will be dogged with company” This shows that the mechanicals feel controlled and restricted by the city and feel unable to explore their artistic and more feminine side within the the boundaries and restrictions of the city.
The mechanicals can not show this side of themselves while in the city of Athens because females were oppressed and showing a feminine side would go against the rules of men being higher than women and seen as completely different species. This means they plan to escape to the woods and have to enter the subconscious world in order to explore their subconscious, hidden and more feminine side. This shows that the lower, less educated classes are dominated by the higher, rich side of society and need to leave this behind in order to practice.
This shows the audience the mechanicals have a small role in society and highly controlled as was normal in this period. Later on in the play when Lysander and Hermia escape to the woods closely followed by Helena and Demetrius, Helena starts to follow Demetrius to try and gain his favour and eventually his love. Demetrius tries to shoo Helena and shows the lack of rules in the woods when he says: “You do impeach your modesty too much, To leave the city and commit yourself Into the hands of one that loves you not; To trust the opportunity of night,
And the ill counsel of this desert place, With the rich worth of your virginity. ” This displays that the removal of rules and regulations in society is not always a good thing, although there would be freedom and no oppression, all protection would disappear because of the lack of rules. Although the the couple are in the woods without the regulations of the city roles have not completely reversed as Demetrius is still completely dominant, this is shown when he threatens Helena with rape and commands her to leave his company.
Helena has, as she entered the wood, become emotionally overpowered and has taken leave of all of her usual senses and composure. This shows that in the woods, normal human nature has been changed and emotion has taken over. Demetrius describes Helena’s virginity as ‘rich’, this shows that virginity was important at the time as women were seen as pure when going into marriage, this also means that Helena is seen as a possession and owned by men. When Demetrius says that Helena has commit herself into his hands this is showing that women were seen as fragile and things that must be protected by men who were seen as the stronger sex.