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A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s plays that are more ‘light-hearted’. The play is entertaining and Shakespeare uses the genre of comedy to keep his audience interested. He uses several kinds of humour through out the play, and he covers three different storylines to make a complicated plot. The play includes: a love story, showing the changing relationships between four young people, a comic account of amateur actors struggling to rehearse and perform a very bad play, and a magical plot about a world of fairies, in which the king of the fairies (Oberon) quarrels with his queen.
Shakespeare’s choice of language enabled him to bring all kinds and classes of people into his plays, for example, Shakespeare uses romantic poetry with the lovers in the play and he develops a realism based on Christian folk plays with Bottom and his rustic comrades. It is Shakespeare’s clever technique of writing that allowed him to create a play that is set in Athens, and includes nobility, fairies, and workmen.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an example of how different styles of writing, characters, and realms of experience can be combined into one play to create an amazing plot for a wide range of people to enjoy.
Shakespeare’s choice of language also allowed him to explore the natural and supernatural, and he was able to create personalities and certain traits in a character just by using language, and that meant that he did not rely on elaborate stages and costumes to dazzle his audience.
Shakespeare’s plays depended on his audience to be imaginative and his ability to create places by mere words. Sixteenth century literature continues to excite the mind of readers, offering great language to captivate the imagination of audiences, but the reactions of an Elizabethan audience wouldn’t have been very similar to a 21st Century audience.
An Elizabethan audience would have been in awe of the emerging language in Shakespeare’s plays, but a 21st century audience would be more interested by props and elaborate theatres. In Shakespeare’s time theatre was a popular pastime attended by both common and wealthy audiences. Theatre was not just for an intellectual few, and Elizabethan audiences were attentive to the language, poetic images, and narrative speeches in plays. Theatres would use very few stage properties and almost no scenery, outdoor theatres surrounded a bare stage, and what characters said indicated who and where they were.
William Shakespeare made A Midsummer Night’s Dream entertaining by using poetry, detailed descriptions, and imagery: not by using stage tricks or costumes. Audiences are still able to appreciate the language and humour in this play, but in theatres that are more luxurious. Shakespeare’s themes and characters still relate to today’s society because he uses characterization successfully. For example, he presents Puck as a mischievous and unglamorous fairy, ‘hobgoblin’, whose behaviour is responsible for the complications between the four lovers.
Shakespeare also cleverly uses the character of Puck to communicate with the audience: “You have but slumber’d here”. This quote shows Puck talking directly to the audience suggesting that all the strange things they have witnessed have been “No more yielding but a dream”. The action of the play can be seen as a dream because the interaction characters have with the fairies is on a surreal and subconscious level. The play would not have the same entertainment value without the supernatural.
Without the magic, the four Athenian lovers who spend the night in a forest would have been left to live their lives, and there would be no entertainment or amusement. A Midsummer night’s dream is a play that reflects what was happening at the time of the play. This play most likely included a plot about magical creatures and metamorphosis because the Elizabethans strongly believed in the supernatural. Few aspects of sixteenth century life were not affected by the belief of witchcraft and fairies, and if you had sinned people believed that you may be possessed by something demonic.
The main theme in Act 1 Scene 1 is about the authority of parents and the law. The beginning of the play also highlights issues about the status of women in the sixteenth century. Women had very few rights and were treated as second-class citizens. Even educated females did not have full control of theft lives or a choice in which person they married. The father of the girl would usually choose a suitable match for her (usually being the wealthiest man available) and she was expected to marry him.
Women were also treated unfairly within the world of theatre; men would prefer playing the part of women rather than letting a female perform on stage. Act 1 Scene 1 of the play is full of examples of inequalities between men and women. Egeus brings his daughter Hermia to court because he wants her to marry Demetrius, who also lusts after her. Theseus tells Hermia that, under Athenian law, she must marry the man of her father’s choice, choose “single blessedness” (live in celibacy as a nun), or be sentenced to death. Theseus’s’ threat to Hermia is the reason for why the couple elope.
This decision consequently leads the lovers into another love-triangle influenced by the world of magic, and the misuse of magic by Puck. Hermia and Lysander face problems in their relationship because of the authority of the law and Hermia’s farther, Egeus. The relationship between Helena and Demetrius also highlights the inequalities between men and women. Demetrius seduces and abandons Helena, and this fact reveals that Hermia was right in her decision to go against her father, and not marry Demetrius, as her farther had suggested.
Helena keeps taking the abuse Demetrius throws at her because her love is irrational: “I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius, the more you beat me, I will fawn for you”. This quote reveals that Helena is being treated badly by Demetrius because he has used her, and is now taking advantage of her because she is just another woman to him. Shakespeare presents Demetrius as an unpleasant character who has no respect for women, and perhaps that is why in Act 5 Scene 1 Demetrius is the only character that is still under the influence of the love potion.
Theseus’ forthcoming marriage to Hippolyta, a lady warrior whom Theseus has defeated in battle, may have been Shakespeare’s ideal form of marriage, but it is yet again sending out a subtle message that supports the fact that women are weaker than men. The fact that Theseus had to conquer the queen of the Amazon to receive her hand in marriage suggests that Hippolyta had no choice but to marry the man who had beaten her in battle. Their relationship is not one of passion and love, but their wedding is the reason for the presence of the fairies and workmen in the forest near Athens, and it is Theseus’s command that drives the lovers there.
The opening scene of the play starts off seriously with a tragedy but it ends with a comical play. In Act 5 Scene 1 the problems between the four lovers have been resolved and after waking from their strange ‘dream’ Oberon had created for them Bottom, Helena, Demetrius, Hermia and Lysander are all bewildered at their recent experience. They can’t quite figure out whether it was all an illusion or reality. Theseus decides to watch the play within a play, Pyramus and Thisbe, because he appreciates the effort the workmen have put into the play.
The workmen are all very simple characters, named according to their personality, and once they have performed their play, although it is bad, the audience finds the performances of Bottom and his colleagues comical and amusing. Theseus may have wanted to laugh at the workmen and their performance but he understands that they have worked hard and is more forgiving than Hippolyta: “If we imagine no worse of them than they of themselves, they may pass for excellent men”. This quote helps Shakespeare to show the kind and generous side of Theseus.
Once the performance is over Puck and the fairies come out to bless the marriages, and the play ends with Puck’s epilogue. Puck speaks directly to the audience, suggesting that they have been asleep; he invites the audience to believe that, if they disliked the play, they just dreamed it: “No more yielding but a dream… now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue… ” This quote shows Shakespeare referring to the influence of imagination and fantasy on us all. Puck also mentions ‘shadows’ and he could be talking about fairies, or he could be talking on behalf of the actors that took part in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Shakespeare uses a number of different techniques to create humour in the play within a play, Act 5 Scene 1. One technique involves breaking the play’s illusion of reality: “You, ladies, you whose gentle hearts do fear the smallest monstrous mouse… then know that I one snug the joiner am a lion fell, nor else no lion’s dam… ” This quote shows that A Midsummer Night’s Dream breaks theatrical illusion (actors talk to the audience about this being a play) to create comedy. The play within a play is interrupted several times by explanations by the actors out of the fear that they might scare the audience.
Similes have also been used in Act 5, Scene 1 to comment on the play within the play, e. g. Hippolyta: “Played on his prologue like a child on a recorder”, Theseus: “His speech was like a tangled chain”. Similes can be used to describe performances. Hippolyta is comparing Quinces’ prologue to a child because she thinks that the play isn’t as professional as the workmen think it is. Other techniques that add humour to the play include ridiculous metaphors: e. g. ‘lily lips, cherry nose, cowslip cheeks’, excessive alliteration: e. g.
‘Come, blade, my breast imbrue: And farewell, friends; Thus Thisbe ends’, repeating a word excessively: e. g. ‘Now die, die, die, die, die’, and oxymoron: e. g. ‘Dainty duck, hot ice, etc. Shakespeare also uses alliteration to help outline key words in a sentence, and to create beautiful atmospheres. An example of alliteration in Act 2 Scene1 is: “And now they never meet in grove of green, by foundation clear of spangled starlight sheen. ” Alliteration is used at the end of both of these lines and creates a more memorable image of the surroundings.
Shakespeare also uses repetition to transform sentences into songs/chants; this makes the speech ‘fun’, e. g. Puck: ‘Up and down, up and down, I will lead them up and down. I am fear’d in field and town; Goblin, lead them up and down… ‘ The use of repetition and rhyme by Puck at the end of this scene is used to create a poetic and figurative effect. In which the natural world is described well. The fairy scenes are very entertaining. Shakespeare also uses juxtaposition: “For I am sick when I do look on thee”/”And I am sick when I look not on you.
” The action in the play can be seen as a dream because Shakespeare uses the theme of dreaming to ignore logical thinking. For example, the fairies could be large (Titania is in an embrace with bottom) or tiny (creep into acorn cups, make coats from bat fur, etc. ) This contradicting language may have been used to show that this is a part of an illusion/dream. Through out the play the theme of dreaming becomes very important because six characters fall asleep during the play, and even the title hints that the play is related to theme of dreams.
Shakespeare uses a lot of contrast through out the play to keep the audience engaged. He uses contrasting characters and settings: Helena is tall (“painted maypole”) while Hermia is short, Titania is beautiful and Bottom is ugly, day (light): Theseus and Hippolyta/night (darkness): Oberon and Titania, Athens and the forest, etc. Shakespeare also used the theme of difficult love to create more symmetrical and ‘balanced’ situations as the play progressed; by the end of the play the love triangle between the four lovers no longer existed.
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