Summary: Imagery Throughout The Play A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Categories: William Shakespeare

Imagery is one of the many literary devices that is used all throughout literature, it consists of detailed descriptive languages that function as a way to guide and help the reader create a different world through piece of literature, in order for the reader to immerse themselves into the play, or piece of rhetoric. Imagery produces and adds symbolism to the literature. Its known that imagery deals with the five senses throughout literature, taste, smell, sound and sight, these all work together to help readers create, again, that mental image that places them into the play.

The greatest writer in the English language, William Shakespeare uses a lot of imagery throughout his plays. A comedy play written by Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, portrays imagery throughout the play revolving around the four main characters who are all involved in a very confusing love scandal. Shakespeare uses a lot of the sight sense from the imagery literary device, in a Midsummer Night’s Dream.

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The sight sense serves as a major theme throughout the play, representing the various consciousness and understanding of things that the individuals go through and how they observe things.

The sight sense is seen a lot through the play in numerous ways. The aspect of sight shapes and revolves around the play as a whole. A Midsummer Night’s Dream takes place in Athens, and it gyrates around the marriage, the relationship, and the friendship between the characters. Specifically, Titania, Lysander, Helena, Hermia, Hippolyta, Demetrius, and Oberon relationships.

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The sight sense is what literally changes the point of view of all the individuals towards each other. The characters all changed their perspective on each other throughout the play, when we are introduced to the fairies and the love potion that changes the fate of all of the characters. We are presented with Oberon, who is the Fairy king, who is telling Puck also named Robin Goodfellow, his jester, about how he saw cupid shoot an arrow and missed the target making this powerful love potion that when placed on someone’s eyes while they are asleep, and when they wake up they will fall in love with the first person they see. Similar to the cliché of having love at first sight. Oberon gives this powerful potion to Puck to place on Titania eyes, so that she can give up her infatuation with the orphan child and pay attention to Oberon. As Puck doses Titania eyes with the potion, Oberon says, “Be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull, on meddling monkey or on busy ape— She shall pursue it with the soul of love. And ere I take this charm from off her sight,” Oberon was wishing bad upon his lover, and he wanted her to fall in love with something terrible and ugly. Hoping that in her phase of being masked by the idea of love through the potion, he can convince her to give him the little boy and then after that he will undo the spell and redeem the love they both shared without the orphan child interfering, as Oberon saw him as a threat to the love him and Titania had together.

This magic love potion is meant to not only have the effect of love at first sight but to also alter or impair the vision. The potion altered Titania’s vision, so she is unable to see her lover, Bottom who has the head of a donkey, for who he really is. The mind and the eyes both compliment each other throughout the play. As they are both meaningless and lack the judgement needed to fully understand what’s going on. The eyes and the mind both lead the characters in and out of love with a vast imagination that their significant other is perfect and without flaw. Helena in the beginning of the play states, 'Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.'Love is stimulated not by the suggestion of the sense of heart, but by the desire and urge of the mind. Shakespeare wants the audience to know that love is an emotional relationship, one that deals with the heart, rather than with the attributions of the mind. Love does not depend on the sight of physical attraction because it’s an emotional bond. The quote itself is meant to help readers understand that it doesn’t matter what the person looks like, because it’s who they are on the inside that counts. The quote is ironic regarding Titania and Bottom. Titania falls in love with Bottom, after Bottom’s head has been changed to that of a donkey’s, yet his character is not admirable or kind, referring to the wish Oberon has made, that Titania should fall in love with a beast or monster of any sort. There is no reason for Tatiana to love Bottom, emotionally and physically. When the spell is uplifted from her and she is fully aware of her surrounding she says “Oh, how mine eyes do loathe his visage now!” She sees the donkey that Bottom has become because she is no longer blinded by the love potion and realizes that she has mistaken a beauty with the beast that Bottom was.

Another example of the idea that love disregards the sight sense, is seen between Hermia, Helena and Demetrius. Demetrius starts off with being in love with Hermia, and Helena is in love with Demetrius. When Helena follows Demetrius into the forest and tells her very nasty things about how looking at her makes him sick, and that he will never love her because he loves Hermia, basically degraded her as a human. Helena simply tells him that he is her world and that she is stating that she is willing to become his doglike companion following him around everywhere. When Puck gave Demetrius a dose of the potion, its then that Demetrius stopped relying on his eyes and realize on the inner personality of Helena, he found love in her. Demetrius was looking at both women through his eyes, looking at physical appearance rather than that of the emotional and heart connection that. Demetrius wasn’t finding his true love because he was seeing all the superficial characteristics of a person with his eyes, but after being medicated with the potion, he stops depending on his eyes for the physical attraction and sees the connection he and Helena share. Once the physical attraction, and the sight is taken out of factor Demetrius realizes the love Helena has for him and reciprocates it.

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the lovers appoint love with the sight sense basing it off of materialistic things, i.e. appearance. Through these acts Shakespeare portrays the theoretical perception of love. The love potion blinds the characters to the point where they can’t distinguish the truth form the false, and reality from the imaginative world. The vision of a person cannot go beyond the attraction, and that is why once the potion was placed, they were unable to use their eyes to see the appearance of the people they loved before the potion, and they see the person for things other than looks, like their heart, mind and personality. They develop a connection deeper than just the manifestation of what they look like. The human vision has its restrictions and limitations, it holds a certain threshold to what is seen and what is disregarded. When sight is disposed of love becomes viewed in a different perception than it did when just the sight was being put to use, towards just seeing someone’s appearance, It becomes a sort of pure innocent love that’s directly connected to the heart.

Not only does the sight sense represent a different perspective for the characters, but it also deceives them in a sense. When the characters fall in love at first sight after the potion has taken effect on them, they are, in a sense, being misled by their sight. When Lysander is mistaken for Demetrius and his eyes were laced with the potion, his eyes betray him by loving the wrong person. It becomes as if love creates this blind spot for the characters as they are unaware of how flawed their partners can be, and because of that they chose to turn a blind eye to these flaws and love them regardless. Similarly, to Titania who unwillingly, because of the potion, turned an unseeing outlook and fell in love with Bottom. Demetrius sightlessly fell in love with Helena. Lysander was in love with Hermia, but after being mistaken for Demetrius he unseeingly fell in love with Helena. Creating all these irrational unreliable conflicts between all the characters. Leaving them to depend on their heart, and the influences it has towards others. This symbol of sight and eyes makes the idea love very inconsistent, unpredictable, and it can change with the literal blink of an eye. This inconsistency creates, as mentioned before, this imaginative world where anything is possible. A dream like atmosphere, that creates a real experience. It creates a dream like escape where things happen that are not meant to happen in the beginning.

When the potion is placed on the eyes of the individuals, to create that cliché of love at first sight, it requires the person to sleep, and when they wake up, they literally and metaphorically awake with a pair of fresh eyes. They are seeing everything through a different lens, because of the potion. They woke up with a new vision towards everything, including the people they thought they loved and the people they thought they hated. This new vision gave them this new ocular power and the illusion to see things for the opposite of what they are. Titania saw bottom as a handsome prince rather than a human with a donkey head, Demetrius saw Helena as his true love rather than what he assumed at first was an obsessed crazed girl, and even Lysander woke up super confused as to why he loved someone he never considered loving in the first place. Waking up with a pair of fresh eyes gave the characters a new sense of reality and made them think of others with clarity and clearness. This new vision on love, and who to love can be compared to a patient who suffered a lot from terrible eyesight and when given the right pair of glasses they were able to see the world though a different lens, and suddenly things were much clearer for them.

This dream like ambiance can come from the play title itself, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and even the monologue that Puck, Robin Goodfellow, gives towards the end of the play. “If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended, That you have but slumbered here, While these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream, Gentles, do not reprehend; If you pardon, we will mend.” This soliloquy is meant for the audience, Puck addresses them and apologizes for the terrible things that have happened throughout the play that left the audience wondering why Puck caused all of this. Puck tells the audience that they can chose to believe that this is all a dream. The dream scenario is what, most likely, makes the most sense to the audience because of all fantasies and magical realm they are put in with the characters of the play. This ties back into when the characters were released form from the potion, they were under, they described their actions as if they were in a dream. The devotees of the play believed that all the crazy things that happened to them and all the horrible events they experience were all part of these crazy dreams. Shakespeare wants the audience to know that it’s hard to tell the difference between reality and the fantasy world, that at some point in our lives our dreams do come true and that there is a probability that our reality can be nothing more than a daydream. These dream-like situations are also what the characters experience when they awake and find everything back to normal.

They claim that everything they experienced is just a dream, and something that they can’t quite fully explain because it’s so unrealistic and inconsistent. Titania when is rid of the spell, she awakes and claims “My Oberon! what visions have I seen!” When Bottom wakes up, he states “I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream past the wit of man to say what dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was—there is no man can tell what. Methought I was…It shall be called “Bottom’s Dream,” because it hath no bottom;” Lysander states “My lord, I shall reply amazèdly, Half sleep, half waking. But as yet, I swear, I cannot truly say how I came here.” All of these characters can’t fully expand on what they experienced because they were terrible memories that can only be deemed as crazy dreams and imaginations. The audience as well as the lovers may have chosen to believe the words of Puck and think of it as a dream because it’s very magical and that everything that has happened throughout the play cannot be a realistic image, or even fully expanded on because of the incapability of the human vision.

The illusions and dreamy like scenes are also stated in the beginning of the play when the character Hippolyta states “Four days will quickly steep themselves in night; Four nights will quickly dream away the time;” giving the readers this foreshadowing of an aspiration like consequence. She is also hinting to the idea that the dreams often happen when they are asleep, and therefore they will pass quickly, as night time passes quickly as well. This recurring dream symbolizes, once again, the crazy reality these characters experiences and how they are unable to explain to anyone these wild and whacky events that happened to them, because they are simply not believable. Who would believe that Lysander left his true love for someone that is already in love with a different character, and vice versa for Demetrius? Better yet who would imagine that a beautiful fairy like Titania would fall in love with a half donkey half human beast?

The theory that our eyes are inconsistent and often change depending how we perceive things. The lover’s eyes are deceiving them and distorting the images they see of each other in order to try and create a different connection that doesn’t orbit around the physical attraction of a character. Shakespeare highlights the power of vision throughout this play through the alteration of sight. Its comparable to when a person has a horrible day that might have been filled with a lot of running around, and just overall exhaustion this day will be considered a dream to some people, that when they wake up the next day none of whatever has happened to them the previous day will seize to exist. It’s the whole theory that our eyes betray us into believing that we have created a new illusion to reality because the human vision is incapable of creating images beyond the comprehended limit, the potion helps the audience and characters see this new-found reality where anything is possible.

Updated: Feb 02, 2024
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Summary: Imagery Throughout The Play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. (2024, Feb 02). Retrieved from

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