A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of the wonderful works of playwright William Shakespeare. In its extraordinary flow of events many facts and concepts become apparent. The play can be said to be based on a romantic love theme with a drop of comedy as to give extra pleasure to the audience. However, there are many more to the play and more critically, there are smaller steps taken to form the actual object of the plot.
To examine that is what I intend to do in this essay. The play is set in two completely different places which sometimes, through compromise, do appear to be similar, they are; The city (Athens) and the Woods. It is in these two places I shall base my essay on, comparing how they affect the four lovers in their affairs, with its un-evolved law and its contaminated opinion or supernatural being meddling with the activities of human life. Love can be a complicated thing as quoted from the speech of Lysander (one whom was beloved of Hermia and loved her back) “Never did the course of true love run smooth”, but in absolute contrast love can be as easy as ABC, “Love and reason keep little company nowadays” Bottom. And as we all know, humans are not beings of super intellect, so in the presence of events occurring with such unexpectancy, there is a lot of confusion. I daresay, it does even cause havoc among the audience.
The play also consists of immense fantasy as well, which also has a contrast, in the city it can get as real as real (I suppose). The plot is of four lovers whom two are in deep love (Hermia and Lysander), a man (Demetrius) whom is infatuated with Hermia and Helena who once was the dreams of Demetrius, she loves him still. Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius and the law supports her father. Hermia and Lysander run away into the Woods, regarding it as the only way to live together. Demetrius finds out through the envy of Helena and follows in hot pursuit. In the following text, I shall come in consideration of the city and love.
As mentioned before, Hermia and Lysander were in love, however, due to the choice of Hermia’s father, they were restricted from their ‘happily ever after’ life. At thatt5 time, women were not given any rights what so ever. In this case the father (Eugeus), was given to him as possession as he says “She is mine, I may dispose of her”. The law in Athens has a great impact on peoples’ lives especially towards those like Hermia whom it composes a enormous threat to. As a possession of her father, she may be disposed of to his liking, or in simpler words; killed to the desire of her father. Eugeus’ choice was of that Hermia was to marry Demetrius, who was in love with her, but she didn’t return this. Love and freedom doesn’t come to any terms with the city, the ruthless law gives the father rights to decide his children’s lives as if possessions and are there for the father to gain respect and use them to promote his position in society.
The city allowed and encouraged people (in an indirect way) to take the urge to become self-indulgent. One way that I can prove that the law is as cruel as Eugeus is by quoting from Theseus Duke of Athens, “Either to the death or to abjure the society of men”. Hermia’s choice is reduced to a small point that allows only for her to choose the way she is to be punished by, ‘…or to abjure the society of men,’ this means that Hermia can no longer have any form of relation ship with a man or initially become a nun. Eugeus can not be moved from his opinion, even though Lysander presented his argument as, “I am, my Lord (Theseus), as well derived as he (Demetrius), which is more, I am beloved of beauteous Hermia.
Demetrius, all this time, has come in powerful opposition to the desires of Hermia and Lysander as he his persevering to uphold his love for Hermia. With the decision made by Theseus, in favour of the wishes of Eugeus, there is nothing for Hermia and Lysander to do to do but run away to a place that offers freedom. Freedom to such extent that it has no limits. The only place they could think of that matches such a ‘fairy-tale’ description is the Woods.
“We shall steal to the woods,” Lysander. Hermia and Lysander are guaranteed freedom in the woods. There are no humans there apart from themselves, therefore they are in rule of themselves, or simplified – freedom. The law of Athens can reach them here. At the moment it had become night and the forest was dark, and full of unknown arts of mystery. There is so much magic out there in nature, especially in the stillness of the night. However, this is a contradictory statement, magic has nothing to do with nature, but in this part everything seems to come in favour of it. After they had spotted a place in which came to their opinion of comfort to sleep for the night, Hermia doesn’t wish to sleep close together with Lysander.
“Stay away…in human modesty.” Hermia.
This gives evidence that due to the sudden appearance of freedom, the lovers are still quite not so adjusted to it. They still carry with them modesty and respect. This gives me more details on the characters of them. Lysander forgot all his modest and doesn’t keep in mind of that, he had taken this freedom for granted, although Hermia has got understanding on those issues and probably of more mature character.
When the lovers left from the city, they informed Helena of their plans, trusting her enough, having in their beliefs that she wouldn’t disclose their secret to anyone. Helena was in huge envy for the reality that Demetrius is in love with Hermia and she (Helena) was in love with Demetrius. It is the result of Hermia existing that she is in a position of unrequited love. Therefore, she transfers knowledge of what the lovers are planning to do to Demetrius, and he of course follows.
Magic plays an important role in the play and the forest contains fairies, super-natural beings and magic is in it most miraculous point. Oberon is the king of fairies and he spotted Helena chasing loving Demetrius in the woods while have none of that returned. As anyone would, how would you react after having this, “I feel sick when I look at you” Demetrius. “And I feel sick when I don’t look at thee” Helena. Therefore Oberon sent Puck (his henchman) to place a magic juice upon the eyes of Demetrius to fall in love with the first person he sees, which he speculated to be Helena. ” You will recognise him by the Athenian garments he hath on” Oberon.
Puck saw Lysander (with Athenian garments on) and what happened next was chaos, Lysander wakes up to see Helena and is infatuated in her. From that we can infer that the wood had done the opposite of what the lovers had dreamt of. Their love was far away from being secure, it was enduring immense threat. Hermia, at the time, had a dream of a serpent on her breasts and was calling Lysander for help. This dream symbolises that she was unprotected and alone, actually maybe the city was safer?
With the sudden inexplicable love of Lysander towards Helena, the relationship between Hermia and Lysander had collapsed. The freedom in the woods may have been too much? Anyone can do anything they like, anyone could harm any other, anyone could help another to their free will. This complete freedom determines the fact that freedom always has a dark cloud hiding in the future. At this stage the love is under great threat. Lysander’s love for Helena has no explainable cause.
This infatuation is clearly the works of magic, just a short time ago Lysander was prepared to give up his life for his love, Hermia, conversely now he says, “Not Hermia but Helena I love, who will no change a raven for a dove?”. This is most unexpected especially from someone who was in true love with Hermia. From my perspective, this is not true love, there is no reason, no equitable cause behind thus. This was caused by magic and could only be resolved by magic.
In the forest, the King of the fairies has great power and basically complete control, by his power and magical ability. We can see through quotes that Oberon is of a power-hungry character and would go to any limits to achieve what comes to his desires,
“Thou shalt not from this grove till I torment thee for this
Oberon is prepared to come in harm or opposition to his own wife (Titania), of which in this case is that he has the need of a henchman whom Titania is refusing to give unto him. Oberon with loathe, plots revenge. This occurrence can convey to us that no one should come against the will of the Fairy King and this could help us to gain an understanding of the effect of freedom in the forest. The forest does actually have a limit on desire, for Titania had not came to the acceptance of allowing the Indian boy to become one of Oberon’s henchmen. Titania, eventually, would be under compulsion to follow Oberon’s choice.
“…the juice of it (magic flower) on sleeping eyelids laid
will make or man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees.” Oberon.
The plan Oberon had conceived can be viewed upon as an exceedingly sharp-witted and impertinent plan, he had the intention of humiliating Titania, by arranging for her a beast to idolize and infatuate. Through his actions, especially this one, a concept of Oberon not regarding love as a main issue is emphasized. He is regardless of the actual point that he is her husband and is queer to see that he has no offensive feelings towards his wife loving another man.
I also wish to examine the effects and the happenings of Oberon’s plan. Surely, with such less admiration and regard of love, he did go to the most extreme in nature of plans, that not only would humiliate his wife but also put her under such fierce compulsion or provide a fierce distraction that Oberon would be able to acquire the Indian boy with enormous ease. Suddenly, in the play, I spotted that Titania fell in absolute infatuation with a man with the head of an ass. Such an occurrence is something that would be the last thing that could happen.
“Sleep though and I would wind thee in my arms.
Oh how I love thee! How I dote upon thee!” Titania.
In this quote Titania addresses Bottom (the man whom has the head of an ass) with infatuation, similar to that of Lysander’s towards Helena, with no equitable explanation behind it. How could the Fairy Queen in love with an ugly beast? Nonsense? At this crucial part of this play, everything points to the mischievous work of Oberon.
The woods had left that lives of the four lovers in utter chaos. The magical love potion of which Oberon used, displayed chaos and the wrecking of love, that was thought to be free in the absence of law and order. The terrible state the lovers are in demonstrates that magic is not always the solution to everything. At this stage of the play, many themes are unfolding, confusion, chaos. All the turmoil came apparent when all the lovers met. Both men (Lysander and Demetrius) have gone for Helena and would go to any means to make her their own, which we recall the beginning of the play is the entire opposite of what we had before.
“You cankerbossom!…You thief of love!” Hermia.
After watching how Lysander, whom was just in true love with herself, adoring Helena with tokens of infatuation, Hermia reacts very violently having no idea that none of this was of Helena’s planning and aims a fight with Helena. Everything surely must have not been sensual in Hermia’s mind, everything took place so suddenly.
Helena, however, was protected completely and Hermia was extremely vulnerable. “Or I may cause you (Hermia) harm” Lysander. Helena now runs away with two me trailing behind, whom shortly afterwards were followed by enraged Hermia.
After all, Oberon was hoping for the best, so tries to resolve all the chaos. If we look back, all the events in the play that have taken place in the woods have portrayed confusion and everything anyone had wished to happen smashed into pieces. The woods, judging by what happened before, contains too much freedom. That, perhaps, caused the lovers to be in such a painful situation. All of this provides evidence for the statement that the woods did no good for love. All it did was just cause harm to the lives of the lovers and be an ideal place for fraud and trickery. There is freedom in doing everything; freedom in generating harm and freedom in doing good. Unfortunately, the lovers fell into the dark side and disadvantage of the forest.
Things, nevertheless, are starting to take the good side of things, as mentioned before. Oberon did target for the best of the lovers. He had not acted in his own interests, but in theirs’. He firstly paired the lovers back to how they should have been: Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius. Now they had now come back to their original state, still with one problem ahead of them. Eventually, Oberon had decided to withdraw the magic potion from Titania’s sight, after which he had received what he had intended – the Indian boy.
“My Oberon! What visions have I seen? Methought
I was enamoured of an ass!” Titania
Titania’s reaction to the wakening of her senses was quite interesting indeed. The word ‘visions’ tells me that Titania is in thought of the previous events as dreams which may half be true, for magic is a dream-like thing and in dreams you don’t act within your free will, which is exactly the same with magic.
Returning to the situation of the lovers, they were found in the morning by Theseus in the morning accompanied by Eugeus. The lovers now could have had all their wishes and dreams corrupted and put an end to, but that didn’t take place.
“…for in the temple, by and by, with us these
couples shall be eternally knit” Theseus.
Theseus’ decision is of an immeasurable surprise, it happens to be that Theseus had changed his mind. Maybe because of watching how the lovers strived restlessly to be together, and for that he left sympathy for. Love in Athens is now pleasant, for the four lovers are, by the Duke himself, permitted to marry. Athens is a place of liberty and freedom, with a limit that reaches such a point that prevents any unwelcoming outcome for them. The lovers have finally received what they had been craving fo9r all this time. Athens may have remained its original self, but from the lovers’ perspectives, it’s the best place for them.
The entire essay had come to cover how the love-life of four people changed as they experienced different environments. The city, at the beginning, didn’t offer much but discrimination and went as far as posing a threat to Hermia’s life. “As she is mine, I may dispose of her.” Eugeus. Hermia’s father had restricted her from marrying through the choice of her own, which was Lysander. The city actually then was suppressing the lovers, but not all. Demetrius was quite happy at how things were turning out. It was a place of depression and compulsion. It sided with people who only thought of themselves, with no consideration for others. Conversely, it becomes the absolute opposite at the end when it becomes a settlement where discrimination is scarce. The lovers were allowed to marry through their own choices.
The woods, in contrast, seemed an exceedingly great place to be in, with limitless freedom and everyone there has the right to do anything they wish. Later on, this aspect proved to be not as fabulous as it had looked before. The freedom slowed anyone to do anything the wished, in this case it was bad. It came apparent to me that in the play, the night had represented chaos and confusion. The night ha a magical aspect, which if not controlled would create pandemonium. The day had represented a new beginning when the lovers were all spared from distress.
A pattern I noticed in the play was by applying one of Lysander’s speeches to the flow of events occurring in play.
“Ay me! Never did the course of true love run smooth.”
This can be prove by that the lovers runaway for the sake of their relationship, but it again was under-threat. Everywhere they went, their love was threatened. They also had to strive a lot to preserve their love. The lovers would prefer the city now, as they had attained the freedom they had desired so much. I have enjoyed this play very much for its comedy and twists. It emphasizes how a person can change their mind so fast. At the beginning, I recall Theseus saying – ” Arm yourself (Hermia) to the fancies of your father.” However, at the end, he says – “…you shall be knit eternally.”