Shakespeare Finds Love on a Midsummer Night

Annie W.

The forest outside Athens is filled with changelings, magic, and ancient myth: in other words, the stage is set. The night is silent and still as four mortals alternately hate and love, monarchs of the faerie world clash wills, and the mischief of one irrepressible woodland sprite weaves a spell over all. The breath of the darkness is lit with the glow of foxfire; hearts are broken and mended within the span of short hours. In the bower of the Faerie Queen a man transformed by magic slumbers peacefully. The pen of William Shakespeare has captured the imagination and hearts of audiences and readers alike across the world and through the decades, but his classic romantic comedy, A Midsummer Night?s Dream, offers something much more profound. Shakespeare has found insight into the heart, and, through his verse, best exemplifies the complicated and capricious emotions found there. The play, much like reality, is sprinkled throughout with gems of humor, and it will continue to fascinate as long as there is love.

Shakespeare?s characters are certainly the most important part of A Midsummer Night?s Dream. All action must be carried out through them; all ideas must be transported to the audience through their moves and dialogue. The first and most obvious characters are the four mortal lovers. The women, Helena and Hermia, are respectively tall and fair, short and dark; there are no other notable differences between them. The men, Lysander and Demetrius, have no differences in personality that are remarked upon in the text of the play. Outside the walls of Athens, inside the enchanted forest, the courts of Oberon, king of the faeries, and Titania, his queen, hold sway. The two magistrates quarrel often, but know they are meant for each other, no matter how they scowl. Their adventures include Bottom, a town actor turned into an ass by Oberon to seek revenge on Titania. The last major role in Dream is Robin Goodfellow, more commonly known as Puck. He is mischievous and playful; his role in the faerie court is to entertain Oberon and run his errands, as he tells the faeries in Act 2 when he is introduced.

In human nature and all its facets, there is a certain amount of inherent mirth, including sarcasm, and Shakespeare does not neglect this mirth in his writing. First, humor is used as a sort of release valve. When the emotional tension begins to run too high, one of the characters will utilize this humor, as does Lysander to Demetrius in a heated exchange over the hand of Hermia:


You have her father?s love, Demetrius;

Let me have Hermia?s, do you marry him.

This keeps the action interesting but not overly dramatic. The queen of the faeries, Titania, is one of the most dignified characters in the play. Shakespeare arranges for her to fall in love with Bottom, transformed into an ass. The acting group to which Bottom belongs before and after his transformation is performing their own modified version of ?Pyramus and Thisbe,? a folktale that Shakespeare has changed to suit his purposes, and the great mess they make of it in front of the duke Theseus on his wedding day is one of the most famous comic moments in history. This performance is given at the end of the play, after everything is righted, and encourages the audience to laugh and understand that all can be good. Without the laughter, the play could not have had a truly happy ending.

When in love, people are inclined to withdraw their fancies from the reach of reason and rational thinking. William Shakespeare lets his characters deliver this message in several different manners.

The four lovers show no distinguishing features or personalities. By presenting the lovers as interchangeable, Shakespeare displays and probes the mysteries of how lovers find differences- compelling, life-shaping differences- when there seem to be only likenesses. Helena and Hermia differ only in height and complexion, and both are thought to be beautiful:


How happy some o?er other some can be!

Through Athens I am thought as fair as she.

Helena remarks, commenting on her sad situation when Demetrius forsakes her for Hermia. The male lovers are so devoid of description, be it of personality or physical traits, that they may as well be bald, bad-tempered midgets. However, this serves Shakespeare very well.

At the beginning of the plot, three of the lovers have created a