William Shakespeare has written many plays, ranging from tragedies to comedies. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is an example of a comedy. A comedy is a play that has a humorous storyline. When a play builds up to its climax, it ends in a happy note. ‘Climax’ comes from the Greek word ‘Ladder’.
At the beginning of the play, the main characters are introduced to the audience and everything is in natural harmony. But after a while things start to go wrong in the magical world, causing confusion and nature to go out of balance.
In this play, there are issues where the magical world becomes chaotic causing a loss of order and harmony.
Shakespeare writes of various themes, like love and loyalty. The love he writes of in this play is Parental love, Female verses male and the love that seems most important in this play, Marital love. This love contrasts with real love.
He also writes about order and disorder, which is usually linked to nature. The appearance and reality of the magical world, and the Kingship is linked towards Theseus, for he is a very fair ruler. Theseus contrasts with Oberon because in the play, Oberon abuses his power over the magical world.
During the play, Shakespeare uses contrast to show the different qualities, which the people and places have.
The real world of Athens and the magical world of the woods contrast because in the play, Shakespeare jumps between the two showing reality and illusion. This shows that each world is not very different, although each world is ruled very differently.
The night contrasts with the day because at night the scenes take place in the woods where the fairies are in control. On the other hand is the day, where everything takes place in Athens and the humans are in control.
In Athens everything is peaceful and law-abiding, showing reality. But in the woods, everything is chaotic and law breaking, showing illusion.
The night and the day contrast with each other because although they may be different times of each day, but when each time comes, they show to be very separate worlds.
In this play there are two different types of tone; comic and serious. Shakespeare jumps between the two during this play. The comic tone occurs when the mechanicals are on-stage, while the serious tone is when either the nobles or the magicals are on-stage. Although, sometimes with the magicals, the play can turn comical, for they can be quite silly.
Shakespeare has given this comedy a feeling of importance rather than any of his other comedies, by giving the nobles and lovers names from Greek mythology. The mechanicals could have got their names based on the jobs that they did.
Theseus is the Duke of Athens, who is engaged to Hippolyta, ‘Queen of the Amazons’. Theseus is a kind and sensitive ruler, who’s mature and impartial nature is contrasted with that of the fairy king Oberon, who uses magic to humiliate and win back his Titania. The way Theseus makes his decisions does have its difficulties, however, after the four lovers have described the strange events that had happened to them that past night. Theseus reveals that he has little sympathy for “the lunatic, the lover, and the poet.”
Theseus and Hippolyta were former enemies in war, but soon their love for one another brought an end to battle. Their wedding provides the framework for the events of the play. It also shows the way they love each other maturely, which can be measured by the behaviour of the other lovers. Their marriage is perfect in the eyes of the Shakespeare audience.
Oberon is king of the fairies. In contrast with Theseus, he rules his world in a much different way. He is quite a proud, sometimes jealous man who has a darkness in his character which can make him quite frightening. He is very much a creature of the night and he creates dreams which can cause chaos and confusion.
Titania is quite a caring character in this play. She is in tune with nature, when she sees that Oberon and herself are causing chaos with their arguments. She shows that she would much rather desire harmony than chaos. She is also very passionate, as well as romantic and delicate. She shows this side of her, during her love for Bottom. You can see of her strength, bravery and pride when she stands up to Oberon because she is refusing to give him what he wants. Although they have many problems, at the end of the play, you can see that they are still very much in love. What Shakespeare is trying to say here is that a love which is strong, will not die. He is advocating love within marriage in this play.
Oberon and Titania’s marriage is quarrelsome but passionate. This is in contrast with Theseus and Hippolyta’s love for one another.
Hermia is the daughter of Egeus and love of Lysander and Demetrius. Her father is determined that she will marry Demetrius, but she goes against his wishes and runs away with Lysander into the woods. The Elizabethan audience at this time would be shocked by her behaviour. At the start of the play, Hermia clearly takes pleasure in the dominant control she has over Helena because of her lack of self-confidence.
Helena is perhaps named after ‘Helen of Troy’, who was the beautiful woman whose abduction started the10 year Trojan war. Helena contrasts to Hermia because they are both beautiful but Helena lacks that extra self-confidence. Helena is very much in love with Demetrius and she is grounded, passionate and witty despite the love she does not get in return. Helena always carries herself with a certain grace and maturity that contrasts with Hermia’s more ill-humoured behaviour.
Lysander, the lover of Hermia and Helena, is a complete romantic and extremely passionate. While he expresses his playful language towards the women, he shows his boyish charm. When contrasted with Demetrius, he thinks of love in a more romantic view rather in a mature way.
Demetrius is the lover of Helena and Hermia. At the start of the play, he expressed his love for Helena. But he soon changed his mind in favour of Hermia’s wealth. He is not a faithful lover and is even and direct, but firm at the same time about his desires. In this play he treats Helena very badly, by threatening her to leave him alone. Demetrius only falls in love with Helena near the end of the play because of the love potion Puck put on his eyes. This action makes them him fall deeply in love with Helena, but it also means that their love is not true.
Hermia and Helena are both romantic and constant in their love. But because of Puck, the young men become victims of an illusion. Each lover is seen as a symbol of young love.
Nick Bottom is a weaver and the most important of the six “mechanicals”. Bottom – together with Peter Quince – a carpenter, Francis Flute – a bellows mender, Tom Snout – a tinker, Snug – a joiner, and Robin Starveling – a tailor, decide to put on a play for Theseus and Hippolyta, celebrating their wedding. The plays genre is a tragedy and its called ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’.
In ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, each mechanical represents decency, honesty, loyalty and hard work. Each man brings comedy into the play which contrasts with the aristocratic lovers.
In Elizabethan lore, Puck was a mischievous, brownie like fairy also called Robin Goodfellow. As one of the leading characters in this play, Puck boasts of his pranks of changing shapes, misleading travellers at night, spoiling milk, frightening young girls, and tripping venerable old dames. Apart from this, Puck is ultimately good-natured and generous, finding true pleasure in the plays outcome.
Shakespeare has written this play in a way so that when each character speaks, it reflects their personality. For example, whenever Bottom speaks he often muddles things up and gets things wrong, showing his character to be quite silly and clumsy, which makes him a comic character. Bottoms behaviour contrasts with that of Theseus’ behaviour. Theseus is always trying to sort things out and make things right, at the same time as being sensitive. This shows his character to be mature, fair and considerate.
To examine the personality of each character, you do not only look at what they say, but the pattern they speak in as well.
When the magicals and nobles come on, they speak in verse and everything is spoken in rhyme. That contrasts with the mechanicals, for whenever they are on, they do not speak in verse.
In this play, contrast is mirrored in its pages. In some ways, Shakespeare has been successful in his use of contrast. It has made the play clearer to understand. For example, what characters are comic or serious. But on the other hand, I feel that he has tried to be a little too clever by using too much contrast. By doing this, it has made some things harder to understand.
Overall, Shakespeare has used contrast well because it helped me to imagine the two very different worlds and its people.