A Timeless Dream

Using a classical backdrop and a fairy-inhabited wood setting, William Shakespeare wrote one of his most fanciful of comedies- A Midsummer Night’s Dream around 1594-1595. True to a Shakespearean comedy, it features key ingredients: chaotic events, young lovers, and the satirical element. Shakespeare’s trademark larger-than-life dramatis personae succeed in bringing these elements to life are.

The play begins with Theseus, The Duke of Athens, who about to marry Hippolyta, The Queen of the Amazons. Theseus has defeated her in battle and has basically kidnapped her and brought her to Athens almost as if a “trophy” to be displayed (Reiss).

The main conflict of the play is introduced in the first scene of Act I. Hermia, daughter of Egeus, is set to wed the “worthy gentleman” Demetrius (1.1.52). However, Hermia’s love belongs to another- Lysander, who returns the sentiment. The cruel Egeus, in complete opposition to his daughter’s choice of suitors demands that she be executed if she refuses to marry Demetrius. Having the responsibility of upholding law, Theseus then delineates to Hermia the consequences that will befall her should she refuse to yield to her father’s demands. She is presented with two choices;

Either to die the death or to abjure

For ever the society of men (1.1.65-66).

Death or life as a nun is the price of her love for Lysander.

Yet, while a love-triangle is established another participant is added. Lysander exposes Demetrius for being “inconstant” towards a woman named Helena, who “dotes” upon Demetrius in a manner that resembles worship (1.1.108)

Then, disregarding all other “parental opposition” and Athenian Law, Lysander and Hermia plan their escape (Bevington 41). They agree to meet to steal away from all whom oppress their love.

Yet more conflict is introduced as Helena enters. She meets Hermia and proceeds outwardly to express her suffering of her unrequited love for Demetrius. In response to Hermia’s praise of her beauty she retorts:

Call you me fair? That “fair” again unsay.
Demetrius loves your fair. O happy fair! […]

My ear should catch your voice, my eye your eye,
My tongue should catch your tongue\'s sweet melody.
Were the world mine, Demetrius being bated,
The rest I\'d give to be to you translated.
O, teach me how you look and with what art
You sway the motion of Demetrius\' heart. (1.1.184-185…191-196)

Helena is convinced that if she were to mimic Hermia or become her, she would surely have Demetrius’ love. She feels inadequate, believing Hermia’s “fair”, or beauty, outshines hers. Still, while appearing to have a weak personality, Helena could be considered to be the most believable and most developed of all the characters. Through a soliloquy we are granted a closer look into Helena’s thoughts:

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
Nor hath Love\'s mind of any judgment taste;
Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste.(1.1.233-237)

By the use of this device Shakespeare establishes her role as a “key character” (Widdicome 82). Also, it creates a greater understanding of Helena. She does not profess to be reasonable in her love for Demetrius; instead, she outwardly admits that she is not.

A break in the dramatic tone then follows the development of the primary conflict. The characters Quince, Snug, Bottom, Flute, Snout, and Starveling. They are tradesmen and are currently trying to organize a play for the wedding day of Theseus and Hippolyta. Here we get to know Nick Bottom a weaver, who is confident in his ability of playing his part in the performance of “The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe” (1.2.11-12). Quince the carpenter designates Bottom as Pyramus, but as he continues to give out the rest of the parts Bottom interrupts, asserting that he can play all the parts the best. Bottom then blurts that he can play the part of the lion and that he would roar so greatly that it would elicit an encore. Quince points out that if he does so that he would frighten the women present and cause them all to be hanged. So, Bottom remains as simply playing the “sweet-faced” Pyramus.

In moving forward in the play, another conflict is in the making. The mischievous sprite Puck is encountered by a fairy. In their conversation the fairy refers to Puck as “Hobgoblin