Love: The Great Equalizer In Midsummer Night’s Dream

1085 words - 4 pages

William Shakespeare has a habit of creating complicated plots, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream is no exception. Three distinct worlds are presented within the play, and the story’s theme is most prevalent when they collide or mirror one another. Shakespeare’s allusions very intentionally cast light on these themes as he uses them to develop characters, settings, and comedy. The point of that development is the effective delivery of the theme that love renders us equals.
The first scene of A Midsummer Night’s Dream introduces a tangled web of lovers. Hermia presents herself for judgement as she refuses to marry Lysander, the man of whom her father approves, as she is infatuated instead with Demetrius. Meanwhile her friend Helena is besotted by Demetrius, but he loves Hermia. The scene plays out like a soap opera with dramatic relationships galore, but Shakespeare establishes greater depth with the help of allusions. The most significant references in this scene appear when Hermia and Lysander speak privately for the first time. In their brief conversation, Hermia alludes to Cupid, Venus, and Dido. The first two are gods of love, and Dido is a queen who burned herself on a pyre after being abandoned by her lover. Shakespeare uses each of these mentions of mythology to make the point that the affair between Hermia and Lysander is no passing fancy. However, when Helena enters and converses with the star-crossed lovers she makes no mention of mythology as she discusses her unrequited love for Demetrius and resulting jealousy of Hermia. The absence of allusions in Helena’s speech accentuates the divide between herself and her friend. Barbara A. Mowat speaks eloquently on this concept in the Folger Library edition introduction. As Ms. Mowat explains, when the lovers speak to one another throughout the play, they make mention of the lovers of legend and myth in order to give the plotline a more elevated or fantastical appearance. Such references promote Shakespeare’s theme that regardless of rank and fantasy, matters of the heart bring out our similarities. Every character in the play is united by the universal struggles of those in love. In addition, the use of allusions within the first scene sets the tone for the fairies, so that they may simply add another layer of magic to the established plot.
The second scene of Act 1 establishes a very different plotline. As a troupe of tradesmen meets in the woods to rehearse their rendition of “Pyramus and Thisbe” they are caricatures of the lovers as their attempts at drama, though endearingly sincere, are too ridiculous to be taken seriously. The most notable allusion within this scene lies in the words of Bottom, the comical leader of the mechanicals. Whilst Bottom rants about his acting abilities, he references “Phibbus’ car” and “Ercles”, both are slightly mistaken allusions to “Hercules” and the chariot of the sun god, “Phoebus Apollo” respectively. Barbara Mowat has another useful explanation for...

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