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Nature In Mnd Essay

1702 words - 7 pages

Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream sets up the contrast between civilized society and nature. Certain characters are introduced in the city, while others are introduced within the forest. A Midsummer Night’s Dream uses the characters aligned with either the natural or unnatural in order to create an image of nature that is freer and more wild than civilization, but is not necessarily worse or better.
The first appearance of the characters aligned with nature is in the first scene of act II. The first parallel is shown in the direction setting the scene. The scene takes place in a forest near Athens (Midsummer Night’s Dream 2.1). This marker aligns and connects the forest with Athens, ...view middle of the document...

Given that every character introduced within Athens was a human and that everyone introduced in the forest is a fairy, it is easy to make the connection between fairies and the forest, and to take that connection one step further and equate them with the natural world. So, whenever fairies take some particular action within the play, that action in some way reflects how nature functions within A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
The fairies, especially the fairy royalty, show how nature is more egalitarian than a civilized state. Within Athens, Theseus is obviously in charge, with his wife being in a subordinate role, despite coming from a proud warrior background (1.1 16). He mentions that he “woo’d [her] with my sword,” implying a use of force and physical domination. Even if the Amazons are fierce warriors, Theseus has somehow proven himself stronger.
This stands in stark contrast to how Titania and Oberon, the king and queen of the fairies, treat each other. In their very first interaction, Oberon questions who is in charge, and Titania’s reply implies that the two are equals (2.1 63-64). The power dynamic of the king and queen being equal is totally different from that presented in Athens, and also would be different from what an English audience would expect. It would be possible to write this off as just wordplay, but the actions of the two also suggests a mutual respect and recognition of power. Oberon orders Titania to hand over a boy he wants, and Titania simply refuses (2.1 120-123). If Oberon actually wielded any more power than Titania, she would have to accede to his request and give up. Instead, she stands her ground as an equal wood. In word and deed, the forest is a more even place as far as gender-derived power is concerned and, for better or worse, that makes it distinctly different from the unnatural Athens setting.
Another key difference is in how active the natural or unnatural people are in meddling in the affairs of others. Theseus, despite being king, seems mostly defined by his inaction. When Hermia pleads for him to give her leave to follow her love, Theseus instead abandons her to whatever her father decides to do (1.1 56-70). Theseus, the figurehead of the unnatural human world, chooses to do nothing and lets things stand as they are. This would not in itself define how the unnatural is treated, but it sets up an excellent contrast with how Oberon, the face of nature, handles the affair. When he catches a glimpse of Helena pining after Demetrius, he orders Puck to have Demetrius fall in love with Helena (2.2 260-264). Far from inaction, Oberon seems to go to the furthest possible extreme. He does not leave the situation as is, and he does not even talk to the youths to convince them one way or another. His decision is to rob Demetrius of his free will. As far as Oberon knows when he gives the order, he has created a match that is definitely going to happen, with no thought of staying out of someone else’s business. In...

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