Analysis on A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare Essay

Like any religious society of the past, life in Elizabethan England was ordered based on the Great Chain of Being. This hierarchy, with God and royalty at the top, man in the middle above women, and animals near the bottom, was the basis of status. Deviation from the established order was considered absurd and created chaos. In A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Shakespeare uses the juxtaposition of contrasting people and settings to explore the effects of disorder in Elizabethan society while revealing character flaws for comic effect.

The antagonistic setting of Theseus’ Athens and the surrounding woods drive much of the chaotic action in the play and set the stage for the comical attitude of the production. Athens, representing an ordered society of law and social strata, is directly opposed to the mystical realm of the forest ruled by fairies in which the lines of reality can be blurred. The story opens in Athens, where Egeus is asserting his right as father to choose the husband of his daughter, and Theseus as King states his intention to uphold the law if Hermia will not behave. Here society is functioning as expected, only being thrown off by the imbalance created by two suitors vying for a single maiden. This leads to the lovers, Hermia and Lysander, running off to the woods with Demetrius and Helena in pursuit. The transition from Athens to the woods reflects the break from a structured society. In the woods the usual limits of reality are disregarded. The Athenian youths are now subject to the whims of Oberon, King of the fairies and the realm of nature, and his mischievous servant Robin Goodfellow. The absurdities of the lovers’ actions are laid bare for the audience to laugh at, as well as the flaws of the rustics…

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…he governed civilization of Athens into the wild woods outside of the city to delve into the comical outcomes of an unbalanced society to expose the flaws of humanity. Order holds society together, and without it Shakespeare suggests that chaos will reign supreme and the uglier aspects of humanity are likely to dominate, such as the anger and frustration exuded from the lovers or the lack of self-awareness exemplified by Bottom who is completely oblivious the fact that he has the head of an ass. Exploring these flaws in the magical environment of the woods and only returning to Athens once the absurdities had been sorted out allows the conflicts in the play to be viewed comically rather than tragically as the element of danger has largely been removed. Laughter is the best cover for Shakespeare’s critique of the human imperfections in A Midsummer’s Night Dream.

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