Essay on Act V in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Act V in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

A: The final act at first seems completely unnecessary to the overall

plot of the play. After all, in Act Four we not only have the lovers

intent on getting married, but there has been a happy resolution to

the overall conflict. Thus, the immediate question which arises is why

Shakespeare felt it necessary to include this act.

The answer lies in part with the entrance of all the characters in the

final scene (with the exception of Egeus); this acts as a sort of

encore to resolve any unanswered questions the audience may have about

any of the characters.

In Act Five the play is resolved with a typical happy ending with

Lysander and Hermia, Demetrius and Helena and Theseus and Hippolyta

getting married, contrasting with some of the plays written by

Shakespeare earlier and later in his life in which death and sorrow

predominate. The lovers have the blessings of both Theseus and the

fairies. The only character in the play that could have ruined the

happy ending is Egeus as he was unhappy about his daughter Hermia

marrying Lysander (see above). Shakespeare may have been trying to

make a point by leaving Egeus out, not all happy endings end up with

everyone happy. If we think about typical fairytales such as Snow

White then we realise that unhappy characters like the Wicked Witch

were left out of the happy endings to those plays and that to have a

happy ending this may have to be done. Neither is there any mention of

the fact that at the start of the day Demetrius wished that Helena was

dead and by the end they are married. There is no mention either of

the fact that Demetr…

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…ests that we too may be in the magical thrall of powers we do not

understand. This, however, is not something we should fear, but

instead something we should enjoy. So, too, we the audience – willing

victims of the enchantment that is theatre – will be made happy if we

allow ourselves submit to its magic. “Give me your hands if we be

friends,” Puck concludes, “And Robin shall restore amends.” This frank

speech reflects the way that all the characters in the play have two

sides to their character; we not only see Puck’s mischievous side but

his good side as well. The action has reached a happy and logical

conclusion, with no loose strings left hanging. Shakespeare has

unified his plot, by weaving together the three disparate worlds of

the play but the final speech reminds us that all of the characters

are still complex.

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