In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare makes heavy use of hyperbole, the twisting of reality into something greater than what it actually is, in both the dialogue and the ridiculous, larger-than-life nature of the situations that occur to provide a basis for the conflict between reality and illusion, blurring the line that separates the two concepts.
Before the symbolism of the woods and the land of fairies, the main sources of the conflict between reality and unreality, is intact, there are small hints slowly leading to that direction in the opening scene of Act I, scene i. When Egeus approaches Theseus to aid him with his daughter’s infatuation with Lysander instead of Demetrius, he claims that Lysander has “bewitch’d the bosom of my child” (Shakespeare I.i.28) and “stolen the impression of her fantasy,” (Shakespeare I.i.33) and in essence complains that Lysander has stolen Hermia’s rationality and sense of reality.
As patently ridiculous and impossible as the claim is, it provides a steady basis for the blurring of the distinction between the real and surreal: a man convinced of his daughter’s lack of a grip on reality complains in a hyperbolic manner that another man has stolen her capabilities to think clearly, by making her fall in love with him and his “feigning voice.” (Shakespeare I.i.32) Most audiences, after reading or watching the play would know very well that Lysander is not capable of doing such things, and his actions afterward prove that he is just an innocent young man trying to pursue his true love. However, the rather grotesque and unrealistic picture painted of him during this hyperbolic scene becomes much less otherworldly when compared to some of the things later on in the play, which exploit the smal…
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…ical dialogue of the characters, it was also present in the larger-than life, comically ridiculous and unrealistic situations the characters found themselves in. Even the play’s name brings it up directly, and provides a real-life analogy, as dreams themselves are often lifelike and vivid, yet still patently inane. Shakespeare’s goal was to turn reader expectations of what should happen in these sorts of scenarios on their head to provide a unique play; while he achieved that goal admirably, the play itself is still of a great enough quality in part due to his masterful craftsmanship with hyperbole and exaggeration that A Midsummer Night’s Dream continues to be read happily by modern audiences.
Shakespeare, William. “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Web. 02 Nov. 2011. .