Understanding the Importance of a Dream in a Midsummer Night’s Dream, By William Shakespeare
Dreams play a central role in the story A Midsummer Nigh t’s Dream by Shakespeare. The title of the play shows that the story is a dream on a midsummer night. This is represented through magic, illusions, and changing realities throughout the story. As many unusual events happen to the characters in the magical forests, many of them assume they are just dreaming.
King Oberon decided to use a magical flower to trick his wife into giving him an Indian boy. This magical flower caused many people to fall in love with the wrong person. Lysander falling in love with Helena and Queen Titania falling in love with Nick Bottom. “My Oberon! what visions have I seen! / Methought I was enamour’d of an ass.” (IV.i.59-60) As soon as Queen Titania woke up after the love potion was reversed she assumed she had dreamt being in love with Nick. King Oberon then told her that it was not a dream and showed her the donkey she had thought she was in love with. Nick Bottom believes he had been dreaming too, because he cannot comprehend the magic that happened around. “I / have had a dream—past the wit of man to say what / dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about to / expound this drea m. Methought I was—there is no / man can tell what. Methought I was, and methought / I had” (IV.i.190-195) Various characters have to believe that what happened to them was just a dream because they cannot believe that what happened to them really happened.
Dreams usually happen without any explanation or reason. Many events in the play seem like dreams because of the magic involved in them. The non magical land in the story is like being awake and the magical forest is like a dream. Mortals have entered into the fairy world and they see magic and because they are not used to it, they have to come up with their own explanation for it. “May all to Athens back again repair / And think no more of this night’s accidents / But as the fierce vexation of a dream.” (IV.i.50-52) Hermia, Demetrius, Helena, Lysander especially were affected by the magic from the fairies. When Puck made both Demetrius and Lysander to love Helena instead of them both loving Hermia, it made Helena believe all of them were just making fun of her. The love potion even caused Demetrius and Lysander to almost fight each other to win the love of Helena.
Dreams are also used for foreshadowing. At the beginning of the play Hippolyta says: “Four days will quickly steep themselves in night. / Four nights will quickly dream away the time.” (I.i.7-8) This is foreshadowing because she predicts how quickly the events of the play go by. So much happens in so little time it seems like it should be over a longer length of time, instead of just one night. Also Hermia has a dream that her heart was being eaten by a snake while Lysander just wat ched it happen. This foreshadowed what really happened because Lysander had been put under the love potion and did not love Hermia any more. “You are unkind, Demetrius. Be not so. / For you love Hermia. This you know I know. / And here, with all good will, with all my heart, / In Hermia’s love I yield you up my part. / And yours of Helena to me bequeath, / Whom I do love and will do till my death.” (III.ii.164-169)
Dreams play an important role in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Characters use it to understand what is happening around them since they can not understand the magic used by the fairies. The idea that the whole play is just a dream is used to explain how there is magic and keeps a sense of illusion throughout the story.
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