Essay, Research Paper: Midsummer Nights Dreams

Shakespeare

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written in 16th century England. In 1595, life
was as you can imagine very different. During this period Queen Elizabeth I was
at the throne. England was a Christian country and people greatly honoured the
queen. Shakespeare was Elizabeth I’s poet laureate, so his work was highly
valued across England. Women were treated as second-class citizens. In lower
class families, girls were not usually educated. They were expected to do
domestic jobs and look after children. In the upper class homes things were
different. Girls were educated but they did not have free opinion. Women did not
have any rights; they had no choice in what they did with their lives or whom
they married. The father of the girl would choose a suitor for her (usually
being the wealthiest man available) and she was expected to marry him. In
theatre, men would play the part of women. The Elizabethans strongly believed in
the supernatural. Few aspects of sixteenth century life were not affected by the
belief of witchcraft. Fairies and sorcerers as being real. Magic was not as we
see it today; things that young children believe, but as compelling and real.
Their beliefs in god were very much related to those of witches and demons. If
you had sinned, people believed you had the devil in you. In a Midsummer
Night’s Dream, different plots are linked to form a comical play based around
magic and love. The play is set in an enchanting forest amongst the cowslips;
hidden deep in the wood is the fairy kingdom. I personally think that
Shakespeare was very clever in how he devised ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’
as he has three very good elements of entertainment; love, magic and comedy
represented with different stories and characters. The Lovers represent the
effects and powers of love. Hermia is prepared to give her life up for the man
she loves. In a way, Shakespeare has adopted a modern view of things, as
Hermia’s character is not one of a ‘typical’ Elizabethan woman. She is a
fiery young lady, determined to be with the man she loves. Lysander and Hermia
have a good, strong relationship. Helena dotes upon Demetrius, but her
‘love’ is not real love, like Hermia’s, it is more of an infatuated love.
This contrast of being in real love and being blinded by love, very much makes
you think and if you were in a relationship you would think twice about your
feelings after watching the play. The Workmen are all very simple characters,
named according to their personality. They have been implanted in the play to
add humour and some lighthearted entertainment from the more serious issues
within the play. Bottom, in particular, is used to cause fun and drama. The
fairies make the play magical and exciting; Puck is a mischievous, cunning young
fairy that likes to play tricks on mortals. Some of his speeches contain
repetition for example: 396 Puck: ‘Up and down, up and down, I will lead them
up and down. I am fear’d in field and town; Goblin, lead them up and
down…’ Repetition has made this speech into a song/chant; this makes the
speech ‘magical’ and ‘fun’. The use of repletion and rhyme by Puck at
the end of this scene is used to create a poetic country atmosphere. In which
the natural world is described well. The fairy scenes are very entertaining. The
language is in the way, Titania’s ironical words to bottom. 144 Titania:
‘Thou art as wise as thou art beautiful.’ It is ironic that Titania is
saying this, because Bottom is clearly nothing close to beautiful. There is
sense of suspense present in Act 3, Scene 1. Titania is asleep on the stage, the
person she first sets her eyes upon when she awakens will be the one she falls
in love with. On the stage are the workmen. This suspense makes the play
exciting. The lovers are very much more involved in the dramatic side of the
production, with their arguments, Shakespeare uses alliteration to create a
dreamy, romantic, magical atmosphere. For instance: 435 Hermia: ‘And sleep,
that sometimes shuts up sorrow’s eye, Steal me awhile from mine own company’
The use of alliteration emphasises what Hermia is talking about, making her
words more memorable. The plot is very clever, although it relies on
coincidence. The fairies’ costumes would have been spectacular and dazzling.
The workmen would be dressed in rags and the lovers and court in very smart,
rich garments. The play begins as a tragedy and becomes comical. Act 3, Scene 2
begins to be comical in which the lovers are talking in rhyming couplets. These
are used to make the scene romantic and comical. Helena thinks that she is being
made a fool of, as both, Lysander and Demetrius appear to be madly in love with
her. Here is an example of this. 169 Lysander: Lysander, keep thy Hermia; I will
none: If e’er lov’d her, all that is gone. My heart to her but as but as
guest wise sojourn’d, And now to Helen is it home return’d. The scene
becomes very dramatic when the lovers are quarrelling. We notice that the comedy
has gone, and become a serious quarrel when the rhyming couplets no longer
appear. There are many lessons to be learned from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Lysander says a line that implies that love can never be perfect. 134 Lysander:
The course of true love never did run smooth; I believe this is very true, as
there are so many problems in love. It also teaches us that ‘true love’ is
important and you should not try to meddle with it. Similes have been used in
Act 5, Scene 1 to comment on the play within the play. 122 Hippolyta: Played on
his prologue like a child on a recorder 124 Theseus: His speech was like a
tangled chain. Similes are often used to describe performances. Hippolyta is
comparing Quinces’ prologue to a child, meaning it was not professional, as
the actors thought it was. Theseus comments on Quinces’ speaking skills,
previously Quince has said the prologue completely wrong. I think the Duke is
enjoying the play within the play, as he has always seen ‘professional,
serious performances. This is a unique experience for them, less drama and more
comedy. I have concluded that the play was amusing and interesting. My favourite
speech of the play was Pucks epilogue, it has rhythmic feel to it, and this
makes it the perfect ending for the play. The fact that I had previously read
the play in Year 8 familiarized me with characters. When I studied the play this
time, we concentrated on different aspects of it and took more of an interest in
the language techniques. I am very glad that I read this work of Shakespeare
again, as I do not think I have really appreciated his works up until now. An
understanding of how life was like in the 16th centaury is quite vital to
identify with the play. I am happy that our chosen Shakespeare piece was A
Midsummer Nights Dream, as it is very entertaining.
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