A Midsummer Night's Dream

Myth, Magic and Midsummer Madness

In a fine example of Shakespearean irony, scholars have suggested that A Midsummer Night's Dream was originally written as entertainment for an aristocratic wedding. The Lord Chamberlain's Players provided the noble bride and groom, the ultimate symbol of harmony and true love, with a delightful comedy about gender conflict, transformed emotions, myth, and magic. Shakespeare avoids the social conventions of the civilized world by introducing a 'green world' ( Introduction, MND, 808) where the fairies rule. It is within this metaphysical world, and its associated suspended disbelief, that he calls on the fancy of myth and magic as a means of exploring the idiosyncrasies behind human behavior. More importantly, it is only through accepting the possibility of Puck's love juice or the power of Cupid's arrow that we can understand and forgive the intolerable behavior between Demetrius, Lysander and their scorned lovers.

As each man changes his affections from one woman to the other, he flings brutal verbal insults toward his past love. These irrational and undeserved rebukes build a relationship of 'engagement and detachment' with the audience, which is critical to the mechanics of the comedy. Audience...

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