A Midsummer Night's Dream

Seeing Without Reason: Vision in A Midsummer Night's Dream

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare plays with ideas of sight and reality. Sight, eyes, and the gaze become crucial themes in this seemingly light-hearted play. They appear constantly in the language of all of the characters, beyond the obvious role in the power of the magic potion. The fact that the play takes place at night is also a crucial aspect of the prevalence of vision as a theme. Here, it is the reduced vision, the effect of darkness, that the characters must endure. This night setting creates a world of transformation and unrealistic change. Even when vision goes seemingly unhampered, in the daylight scenes in the wood, it is deluded by a magic potion. Essentially, there is never pure sight. Warped vision poses an especially serious problem in the play because Shakespeare shows us the folly of characters who trust their eyes too dearly, without the capacity to judge what they see. In a space where sight reigns above reason, chaos readily ensues. This is a world where minds are controlled by eyes, and therefore inadequate in perception. The final solution is to find a compromise between the world of reason, and the world of sensory perception.

Sight is a theme alluded to constantly in the details of...

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