When authors refer to other great works, people, and events, it’s usually not accidental. Put on your super-sleuth hat and figure out why.
Major Literary Sources
- Ovid, Metamorphoses: Transformation in the play; the source of the characters Pyramus and Thisbe.
- Chaucer, The Knight's Tale:Hippolyta and Theseus are characters in this tale. Also, Lysander and Demetrius's pursuit of Helena echoes the way two knights, Palamon and Arcite, fight over Emily.
- Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans: Plutarch's "Life of Theseus" informs Shakespeare's portrayal of this character.
- Apuleius, Golden Ass: This seems to be the literary source for Bottom's transformation into a human with the head of a donkey
- Corinthians 1: 2-9: Bottom's language in 4.1 is a parody of St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians.
Elizabethan Political Figures
- Queen Elizabeth I: Oberon's description of the "fair vestal [virgin] throned by the west" (2.1) is a shout-out to Shakespeare virgin monarch. Also, "Fairy Queen" (Titania) was Queen Elizabeth's nickname.
Figures from Folklore and Mythology
- Hercules (1.2, 4.1, 5.1)
- Diana (1.1; 1.1); as Phoebe (4.1)
- Cupid (1.1, 1.1, 2.1, 3.2, 3.2, 4.1)
- Venus (1.1, 3.2, 3.2)
- Robin Goodfellow is often referred to as Puck and sometimes called "Hobgoblin." He's a common figure in English folklore.
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