A Midsummer Night's Dream
Analysis: What's Up With the Ending?
At the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Puck steps out on stage to deliver an epilogue, where he begs us, the audience, to "pardon" the actors if they didn't enjoy the show:
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended:
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles do not reprehend.
If you pardon, we will mend. (5.1.440-447)
This whole "aw, shucks, we sure hope you liked our sorry play" routine is pretty standard in Elizabethan epilogues. Still, when Puck invites the audience to think of the play as nothing more than a "dream," Shakespeare makes an important statement about the nature of the theater. Like dreams, plays aren't real – they're the product of imagination and fantasy and involve the momentary suspension of reality. Come to think of it, this seems like an accurate description about life in general. At times, the real events that make up our own human story can seem as fleeting and fantastic as our dreams. Go to "Themes: Art and Culture" for more on this.