A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to MIT's online edition.
And the country proverb known,
That every man should take his own,
In your waking shall be shown:
Jack shall have Jill;
Nought shall go ill;
The man shall have his mare again, and all shall be well. (3.2.458)
Puck quips that he is setting matters back to their natural state. However, there is a hint of inequality about the natural states here. Men "take" their "own" women, and men shall have their "mares" to ride. The natural state here is not just one of love, but also of masculine ownership of women. It is about the nature of the pastoral too – when women are in the wood, they gain a certain amount of freedom that they would not have at court. Once the young women go back to Athens, though they will return with their respective loves, they will leave behind some of their freedom and equality. In Shakespeare's day, this ownership was part of a woman's "natural state."
Now, until the break of day,
Through this house each fairy stray.
To the best bride-bed will we,
Which by us shall blessed be;
And the issue there create
Ever shall be fortunate.
So shall all the couples three
Ever true in loving be;
And the blots of Nature's hand
Shall not in their issue stand;
Never mole, hare-lip, nor scar,
Nor mark prodigious, such as are
Despised in nativity,
Shall upon their children be. (5.1.400)
Right before this speech of Oberon's, Puck gave a pretty dark view of the rest of the world. Oberon rescues the play from a dark ending by giving a lighter, happier account of man's place in the natural world. The Fairy King touches on man's natural means to immortality: the act of procreation. Though the characters will naturally die, their love will live on in their children. Again, Oberon is responsible for showing magic in the natural world.