A Midsummer Night's Dream Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- Compare and contrast Shakespeare's play to a modern-day "romantic comedy."
- The four young Athenian lovers in the play are pretty much interchangeable characters. Shakespeare seems to have deliberately avoided developing Hermia, Helena, Lysander, and Demetrius as unique characters. Is this a commentary on the fact that love makes everyone a fool, and a person in love needs no other explanation?
- Are Hermia and Helena treated as more foolish in the play than Demetrius and Lysander? Is this a commentary on gender? How do we interpret the fact that Hermia and Helena seem just as foolish as the guys, though they aren't under an enchantment?
- The fairy world, the courtly world, and the natural world are all very present in the play, but we're never really sure of the relationship between them. Does Shakespeare hold one world above the others? Which, if any, is credited with being the closest to reality? Does Shakespeare actually argue within the play that there is no single objective version of reality (a theory otherwise known as solipsism)?
- The Mechanicals are a source of mockery throughout the entire play. Is Shakespeare making a class commentary here about who is better suited to understand and enjoy art? Is it fair of him to criticize the working class so openly, or is everybody mocked just the same, regardless of class, in the play?
- At the end of the play, the issues between the young lovers all seem resolved. Demetrius now loves Helena, and Lysander returns to his original love for Hermia. Still, we know that Demetrius remains enchanted, and that Hermia watched Lysander betray her but doesn't know he was enchanted when he did it. Does the state in which the lovers leave for Athens then justify the claim that they'll live happily ever after?
- Theseus is constantly portrayed as the most practical and levelheaded character in the play, and he criticizes lovers, madmen, and poets for having too much imagination. Still, the bulk of the play is about lovers, the play is made by a poet, and all the action is pretty much madness. Is this Shakespeare claiming that imagination is actually a critical part of life? In light of imagination's central role in the play, is Theseus a great and noble figure, or is the joke really on him?
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