A Midsummer Night's Dream Versions of Reality Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to Folger's online edition.
Help me, Lysander, help me; do thy best
To pluck this crawling serpent from my breast.
Ay me, for pity! What a dream was here!
Lysander, look how I do quake with fear.
Methought a serpent eat my heart away,
And you sat smiling at his cruel prey. (2.2.152-157)
Hermia's dream is a mirror for reality; while Hermia sleeps, Lysander deserts her and renounces his love for her. In the dream, Hermia is abandoned (which is true), but she is also betrayed by Lysander. The dream is also a reflection for what's about to come. Hermia battles the snake (Helena) in the dream and in the actual wood, though Lysander is really at fault for letting Hermia get hurt, both in the dream world and in reality.
Then crush this herb into Lysander's eye,
Whose liquor hath this virtuous property,
To take from thence all error with his might
And make his eyeballs roll with wonted sight.
When they next wake, all this derision
Shall seem a dream and fruitless vision.
And back to Athens shall the lovers wend,
With league whose date till death shall never end. (3.2.387-394)
Oberon posits that this night's crazy events will seem like a dream tomorrow, which will hopefully cause the four Athenian lovers to forget everything and go back to Athens as proper pairs. The Athenians are thus able to choose their own version of reality – they can consider the night either real or a dream.
And, gentle Puck, take this transformèd scalp
From off the head of this Athenian swain,
That he awaking when the other do
May all to Athens back again repair
And think no more of this night's accidents
But as the fierce vexation of a dream.
But first I will release the Fairy Queen. (4.1.65-71)
Oberon again hints that, if all of the young Athenians think of the past night as a dream, everything will be forgotten. This way, not only do the lovers have some easy resolution, but Puck and Oberon are absolved of any blame for their mischief and manipulation. The dream world, in this respect, is as much a remedy as an excuse.