A Midsummer Night's Dream
Versions of Reality Theme
With so many subplots in A Midsummer Night's Dream, and so many intersections between people from different worlds, there's got to be some way to account for the different ways they each perceive reality. Dreams serve as a way to explain away plot holes or add a gauzy mystery, but the different versions of reality also extend to perspectives. In Lysander's book, if you don't have to fight for it, it isn't true love. Puck sees the mortal world as full of fools, and Theseus is certain fairies aren't real. These differing perspectives are central to the play, revealing that each man envisions his reality according to his circumstances.
Questions About Versions of Reality
- What are the different functions of dreams in the play? Do dreams function to further the plot, or are they some kind of side commentary on imagination?
- What do we make of Theseus's perspective on reality? How can we factor in Titania's aid of Theseus, as pointed out by Oberon, especially because Theseus doesn't believe in fairies? Is it possible to live in a practical reality and still allow a little room for fancy?
- Do lovers, poets, and madmen really have their own version of reality? Is it a fanciful, false version, or is it just more deeply tied to human feeling than cold, hard facts?
- The young Athenians seem confused about the events of their night in the woods, but their stories match up, which seems to indicate that this whole thing was more than just a dream. Does the actual truth of the event really matter, so long as a lot of people believe in it?
Chew on This
Dreams are a cop-out in A Midsummer Night's Dream. They absolve the characters of responsibility for their foolishness and excuse Shakespeare from having to make the play at all sensible or meaningful.
Shakespeare makes a gendered argument in A Midsummer Night's Dream; while both Lysander and Demetrius's madness can be explained by their enchantment, Hermia and Helena have no such excuse. Shakespeare argues that women are subject to a different view of reality when it comes to love.