Study Guide

A Midsummer Night's Dream Allusions

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Major Literary Sources

  • Ovid, Metamorphoses: Transformation in the play; the source of the characters Pyramus and Thisbe.
  • Chaucer, The Knight's Tale:Hippolyta and Theseus are characters in this tale. Also, Lysander and Demetrius's pursuit of Helena echoes the way two knights, Palamon and Arcite, fight over Emily. 
  • Plutarch, Lives of the Noble Grecians and Romans: Plutarch's "Life of Theseus" informs Shakespeare's portrayal of this character.
  • Apuleius, Golden Ass: This seems to be the literary source for Bottom's transformation into a human with the head of a donkey
  • Corinthians 1: 2-9: Bottom's language in 4.1 is a parody of St. Paul's Epistle to the Corinthians.

Elizabethan Political Figures

  • Queen Elizabeth I: Oberon's description of the "fair vestal [virgin] throned by the west" (2.1) is a shout-out to Shakespeare virgin monarch. Also, "Fairy Queen" (Titania) was Queen Elizabeth's nickname.

Figures from Folklore and Mythology

  • Hercules (1.2, 4.1, 5.1)
  • Diana (1.1; 1.1); as Phoebe (4.1)
  • Cupid (1.1, 1.1, 2.1, 3.2, 3.2, 4.1)
  • Venus (1.1, 3.2, 3.2)
  • Robin Goodfellow is often referred to as Puck and sometimes called "Hobgoblin." He's a common figure in English folklore.

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