Magic is the delightful thread that runs through the tapestry of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Magic is about the supernatural elements of the mythic and fairy world (like Cupid's arrows on a starry night), but it's also a simpler, more natural force. There's the magic of love, the magic of the morning dew, and even the magic of poetry and art.
The play stresses perspective and eggs the reader on to see the world as a different place through each of the characters' eyes. Each character has his or her own perspective, and so experiences the magic differently. Bottom finds his wondrous dreams to be magical, while the lovers, arguably the most impacted by magic, are totally oblivious to it. Titania finds magic in her love of a little boy, and Oberon embraces the magic of supernatural elements in the seemingly natural world. Magic is certainly in the eye of the beholder.
Questions About The Supernatural
- Are there distinctions here between white and black magic, and magic for fun or for harm? Is magic amoral? (Think of Oberon's usage of magic to steal the orphan Titania swore to protect.) Are there any indicators that magic has some sinister undertones? Is it unnatural?
- Do the magical characters of the play care at all about the effect their actions have on others? Do the magical characters even see others outside of the supernatural realm as sympathetic creatures, or are the humans just there to manipulate and mock?
- At the end of the play, Lysander returns to loving Hermia because he's gotten the remedy for the love juice, but Demetrius loves Helena because he remains enchanted. Can magic be the basis for true love? Is this another example of man being manipulated by magic, or is this magic helping the natural and right course of things?
- Is Shakespeare suggesting that magic actually exists in real life? Why might he have Puck, a magical creature, close the play with a suggestion that we can dismiss all this magic as if it were a dream?
Chew on This
In this play, Shakespeare suggests that magic is real. It may not be the stuff of fairies, but it is present in the imagination. Particularly for a poet, the world is a magical place, and A Midsummer Night's Dream's language, imagery, and wonder communicate that to the audience.
The magical world exists in harmony with the natural world in A Midsummer Night's Dream—indeed, they are one and the same.