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Fantasy vs. Reality in A Midsummer Night's Dream

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Fantasy vs. Reality in A Midsummer Night's Dream

     Shakespeare weaves a common thread throughout most of his comedies, namely the theme of fantasy vs. reality. His use of two distinct settings: one signifying the harsh, colorless world of responsibility and obligation and one suggesting a world of illusion where almost anything is possible, a place where all conflicts are magically resolved.


Midsummer Night's Dream is a vivid example of Shakespeare's use of this plot device. The setting of the forest and the events that occur there represent a complete departure from the physical existence into a world where love at first sight is the norm. "Shakespeare delights in decentering the world mortals take for granted; soon the audience learns that the dark forest is the center of the play's world, relegating Athens, center of the civilized Greek world, to the periphery" (Borey 1).


The impending marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta is an illustration of this so-called civilized world in which one is required to set aside emotions and do what is expected. In his opening speech, Theseus expresses his eagerness for his wedding day to arrive.


Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour

Draws on apace. Four happy days bring in

Another moon; but, O, methinks, how slow

This old moon wanes! She lingers my desires,

Like to a stepdame or a dowager

Long withering out a young man's revenue. 

(1. 2. 7-8).


To this statement, Hippolyta replies:


Four days will quickly steep themselves in night,

Four nights will quickly dream away the time; (1. 2. 7-8).


It is obvious from this statement that Hippolyta is not as eager as her betrothed ...

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... major characters in Midsummer Night's Dream and The Merchant of Venice are paired off and live happily ever after. This may seem overtly simplistic, but it is within this simplicity that Shakespeare reveals his genius. His chief objective is to entertain, and he does so masterfully. Through his creation of a fantasy world in which all things are possible, Shakespeare transports and transforms not only his characters, but also his audience, and his readers.


Works Cited

Borey, Edward. "Classic Note on A Midsummer Night's Dream." Classic   Notes by Gradesaver. 2001. 12 March 2001.   <>.

Frye, Northrup. Northrup Frye on Shakespeare. New Haven: Yale   University Press. 1986.

Macdonald, Ronald R. William Shakespeare: The Comedies. New York:   Twayne Publishers. 1992.

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