Essay on the Moon in the Works of William Shakespeare

2004 Words9 Pages
The Motif of the Moon in the Works of Shakespeare In the paper, "The Hounds of Love: A Midsummer Nights' Dream, it is suggested that Shakespeare borrowed heavily from Chaucer's "Knight's Tale" to the extent that Shakespeare dramatized the image drawn in Chaucer of Diana, the moon goddess, with the hounds of love about her feet--Lysander and Demetrius behaving like the hounds of love in A Midsummer Night's Dream. While Shakespeare "creates unity of atmosphere [in Midsummer Night's Dream] chiefly by flooding the play with moonlight" (Schanzer 29), he also--by frequency of allusions to similar cyclical motifs (Moon, Diana, Wheel of Fortune)--creates an overall atmosphere, or structure, to many of his other plays. Northrup Frye's thesis--that the comedies have a cyclical pattern of the characters who depart from the city to the forest then return to the city recovered from the madness that occurred in the forest (see class handout)--can be applied to many of the other plays. But one must look beyond the locality of the characters (as Frye does) to note the frequent allusions to Diana, the Roman personification of the moon, and the similar allusion to the Wheel of Fortune. What does the Wheel of Fortune have to do with Diana? Shakespeare considered both of them to be much the same. Both have a cyclical nature: the moon waxes and wanes just like Fortune waxes and wanes. The motif of both figures in Shakespeare's plays reveals his belief that the moon is a symbol of the fickleness and changeability of fortune and luck, at once an omen and a blessing, and the result of the changeability of the moon/Wheel is the character's madness, leading to the audience's laughter (as in A Midsummer Night's Dream and Much Ado About Nothing) or catharsis (as in King Lear, Macbeth, or Hamlet). Diana figures mostly in the comedies, the most blatant example in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Shakespeare begins with Theseus vocalizing his desire that the moon should change, a symbol for his impatience for the wedding: Four happy days bring in Another moon; but O, methinks, how slow This old moon wanes! (1.1.2-4) The old moon is own aging self that shall be renewed by his marriage just as the moon passes through its cycle to eventually become a new full moon. It is under the auspices of the changing moon that overlooks the forest that the madness of all of the characters ensue.
Open Document