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Shakespeare's Identities: A Midsummer Night's Dream

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In A Midsummer Night's Dream, playwright William Shakespeare creates in Bottom, Oberon, and Puck unique characters that represent different aspects of him. Like Bottom, Shakespeare aspires to rise socially; Bottom has high aims and, however slightly, interacts with a queen. Through Bottom, Shakespeare mocks these pretensions within himself. Shakespeare also resembles King Oberon, controlling the magic we see on the stage. Unseen, he and Oberon pull the strings that control what the characters act and say. Finally, Shakespeare is like Puck, standing back from the other characters, acutely aware of their weaknesses and mocks them, relishing in mischief at their expense. With these three characters and some play-within-a-play enchantment, Shakespeare mocks himself and his plays as much as he does the young lovers and the mechanicals onstage. This genius playwright who is capable of writing serious dramas such as Hamlet and Julius Caesar is still able to laugh at himself just as he does at his characters. With the help of Bottom, Oberon, and Puck, Shakespeare shows us that theatre, and even life itself, are illusions that one should remember to laugh at.
In Bottom, Shakespeare pokes fun at the quirks in himself and in all plays and actors. By doing this, he makes light of the quirks in us all. To begin, the name "Bottom" has negative undertones, like "bottom of the heap," "bottom of the totem pole," and of course, one's behind. Bottom is a metaphorical ass that becomes a literal ass within the play. Bottom's name tells us not to take him too seriously. Additionally, neither William Shakespeare nor Nick Bottom were born to be aristocrats, both had ambitions beyond their particular position in life. It is Bottom's fate to be a weaver, y...

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... happy outcome, while Shakespeare is not. INSERT SECONDARY SOURCE HERE. The characters may be happy or unhappy as the play demands, and as writer Shakespeare shows no apparent preference for one outcome over the other. In a comedy such as A Midsummer Night's Dream the lovers indeed marry in the end, but in a tragedy they can just as easily die. Everything turns out the way Oberon wants it to. He has orchestrated everything, or so he thinks: "There shall the pairs of faithful lovers be / Wedded, with Theseus, all in jollity" (4.1.88-89). INSERT SECONDARY SOURCE HERE. But although Oberon is godlike and enjoys magical control over others, Shakespeare ultimately uses Oberon to ensure the play's resolution. If Oberon is a King, then Shakespeare is a God.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William, and Russ McDonald. A Midsummer Night's Dream. New York, NY: Penguin, 2000. Print.
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