The Men of Rule in William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”

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In William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” two worlds are contrasted throughout the play. The Athenian state is governed by order, law, and reason; the forest or Fairy world lies within the realm of the imagination where anything is possible. While both worlds run parallel in the play, their inhabitants are influenced by one another. Their rulers, Theseus and Oberon, play critical roles in the events of the story. Theseus acts compassionately with a sense of duty, order and respect; his initial rulings for Hermia provide the exposition for the comedy (May 75). Oberon acts compassionately as well, but acts on a whim and resorts to trickery if it suits his desires; his actions direct the complication in the plot (May 75). Their personalities are characterized by how they attempt to help the young lovers, how and why they make decisions and how they interact with their loved ones and subjects. The rulers’ similarities govern the reasons behind their actions; their differences contribute to the success of the story. Theseus and Oberon are both compassionate and understanding towards the young lovers, Hermia and Lysander, and Helena and Demetrius. They are involved in a love triangle that encompasses matters of the law and love. Demetrius intends to marry Hermia, although, she shares a mutual love with Lysander; Helena loves Demetrius, although, he no longer loves her. Theseus, as the Duke of Athens, maintains the laws and standards of Athenian society. He acknowledges “the Ancient privilege of Athens” (I.1.41) that allows Egeus to “dispose of” (I.1.42) Hermia. This law permits Egeus to give his daughter to Demetrius or “to death, according to [the] law” (I.1.44). However, Theseus takes pity on Hermia and gives he... ... middle of paper ... ...interactions toward their subjects, they do however both mean well. While Oberon is slightly more irrational he still fixes problems in the end allowing for a resolution to the comedy. Likewise, Theseus is not perfect either, he may be lacking passion and emotion when it is needed; however, he still shows sympathy for Hermia against the law and her father, and love for his wife. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” mixes two worlds, one of order and reason and the other of imagination or impulse. These worlds come together to bring happiness and love in the end, although when separated cause chaos and conflict. Works Cited Shakespeare, William. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. The Pelican Shakespeare. New York: Penguin Books Inc. 2000. May, Robert. “Lesson 6: The Early Modern Period.” English 110S Course Notes. Queen’s University. Kingston. Summer 2010. Course Manual.
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