In William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, there are endless images of water and the moon. Both images lend themselves to a feeling of femininity and calm. In classical mythology, the image of water is often linked with Aphrodite, goddess of passion and love. Born of the foam of the sea, Aphrodite was revered as an unfaithful wife to her husband Hephaestus (Grant 36). This may have a direct coloration to the unfaithful nature of the four lovers, Hermia, Helena, Lysander, and Demetrius, while in the woods. Perhaps more important, however, is Aphrodite’s link to the other Olympian maiden goddesses. As Aphrodite was attributed with love and beauty, Athena was the protector of war and arts, and finally, Artemis was the goddess of the woods and wild things (Hamilton 31). Artemis was brother of Apollo, god of the sun, and therefore she was the goddess of the moon. Through out literature it seems imagery of the moon and water can be used nearly interchangeably because they both imply feminine powers; water is representative of life and motion and the moon is representative of Artemis directly. Shakespeare seems to have been quite aware of the duties and powers of this ancient goddess.
In many instances, this “protectress of dewy youth” is equated with other goddesses named Phoebe, Selene, or Luna (Hamilton 32). By any name, however, it is most important to realize the goddesses’ representation of the sky and woodlands. The character or Lysander makes direct reference to the relevance of this goddess in Act I,
Scene 1 while talking to his forbidden beloved Hermia:
Tomorrow night, when Phoebe doth behold,
Her silver visage in the wat’...
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...ancient mythology familiar to Shakespeare and his audience.
Grant, Michael and John Hazel. Who’s Who Classical Mythology Oxford University Press, NewYork: 1993
Hamilton, Edith. Mythology Warner Books, New York: 1942
Hamilton-Parker, Craig. “Moon” Remembering and Understanding Your Dreams Stearling Publishing Co. Inc., New York: 2000
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest Orgel, Stephen Ed. Oxford University Press, New York: 1998
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream The Norton Shakespeare: Comedies Greenblatt, Stephen Ed. W.W. Norton and Company, New York: 1997
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream Mowat, Barbra and Werstine, Paul Ed. Washington Square Press, New York: 1993
Thorndike, E.L and Clarence L. Barnhart. “Lunatic” Thorndike Barnhart Student Dictionary Scott, Foresman and Company, Illinois: 1988: (666)
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