Shakespeare’s epilogue at the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream has haunted many critics and resulted in numerous interpretations. Through Robin, he clearly gives the audience a message, but its meaning is ambiguous. It appears to be a disclaimer of some sort, but the exact nature of the offense and the reasoning behind it is unclear:
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here,
While these visions did appear; (Epilogue 1-4)
If the shadows in the play offend the audience, one naturally wonders how and why. It is obvious that Shakespeare wished to escape “the serpent’s tongue,” which leads one to believe he expected a negative reaction from the audience or at least felt it was possible. Therefore, he suggests for those who find offense to think of the play as merely a dream, which does seem to explain the title of the play. Yet, the audience has just watched the play in which the Athenian lovers explain the escapades of the night as a dream, which causes confusion in the interpretation of Robin’s final address to the audience. Understanding the nature of the “offense” is a key element in understanding Robin’s final words; however, one...
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Paster, Gail Kerns &Skiles Howard. “Fairy Belief.” A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Texts and Contexts. Eds. Paster, Gail Kerns & Skiles Howard. Boston: Bedford, 1999. 307-310. Print.
Phialas, Peter G. Shakespeare’s Romantic Comedies: The Development of Their From and Meaning. Durham: University of North Carolina Press, 1966. Print.
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