Essay on Robin's Epilogue in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Essay on Robin's Epilogue in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare masterfully crafts a play with three very different viewpoints that can be interpreted, when woven together, in a number of ways that range from seemingly obvious interpretations to ones much more subtle. He ends the play with an apology that is just as elusive as the play’s interpretation. If one looks past the obvious, however, one can begin to piece together a possible message that mortals, no matter the power they hold on earth, are subject to far greater unseen powers whether they believe in them or not.
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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Muir, Kenneth. “Folklore and Shakespeare.” Folklore 92.2 (1981): 231–240. Print.
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.
Staton, Walter F. “Ovidian Elements in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream.’” Huntington Library Quarterly 26.2 (1963): 165-178. Print.
Sanderson, Stewart. “A Prospect of Fairyland.” Folklore 75.1 (1964): 1–18. Print.
Shakespeare, William. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The Norton Shakespeare: Based on the Oxford Edition, 2nd ed. Eds. Greenblatt, Stephen et al. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 2009. Print.

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