William Shakespeare often compares imagination and reality in his plays. He explores this comparison through the role and purpose of the forests in Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It. Midsummer Night's Dream focuses on imagination and escape, while As You like It focuses on reality and self discovery.
Imagination plays a key role in Midsummer Night's Dream. Puck, a fairy servant and friend of Oberon watches six Athenian men practice a play to be performed for Theseus wedding in the forest. Puck turns Nick Bottom's head into that of an ass. The other players see Bottom and run away screaming. He follows them saying, "Sometime a horse I'll be, sometime a hound, a hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire." "And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and burn, like horse, hound, hog, bear, fire, at every turn" (3.1.110-113). Nearing the end of the play Theseus and Hippolyta discuss what the four lovers experienced. Theseus states, "I never may believe these antique fables nor these fairy toys.'' The lunatic, the lover, and the poet are of imagination all compact" (5.1.2-3 and 5.1.7-8). At the end of the play the fairies arrive to bless the three couples. Puck tells us, "Now it is the time of night that the graves all gaping wide, every one lets forth his sprite, in the churchway paths to glide." "And we fairies, that do not run by the triple Hecate's team from the presence of the sun, following darkness like a dream, now are frolic. (5.1.396-404). Oberon and Titania sing, "So shall all the couples three ever true in loving be." "And the blots of Natures' hand shall not in their issue stand. Never mole, harelip, nor scar, not mark prodigious, such as are despised in nativity, shall upon their children be" (5.1.424-431).
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...a person to escape reality. Through the forest of Arden, a person has time to contemplate life. Or is life a dream, as Puck put it, "If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended---that you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream…" (5.1.440-445).
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Comp. Folger Shakespeare Library. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2009. Print.
Shakespeare, William. No Fear Shakeaspeare A Midsummer Night's Dream. Trans. John Crowther. New York, NY: Spark, 2003. Print.
Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. Comp. Folger Shakespeare Library. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2009. Print.
Shakespeare, William. As You Like It. Trans. Gayle Holste. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's Educational Series, 2009. Print.
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