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women and shakespeare
A Critical Analysis of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” William Shakespeare, born in 1594, is one of the greatest writers in literature. He dies in 1616 after completing many sonnets and plays. One of which is “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” They say that this play is the most purely romantic of Shakespeare’s comedies. The themes of the play are dreams and reality, love and magic. This extraordinary play is a play-with-in-a-play, which master writers only write successfully. Shakespeare proves here to be a master writer. Critics find it a task to explain the intricateness of the play, audiences find it very pleasing to read and watch. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a comedy combining elements of love, fairies, magic, and dreams. This play is a comedy about five couples who suffer through love’s strange games and the evil behind the devious tricks. This play begins as Theseus, the Duke, is preparing to marry Hippolyta. He woos her with his sword. Hermia is in love with Lysander. Egeus, Hermia’s father, forbids the relationship with Lysander and orders her to marry Demetrius. Demetrius loves Hermia, but she does not love him. On the other hand, Helena is in love with Demetrius. To settle the confusion, Theseus decides that Hermia must marry Demetrius or become a nun. In retaliation to her father’s command, Hermia and Lysander run away together. Amidst all the problems in the human world, Titania and Oberon, the fairy queen and king, continually argue about their various relationships that they have taken part in. (Scott 336) Titania leaves Oberon as a result of the arguments. Oberon is hurt and wants revenge on Titania. So he tells Puck, Oberon’s servant, to put a magic flower juice on her eyelids while she is sleeping. This potion causes the victim to desperately in love with the first creature that they see. Oberon’s plan is carried out, but the potion is also placed on Lysander’s eyes. Lysander awakes to see Helena, who is aimlessly walking through the woods, and instantly falls in love with her. She thinks that he is making fun of her being in love with Demetrius, so she leaves and Lysander follows. This leaves Hermia to wake up alone. Puck now has journeyed to the area where several actors are rehearsing. He uses his magic to turn one of them into a donkey, in hopes that Titania will awake to see it. Just as planned, she awakes and falls in love with the donkey. Oberon and Puck overhear Demetrius and Hermia arguing about their relationships and realize that they had made a mistake. In hopes of solving the problem, Puck places magic juice on Demetrius while he is sleeping. He awakes to Helena, who now has two men in love with her. Hermia is devastated because Lysander does not love her anymore. Helena and Hermia argue because Helena thinks that Hermia is in on the men’s “joke.” All four argue and leave. Puck persuades them to sleep all together and more of the antidote is placed on the eyes of Lysander. Titania also receives another dose of the potion, and awakes to her husband Oberon. A triple wedding is planned and everyone is happy. (thinkquest.com 1-3) Throughout the play there are many references to the gender and sex roles of the characters. As described in the critical essay by Shirley Nelson Garner, the dominating male power and strange sex roles of the characters is fluent throughout the play. The ordering of the fairy, human, and natural worlds is a movement toward satisfying men’s psychological needs; but it also disrupts women’s bonds with each other. The argument between Titania and Oberon arises from Titania’s focus of attention toward a stolen Indian boy. Oberon uses his authority to force Titania to give up the boy, and he is shocked when she disobeys him and leaves. Her attachment to the boy is erotic, because she treats him similar to Bottom after she falls in love with him by a spell. The underlying reason for Oberon’s complaint of Titania and the boy’s relationship is that he secretly wants the boy for himself. Oberon takes action because his power is threatened by Titania’s love for the boy. He needs her too, so he wins the boy for himself to make her feel inferior. In other words, Titania gave up something that she loved to make her husband happy. This is seen in everyday life, women give up their wants to make their men happy. Titania’s sacrifice for Oberon cost her to lose both her Indian boy and his mother, her women lover. When men don’t make women happy, they turn to their friends for what they need, whatever it may be. (Scott 370-373) Male domination not only exists between husband and wife, but also between father and daughter. Theseus will not allow Hermia to marry Lysander. Theseus wants her to marry Demetrius. Egeus, a ruler, will force Hermia to become a nun unless she marries Demetrius. In retaliation to his demands, Lysander and Hermia run away together. Hermia is scolded by Egeus for being in love with the man she chooses. This suggests that men cause women to feel forced and obligated to do as they say. (Scott 373) Another example of male domination is the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta. Theseus’ first wife was frail and yielding, and he divorced her. Hippolyta has been a warrior, and Theseus’ victory over her makes her unable to resist. By conquering the female warrior and marrying her, he fulfills his need for the exclusive love of a woman while satisfying his homoerotic desires. Close bonding fulfills this homoerotic desire with a male companion, such as Demetrius and Egeus. (Scott 373-373) Male jealousy and need for dominance ruins women’s relationships with friends and also turns to brutality. Hermia and Helena were once intimate friends, but Helena is suspicious of Hermia’s involvement in the men’s “joke.” Bonds between women are just as important as men’s bonds with each other, but jealousy leads to the end of women’s happiness. When Helena pursues Demetrius, his male brutality is revealed when he rejects her for another woman, insults her, and threatens to rape her. Also, when the men fall in love with her, she feels like the “butt of a joke.” This stirs female insecurity and pain, again caused by previous abuse from men. The submissive nature of women enables Hermia and Helena to bear their lover’s abuse. (Scott 374-376) The reconciliation between Titania and Oberon, at the end of the play, brings blessing to the human world. This suggests that the happiness of the world depend on the amount of love between couples. The problems caused suggest the heterosexual bonding is best. Just as women have insecurities, men feel that if women joined together there will be no need for men, possibly excluding them or preferring the friendship and love between women to a man-woman relationship. This fear is partially based on reality, but also by projection. Since men have stronger bonds with each other, they exclude women from participation in tings in which they care about; they assume that woman, if granted the opportunity would do the same. Men’s main belief is that separating and conquering women is the only way to keep their power. (Scott 376) The essay written by George A. Bernard shows the fantasy and reality issues in the play. The fantasy world and real world exist apart from each other, never meeting at any point. The inhabitants of the fairy world are unreal in the sense that they lack feelings and intelligence. The dream world, beyond mortal’s comprehension, strongly influences the entire realm of ordinary life. By nature of their humanity, Oberon’s power causes vulnerability in the human world. This fairy kingdom is essentially a dream, which appears whenever reason goes to sleep, and during this time Oberon controls all things. Such illusions and dreams, created by Oberon, can be dangerous if they block out human’s perception of reality. As the play proves, these dreams perform an important function in life. (Scott 381) Fairies, part of the fantasy world, live in the kingdom in the vague, dream-like East. In this area, legends, myths, and impossible stories originate. This placed is more commonly called “the dream world.” The East exists both during and after sleep. The fairies bring the stories to you from the East. The fairies never think and love, which explains all of the deceit and odd events that go on during the play. This is acceptable in their world, because all the laws that govern the world of reality have no existence
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