Discuss the ways in which Shakespeare Gains & retains the audiences In act I scene I of “A Midsummer nights Dream” Essay
The name of the play is called “A Midsummer nights dream.” The play was written by William Shakespeare from the town of Stratford, the play “A Midsummer Nights Dream” was written at around 1590, an exact date is not known. It is a witty comedy, which is one of his earlier ones.
Just before the Elizabethans period the only plays were heard was by performing them at the courtyards of English Inns. The courtyards were good places for plays because a big circle in which everyone could crowd round while the actors did a play in the middle, after the first theatre was built the plays still went on in Inns to get the local audience.
When plays came on in the sixteenth centaury nearly everyone went to them, the poor the rich, the old and young, literally no one was left out.
In the sixteenth centaury there was no such thing as lights special effects or electricity, so therefore plays looked very bland and plain. People went to hear the play and this is why Shakespeare tells everyone about the character, where they are going, who they are with. This is why Theseus keeps repeating the words “four happy days” about his wedding. This is so the audience know when it is and it stays in their heads. He uses the word “Wo’od” for Theseus wooing Hippolyita with “his sword.” This is so the audience know what happened before the play. We also know Demetrius “Wo’od” Helena and then left her.
There are four plots used within the story and they are all tied together, which is an abstract thing for Shakespeare to do as most of his plays have a main plot and a smaller one, the first plot is about the wedding Hippolyita and Theseus are having, the second is the argument between Titania and Oberon, the third is the four lovers trapped in a complicated story and the fourth is the play the mechanicals put on for the wedding.
The fact that the plots are all linked together retains the audience’s attention as if they stop listening for one second they will lose the plot of everything, they would want to know what will happen.
The wedding interacts with the lovers because that is when Hermia has to give her decision to Theseus if she will marry Demetrius or go to a nunnery or die. The wedding also links with the Mechanicals as they are rehearsing a play to perform there. Oberon and Titania link with the lovers because Oberon gets Puck to put love juice on Demetrius’s eyes and they also play about with Bottom and Titania. Puck makes Titania love bottom and then the Mechanicals perform the play to all the couples at the wedding.
The play is thought to have been written for a wedding and would probably have been good for this occasion as it is a cheerful love comedy. This play was probably played at Queen Elizabeth’s court like many other of his plays.
Historians believe that Scene 1 act II (Oberon’s lines) comes from a description of the July water pageant of Kenilworth castle.
” The rude sea grew civil at her song, an certain stars shot madly from their spheres.”
This is probably telling us about the music and fireworks at the pageant.
Most of Shakespeare’s characters come from classical Greek myths.
Most or nearly all the people in the audience would have known about these because they would have been taught about them in school in classical myths, which was compulsory at grammar school.
Theseus was a king of Athens, he was related to Hercules. He was the character who killed the Minotaur and defeated the Amazons who invaded Athens. He is a strong yet calm character. He is also sensitive which is shown n the opening lines, he is also passionate.
Hippolyta was queen of the Amazons, she is a brave and sensitive but also loving character. She is annoyed that the only choice’s Theseus gave Hermia were nunnery, death or to marry Demetrius. She is mature with love compared to the young lovers.
Derived from Hermes, the messenger of the gods, Hermia is stubborn and passionate which is why she will not marry Demetrius because she loves Lysander so much. She doesn’t even care if she dies for him. She is also quick tempered which shows the tension between her and Helena.
Probably derived from Helen of Troy, Helena lacks self-confidence that Hermia has and she is very timid. She is also very stupid and would rather be beaten up than given up by Demitrius. She is also quite tall which is her advantage over Hermia.
These characters would make the audience want to know more about what happens to them as they have already learnt a lot during their education.
At the play the tone is very romantic and beautiful, nearly all the word connotation are good apart from a few, “injury” and “scared”. This probably tells us or warns us about later events in the play, but the positive words outnumber and outweigh the juxtaposing words probably showing that the good will happen in the end and things will work out.
All the language in the lines between Theseus and Hippolyta is lyrical and romantic which is reminiscent of the poetry at the time the play was written, which was the Elizabethan period. The audience’s attention is kept by this language usage. With a few negative connotations showing that bad things will happen later. Theseus also hints at his conquest of Hippolyita. This shows one of the themes of the play about men trying to dominate women,”
On line 25 of Act 1 scene I Egeus enters the conversation and the tone completely changes. He comes onto the stage furious, all of the words are negative connotations.
Egeus says,” As she is mine I may dispose of her he is saying that Hermia is his possession, he uses the word “mine” in the sentence which shows that he thinks he owns her, this makes the audience hate him and not like him therefore keeping their attention.
Egeus also uses “Flinch” which means stolen and, “Vexation” which means annoyance, along with many more bad and negative connotations.
Egeus also jumps to conclusions a lot saying that Lysander had tricked Hermia into loving him. He uses the word “bewitched” in the sentence, he accuses Lysander of doing this, “Bewitched” means putting under a spell normally associated with witches, whom at the time of the play were burnt and seen as evil, giving out a sense of negativity to the audience, this would help gain the audiences attention.
Egeus accuses Lysander pf making Hermia turn against him, which is untrue as he is the one turning her away from him, he says. “Turned her obedience,” he thinks that she has to obey him like a slave, the audience would have found that normal in Elizabethan England, but what would shock both a modern and Elizabethan audience was when Egeus said he was willing to kill Hermia for not obeying him. He says, (Or to her death according to our law.” Egeus really shocks the audience with this statement, and works incredibly well with retaining and gaining their attention.
Shakespeare uses words with very negative connotations like “Death” which itself brings up negative words like hell and decaying, it summons up fear, making it a very powerful word.
Shakespeare has used the tone shift to capture the audience’s attention and they would want to find out if the conflicts clear up and how they will all resolve their arguments.
Once again the tone changes, then dramatically changes with calm soothing lyrical words of Theseus. This will also capture he audience’s attention again. Egeus is the opposite of what Theseus is, Theseus is a listener, considerate and speaks lovingly and softly whereas Egeus is inconsiderate and doesn’t care for people and his speech is harsh and a lot of connotations on his speech are negative, there are a couple of positive one, probably showing that one day he will change to a nicer person.
He is very domineering and he speaks as if Hermia is an object, ” As she is mine.” He’s saying he owns her and can do what he wants with her.
Theseus says in his lines ” Be advised fair maiden ” this immediately comes after Egeus says his lines. This makes them contrast. Instead of Theseus telling Hermia to listen he says, “Be advised” which isn’t saying do what he says, just listen to him and take his advice. He also calls hemia a, “fair maid” treating her like woman and not as an object like Egeus; this really keeps the audiences attention as they watch two very different men dealing with a very difficult situation.
Theseus’s speech is poetic and this shows his aristocratic and educated qualities, he says to Hermia, ” to whom you are but a form in wax,” Theseus says this to show that Egeus can make Hermia do what he wants, he has the power to mould her how he wants.
Theseus wants to hold up the Athenian law as much as possible, but as he is not evil like Egeus is he doesn’t want to, he has a heart and think that having Hermia killed would be unfair and portray his image as evil, whereas him himself is a very loving man.
He gives Hermia the options of death, marriage or nunnery, he tries to get Hermia to go with Demitrius saying that he is a “worthy gentleman.”
Theseus is showing the audience how Theseus has a heart and doesn’t want Hermia to die because he is so happy about getting married himself and doesn’t want Hermia to miss out on the chance of having children, he says he doesn’t want her to spend the rest of her life chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon, showing that he doesn’t want her to remain a virgin for the rest of her life. The fact that Theseus gives Hermia options shows that he has his morals but is lenient.
The way both Egeus and Theseus talk is different and makes the audience dislike Egeus and like Theseus. This makes them want to know who will win the argument, therefore retaining the audience’s attention.
Theseus’s calm and relaxed speech goes all the way through the ninety-second line, it is far more relaxing for the audience to listen to the quiets speaking of Theseus. It is a change in tone from Egeus’s voice.
Due to the fact that in the Elizabethan era, women were always ruled by men; fathers, brothers, and husbands, it would have been a shock for them that Hermia was going against her fathers wishes and showing that she knew better than him during the argument with Theseus.
She has a go about Demitrius being a “Worthy gentleman.” and she says, “So is Lysander.” These replies saying, “rather your eyes must with his judgement looks.” This is a firm but patient reply showing that Hermia should be seeing the situation with her fathers point of view rather than her own. All Hermia wants to know is what will happen to her if she doesn’t obey her father, this is when Theseus gives Hermia the three options. Hermia says “but I bespeech your grace that I may know, the worst that may befall me in this case if I refuse to wed Demitrius.”
This is Hermia actually asking a question, which is the first time Hermia, really gets the chance to ask something in the scene.
Theseus then asks her if she can live “A Barron sister all your life.” He is saying that she could become a nun if she wanted. She replies back to this but not in a manner of disgust because of the religious people in the audience, they would be shocked by this and immediately not like the play and leave. Shakespeare would gain the audiences attention with Hermia’s feisty, fiery character.
Further more the tone changes again to a tenser atmosphere when Demitrius speaks. “Relent sweet Hermia and Lysander, yield thy crazed title to my certain to my certain right.” This is showing how similar the character of the dominating Egeus and the power mad Demitrius really are. Demetrius likes giving orders to people.
Lysander then loses his temper again with Demitrius and says he should marry Egeus if he has “her fathers love.” This really would have shocked the audience, as Elizabethans was never that rude and they would have found it very shocking that someone would have replied to a higher person in that way. This would have really gained the audiences attention. The audience would have found the arguments between Lysander and Demitrius amusing and entertaining.
However the tone still doesn’t settle after Lysander has tried to reason with both Demetrius and Egeus. Lysander says that he is just as good as Demetrius and has the advantage of his real love for Hermia.
“My love is more than his.” Using love that is a very powerful and strong word and it shows that Lysander is very in love with Hermia and that he really wants to be with her and doesn’t try to dominate her like Demitrius does.
In addition to this before the action of the play we know that Demitrius was very in love with Helena, we know this from the lines, “Demitrius, I’ll avouch it to his head, made love to Nedars daughter Helena.” From the story we know that Demitrius leaves Helena to pursue Hermia, we don’t know if Demitrius was involved with this decision. This shows that Demitrius will leave a lover distraught and on their own, this would shock the audience at how unkind he actually is, this gains and retains the audience’s attention.
Shakespeare also gains the audiences attention with the contrasting of the two characters, Lysander and Demitrius, Lysander is pure and genuinely in love and would go to all lengths for it whereas Demitrius is in it for no real reason and is an unkind person with no heart and not love. They are complete opposites, the line “upon this spotted inconsistent man!” this showing what Lysander really thinks of Demitrius, that he is evil and unfaithful.
Due to being the leader of Athens Theseus has the last say in the argument and he shows this when he says, “I have some private schooling for you both.” He is suggesting that he wants to go and tell Egeus and Demitrius how unreasonable and uncaring they both are.
He is unhappy with both of them because they have upset Hipplolyita and he has to ask her if she is ok. “Come my Hipplolyita dear, my love”
This is bringing a lot of tension upon the play; this is making the audience curious if the argument will be resolved, this is a useful technique used of Shakespeare’s which he uses a lot to gain the audiences attention.
The audience have a real feeling of despair when Lysander says, “Making it momentary as sound, as swift as a shadow, as short as any dream, brief as the lightning in the collided night.” The speech is a gain the language of love with lots of metaphors and similes in it helping it stand out as it sounds a lot like the love poetry of the time.
Hermia handles the situation well and supports Lysander, “then let us trial our patience, as it is our customary cross.” She is telling Lysander to stay together with her through this ordeal. This helps the play gain audiences attention.
For the play not to end in catastrophe Shakespeare comes up with a plot for Hermia and Lysander. “I have a widow aunt, a dowager, of great revenue, and she hath no children, there gentle Hermia, may I marry thee.” Lysander is saying that they should leave to somewhere else no one can find. The audience wonder if Egeus would ever find out the plan and it makes a lot of tension for the play if Hermia was to disobey her father and her family that much in the 16th centaury then she would have been disowned by them. Lysander needs to know that she is prepared for this. This would certainly shock the audience into listening.
Hermia replies to Lysander’s question by saying ” I swear to thee by cupids bow, with his best arrow with the golden head and by that fee which burned the Carthage queen when the false Trojan under sun was seen, in the same place that thou hast appointed me, tomorrow, will truly will I meet with thee.
This is very expressive, emotional and powerful speech, this cuts through the whole of the play, it is a very powerful vow she is making to Lysander about going with him to get married, She is swearing on all of the Greek gods and myths that all of the audience would have heard about in their classical classes and this would keep and retain their attention as thy would like to see the young couple unite.
To stop the tone becoming too intense Shakespeare add another character to lighten the tone, he brings on Helena who is an old, good friend of Hermia, Helena is jealous of Hermia because of her good looks and beauty. Shakespeare then uses a good way of catching the audience’s attention by using a pun on the word “fair” Hermia says “god speed fair Helena” this means how are you whereas “Demitrius love you fair” Demitrius loves your looks.
Helena is jealous of Hermia’s looks she says that she wishes she could catch them like one catches an illness. This is childish of her, yet funny making the audience laugh and keeping their attention. Hermia still keeps on being childish when she says, “Teach me how to look and with art you sway the motion of Demitrus’s heart.” This is funny as it is so ironic that Helena wants Hermia to teach her how to get Demitrius to love her but Demitrius probably already does love her as before the story began he “woo’d” her before her turned the Hermia.
The audience thinks this is Egeus’s fault and makes them angry both at Demitrius and Egeus for doing this to the distressed Helena, This catches the audience into watching the play carefully to see what happens next.
The tone in lines 205-6 changes from a childish one to a more serious one with Herima saying “take comfort, he shall no more see my face, Lysander and myself shall fly this place.
They talk to Helena about how they are going to run away and how Demitrius will never see Hermia again.
The young lovers use “Emptying our bosoms of the counsel sweet, there my Lysander and myself shall meet.” this is a lot like the Elizabethan love poetry of the time and the audience are more relaxed after
Being challenged with the harsh serious tone of before.
Shakespeare uses a device to make the audience like Lysander and Hermia even more and feel sorry for them even more and makes them wish Helena good luck with Demitrius even though they should hate him showing how pure their hearts are and this makes the audience want to know if their plans are found out by Egeus, “And god luck grant thee thy Demitrius.
Act I scene I is ended with one actor left on the stage talking to the audience, this is used in allot of pantomimes, plays and musicals for the audience to get a real feel of the character and like or hate them even more. Helena who is performing the soliloquy talks about how she thinks the beauty she has is equal to that of Hermia’s, “Demitrius doesn’t think so, though Athens I am thought as fair as she, but what of that, Demitrius thinks not so.” This confuse the audience as only a few moments ago she was telling Hermia how she wished the beauty of her upon herself, still the childish rantings and jealousy amuses and entertains the audience.
The soliloquy makes the audience feel sorry for Helena and more attached to her, the audience would find her amusing, attracting them more to her, Helena says “Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind/and therefore is winged cupid painted blind”
These lines spoken by Helena show one of the main themes of the play, that love is irrational, this is why Helena loves Demitrius even for all that h has done and the audience feel sorry for her as she is so obsessed.
Shakespeare has used lots of devices to gain the audiences attention through out the opening scene of the play; first of all he uses changes in tone.
He keeps changing the tone very dramatically to shock the audience and attract their attention. First he uses the romantic tone of Theseus and Hipplolyita and the completely changes it to that of anger and hate with Egeus. Egeus’s threat that he will put Hermia to death if she doesn’t marry Demitrius is shocking to the audience.
Shakespeare then changes the tone again to that of a more romantic one with Hermia and Lysander by using language like the love poetry of the time. Then to keep the audiences attention again Shakespeare then adds in Helena, with her childish jealousy amuses the audience and makes them want to get to know her better. The audience is then caught again with the soliloquy from Helena, which makes them really for her as they see how love sick she is.
The other device Shakespeare uses to keep the audience’s attention is he makes them think what is going to happen next, will the lovers get found out and if so will they be killed or will Hermia have to marry Demitrius. This leaves them on the edge wanting to know more therefore retaining their attention.