Dreams, aspirations, and illusions are the main focus of William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. The play revolves around many diverse characters, and, at some point during the play, many of them make reference to the word dream. The word dream can be interpreted by many different means, and using different methods.
For example, the word can mean “a series of pictures or events in the mind of a sleeping person” (Australian Concise Oxford Dictionary, 1997). However, Shakespeare is able to take a deeper meaning from the word; that is, a dream is someone’s wish, hope, fantasy, or even aspiration. This is shown throughout “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, thus confirming the relevance of the title.Many of the characters express their feelings and thoughts using the word dream.
However, they use the word only in it’s literal meaning, but there are scenes in which an individual’s wish is defined without the use of the word dream. This is clearly shown in the first hundred lines of the play. Egeus has asked Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to impose the harsh Athenian law upon his daughter Hermia. It is Egeus’ wish, his dream, that Hermia wed Demetrius.
Hermia, of course, refuses to yield to the will of her father. Theseus explains to Hermia that her only choices are to;”Either to die the death, or to abjureForever the society of men…
Whether, if you yield [not] to your father’s choice,You can endure the livery of a nun,”Hermia retorts, as it is her dream, her desire, to wed Lysander;”So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,Ere I will yield my virgin patent upUnto his lordship, whose unwished yokeMy soul consents not to give sovereignty.”Theseus is very determined to solve the problems between Hermia and her father; he is busy with his own dreams. Theseus is planning his wedding to Hippolyta, and he wishes not to have to deal with such a trivial matter. He gives Hermia one day to decide her fate.
There are four days until Theseus’ wedding, and he is quite impatient and thinks that the four days cannot pass quickly enough;”…Four happy days bring inAnother moon; but, O, methinks, how slowThis old moon wanes!.
..”These three dreams, if you will, are all demonstrated in the first hundred lines; there are over one thousand, five hundred lines in the entire play.Another great example of a character’s hope or desire being demonstrated, without the use of the word dream, is when the audience is introduced to the workers.
Quince has written a play to perform to Theseus and Hippolyta on their wedding night. He is portrayed as an assertive yet uncompromising person. However, I believe he acts in this manner because he wants his dream, his goal, of performing in front of the Duke to turn out perfectly.As is mentioned above, the word dream has different meanings.
Even when it is used in the play as it is colloquially, the title of the play remains just as relevant.In fact, the word appears not more than sixteen times throughout the entire play. However, when it is used, the individual responsible only ever uses it in its dictionary meaning (“a series of pictures..
.in the mind of a sleeping person”). Demetrius, Hermia, and Bottom all use the word to depict the events that occur whilst they are in the woods. It is in Scene One of Act Four that Theseus and his train stumble upon the four lovers, asleep on the ground, he asks his huntsmen to wake them with their horns; for Hippolyta, Egeus and himself would like to know why the lovers are there.
Once awakened, Demetrius exclaims;”Are you sureThat we are awake? It seems to meThat yet we sleep, we dream. Do not you thinkThe Duke was here, and bid us follow him?”Demetrius is unsure as to whether he has truly awakened. He believes he is still dreaming.It is not only Demetrius who makes such a direct reference to experiencing a dream.
In Act Two Scene Two we find that Lysander has left Hermia asleep in the woods to pursue his new-found interest in Helena. Hermia awakens from a nightmare looking to Lysander for help;”Help me, Lysander, help me!…
…What a dream was here!”Lysander, of course, is not there to comfort her.
Bottom mentions the word dream several times in Act Four Scene Two. It is after the four lovers have been rudely roused that Bottom awakes himself. He claims to “have had a most rare vision”. We know that Puck, the knavish sprite, transformed Bottom and changed his head to that of an ass.
We also know that while in this transformed state Titania, under the influence of the love potion, fell madly in love with Bottom. He is simply explaining to the audience, through talking to himself, that no one would be able to comprehend the dream he had. Bottom decides to appeal to Quince to write a play about his dream. It is at this point that he makes a most remarkable comment.
He says:”It shall [the play] be called ‘Bottom’sDream’, because it hath no bottom;”I found this line to be remarkable because it can be interpreted in two ways. The first is quite obvious; the play would be about his experiences with Titania. However, the second requires a little more thought. Bottom is portrayed as a very enthusiastic person, and when Quince is casting for the play, he wants to play every part.
I believe Bottom aspires to have a play written all about him; it is his dream. Hence, the title of the play he wants Quince to write; ‘Bottom’s Dream’.Oberon is the King of the Fairies, and another character to use the word dream. He is constantly in control of the plot, making use of his subordinate, Puck, to manipulate the other characters.
He asks Puck to search the world for a flower that was struck by Cupid’s arrow. When the juice of this flower is cast over a sleeping person’s eye, they shall fall madly in love with the next living entity they lay their eyes upon. Puck, however, creates a dilemma for Oberon when he applies the juice to the wrong person’s eyes; instead of putting the juice onto Demetrius’ eyes, he puts it onto Lysander’s. Hence, both Lysander and Demetrius fell in love with Helena.
Demetrius and Lysander argue over whom is the worthier man for Helena, leaving Hermia to wallow in her misfortune of being the one left out, yet again. Oberon instructs Puck to lead the two men astray, so far astray that they will fall asleep from exhaustion;”Thou see’st these lovers seek a place to fight.Hie therefore, Robin, overcast the night..
And lead these testy rivals so astrayAs one come not within another’s way….
..When they next wake, all this derisionShall seem a dream and fruitless vision.”Oberon has also had Puck anoint Titania’s eyes with the juice, to make her fall in love with the transformed Bottom.
While Puck is busy fixing the mess he created, Oberon plans to reclaim the Indian boy, the Changeling, from Titania, and then to cure her of her false love;”Whiles I in this affair do thee employI’ll to my queen and beg her Indian boy;And then I will her charmï¿½d eye releaseFrom monster’s view, and all things shall be peace.”Another individual who makes use of the word dream is Puck. Although, the most interesting time Puck uses it is at the very end of the play. Shakespeare uses Puck as a way of communicating to the audience.
Puck says:”If we shadows have offended,Think but this and all is mended:That you have but slumb’red here;While these visions did appear.And this weak and idle theme,No more yielding but a dream,”Puck means to say that if they (the audience) didn’t enjoy the play, then to consider it all as a dream. This is similar to Bottom’s quote above. It is similar because it too can be interpreted in two ways.
Firstly, it can mean exactly what it says; pretend it was a dream if you didn’t enjoy it. Secondly, though, one could say it was William Shakespeare’s dream to create a play that everyone would enjoy, and that he hopes no one in the audience will pretend it is a dream, and that he will fix any flaws the next time around.As you can see, the relevance of the title of William Shakespeare’s play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is easily discernable, once you take each character, and each instance of the word, and study them. What began as a comedy, can now be understood as a view upon life; and upon love.