Midsummer Night's Dream Theme

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Summer Layton
Portfolio Activity #4

One of the play's main themes is the difference between perception and reality. The idea that things are not necessarily what they seem to be is at the heart of A Midsummer Night's Dream, and in the very title itself. "Reality is merely an illusion, although a very persistent one." These words were spoken by Albert Einstein who, among the many other things he thought about, considered the very thin line between what we see and feel and what is real. Many great thinkers have pondered the relationship between the senses and reality. How much of the world truly exists and how much of it is only what is in one's mind? Among these thinkers was one particular writer named William Shakespeare. A man who enjoyed pointing out the gullibility of mankind, sometimes tragically and sometimes playfully, wrote a masterpiece of theater exploring that very concept. A Midsummer Night's Dream directly confronts the separation between reality and what one perceives to be real. This is examined in Titania's interactions with Nick Bottom, in the adventures of the Athenian lovers, and, most famously, in Puck's closing monologue. It is in this way that Shakespeare forces us to think: "What is reality?" If anything shows how perception and reality can sometimes fail to coincide it is the situation between Titania and Nick Bottom. The reality of the situation is that Nick wasn't a highly attractive man to begin with, and has now been given an ass' head. Titania has been drugged to believe that she is madly in love with this man, under Oberon's orders. Here is the tricky question hidden in this situation: "What is love?" Love is a feeling. Feelings are another type of perception, a type that are impossible to ground in physical reality. One cannot say that Titania's love is fake, though it may be. The very flower used to fill the fairy queen with this love was supposed to have been hit with one of Cupid's arrow, the...
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