Role of Supernatural in Shakespeare's a Midsummer Nights Dream

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Witches' Brew and Fairy Dreams: A Genre Study of Shakespeare's Use of the Supernatural (Penn State University, English 444.2: Spring 1998) by Fred Coppersmith Near the end of the opening scene of Macbeth, Shakespeare's three Weird Sisters proclaim in unison that "fair is foul, and foul is fair," providing us, as readers, with perhaps the best understanding of the play's theme and the tragic downfall of its central character. That this revelation -- this pronouncement that all is not well in Scotland -- comes from a supernatural or otherworldly source is very telling and gives us, I believe, ample cause to further explore the function of the supernatural within the drama. A genuine understanding of Shakespeare's reliance on the spirit world, however, cannot be reached without examining the supernatural's role in a more comedic work as well, such as A Midsummer Night's Dream. There, it is also put to considerable use, but with far different results. By contrasting these results with those achieved in Macbeth, I hope to attain a better awareness of the mythical, ghostly, and preternatural in Shakespearean works. As critic Cumberland Clark writes, " Macbeth is the Shakespearean play into which the Supernatural enters most largely." From the opening lines, where the three witches are announced with a boom of thunder and flash of lightning, the play seems completely infused with the supernatural, almost drowned in its influence. "Even when the witches are not visible," writes Clark, "the audience remains acutely conscious of their presence. They seem to hover unseen in the background, producing that sense of gloom and terror which permeates the tragedy." Given that the three have promised to do just that -- to "hover through the fog and filthy air" -- and the fact that they reappear throughout much of the play as, most likely, a harbinger of doom and Macbeth's impending downfall, I find it difficult to discredit this view of the supernatural as a dominant element in...
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