“There is not one word apt”- to what extent is this a fitting description of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”? Does Shakespeare’s comedy have a purpose beyond simply making us laugh?
“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is classed as a comedy: from the misdemeanours of Oberon and Puck, to the star crossed lovers who change their hearts constantly. People enter the theatre and watch as the characters embark upon the “green world” before marrying: ending with familial union. However, this light hearted play does something more than just make us laugh, teaching us about a time’s misogynist attitudes towards gender and the state which encourages these.
Shakespeare uses the antics of Oberon and Puck at the forefront of this comedy, using the “juice” to make everyone fall in love, however they err due to their arrogance as Oberon vaguely describes Demetrius by “by the Athenian garments he hath on”. The iambic meter indicates these characters are powerful, yet their actions are unintelligent: the concept of incompetent leadership is a humorous stereotype, frequently used in dramatic comedy. Here, however, the joke is mocking power, or rather who we give power to, as Shakespeare portrays Oberon as using his power recklessly. The reason Oberon and Puck start squeezing the juice on the lovers is that the character overheard “A sweet Athenian girl” and a “disdainful youth”, and so, in the guise of trying to help them, he creates havoc. Oberon’s aid, however, is a façade: he only desires control; he knows that Demetrius doesn’t love Helena back, and so he interferes. This attitude reflects that of the Queen’s court: as Louis Montrose puts it, “Queen Elizabeth I’s marital status and her sexual condition were matters of the state”, reflected when Oberon plans to put the juice on Titania so that she “renders [her] page” to him. Oberon and Puck, therefore, are shown as metaphors for the male Elizabethan state where the men knew everything about the Queen and tried to control her in...
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