Points to Ponder
At the end of the play, four couples (Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, Theseus and Hippolyta, and Oberon and Titania) find themselves harmoniously reconciled. However, Demetrius marries Helena only because he continues to be under the influence of a magic drug, Theseus married Hippolyta only after vanquishing her in battle, Oberon realizes how much he loves Titania only after playing a sick practical joke on her, while Hermia has had to forget a troubling episode of infidelity when Lysander mysteriously fell in love with her best friend. Do you think that these elements of the plot make the "happy ending" problematic? Or does the play seem to suggest that love always contains elements of mystery, strife, trouble?
Think about the patterning Shakespeare uses in this play. How do Acts I and V mirror each other? How many different configurations of lovers appear in the central acts? Does this kaleidoscopic patterning make the play less "realistic," or do you feel that the stylized action does what Hippolyta says a good play should do -- brings the audience together into a magical realm of constant transformation?
When Lysander and Hermia plead to be allowed to wed, they argue that Lysander is "as good a man" as Demetrius; when Helena begs Demetrius to love her, rather than her best friend, she claims that she is just "as fair" as Hermia. This theme of equivalence and potential substitution runs throughout the play - even the lovers' names are difficult to keep separate! Why do you suppose that Shakespeare wishes to make the pairs of lovers so interchangeable in certain ways? Do you think that he wants to make their particular choices of love seem "arbitrary"? Or do you think that there are ways in which Helena is absolutely distinct from Hermia, Demetrius completely different from Lysander?
The courtly world of the Athenian nobility exists in dramatic contrast to the world of the fairies, but especially the world of the common players such as Bottom, Snout, and Snug. Bottom becomes a laughing-stock with his donkey-head, while the final performance of their play in the court of Theseus becomes an occasion for groans and quips among the aristocratic audience. Do you think that the "rustics" are in this play simply for comic relief? Are there any ways in which Bottom and his men become something more than the butt of the play's jokes?
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Points to Ponder
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