Essay on Fantasy vs. Reality in A Midsummer Night's Dream

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Fantasy vs. Reality in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Shakespeare weaves a common thread throughout most of his comedies, namely the theme of fantasy vs. reality. His use of two distinct settings: one signifying the harsh, colorless world of responsibility and obligation and one suggesting a world of illusion where almost anything is possible, a place where all conflicts are magically resolved.

Midsummer Night's Dream is a vivid example of Shakespeare's use of this plot device. The setting of the forest and the events that occur there represent a complete departure from the physical existence into a world where love at first sight is the norm. "Shakespeare delights in decentering the world mortals take for
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As Northrup Frye states, "In the opening scene we have Theseus, Egeus, and an unwilling Hippolyta in the centre, symbolizing parental authority and inflexibility of the law..." (40).

This inflexibility that Frye refers to is the very cornerstone upon which Shakespeare builds his plot. Egeus' insistence that his daughter, Hermia, marry the man he has chosen for her instead of the man she loves establishes the ensuing plot. Faced with the choice of either entering a loveless marriage, a convent, or being put to death, Hermia decides to flee with her "true love," Lysander, far from the jurisdiction of the harsh Athenian law. Hermia and Lysander agree to meet in the forest, a place in which their entire world is about to be turned upside down.

The ethereal world into which the two sets of indistinguishable lovers are cast is where most of the play occurs. Perhaps Shakespeare did this intentionally as a means of holding the limited attention of the groundlings in the audience. It is entirely possible that he preferred the fantasy existence that he created to the harsh realities of the world around him. As Frye states, "the wood-world has affinities with what we call the unconscious or subconscious part of the mind: a part below the reason's encounter with objective reality, and yet connected with the hidden creative powers of the mind" (46). Shakespeare was conceivably more comfortable with life as it

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