An Analysis of Characters in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'
May 13, 2019
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'A Midsummer Night's Dream' is a comedy play set in the 15th century, written by Shakespeare. The interconnected plots and characters have made this play memorable.
Cobweb, Puck, Titania, and Oberon are some famous characters of A Midsummer Night's Dream. Their popularity has even christened two moons of the planet Uranus (Titania and Oberon).
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a comedy play written by Shakespeare. Like most of his works, this play too, has many interconnected plots with love triangles, kings, queens, dukes, fairies and of course, some enchantment and love potions.
The main story has subplots, with each having different characters that are connected to one another. The story is unique, and characters such a Puck, Nick Bottom, and Queen Titania make this play even more memorable.
Nick Bottom is one of the central figures of the subplot in the play. He and Puck are two characters who progress and interact with the characters of the subplots.
He is a weaver and belongs to a class of craftsmen who are known as 'the Mechanicals'. Nick, along with his fellow craftsmen, is rehearsing a play of Pyramus and Thisbe, which is to be presented for Theseus' wedding. He is a poor actor, but his overconfidence often dominates the others in the play.
His ignorance to his grammatical mistakes make the play humorous. His foolish self-importance reaches its peak after Puck transforms his head into a donkey's, yet he remains oblivion to this fact.
When queen Titania sets her love-anointed eyes on Nick, she instantly falls in love with him so much that she commands her minion fairies to serve him. King Oberon realizes his folly and orders Puck to transform Nick back to his original state.
Puck and other fairies leave him sleeping in the forest. Nick wakes up with the thought that he had fallen asleep in the woods during a rehearsal and had missed his cue. He begins to wonder whether all that had happened was a dream or reality.
Many critics believe Puck to be an integral character of this play. His quick wit, fooleries with magic potions, and pranks on characters of the subplots progress the play. Puck is an epitome of contrasts, he is a graceful fairy, yet a funny jester in king Oberon's court.
He spares no one when it comes to his pranks and potions, be it a common human or royalty, all fall prey to his devious pranks. He transforms Nick Bottom's head into a donkey's. Later, he smears love potion on Lysander instead of Demetrius. He also smears his queen's eyes with the same potion, thus sparing no one.
Oberon is the king of fairies and husband to queen Titania. In the play, he and his wife are in the middle of a marital feud after raising an Indian boy. Being the king and queen of fairies, their quarrels affect the weather.
Oberon decides to trick Titania into falling in love with an animal so that he can take over the boy. And so he orders Puck to use the juice of a special magical flower in his queen's eyes while she is asleep.
On seeing the plight of Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, and Helena, the king orders Puck to put this juice in Demetrius's eyes, so that Demetrius could fall in love with Helena. Puck however creates a chaos by putting the juice in Lysander's eyes.
On the other hand, Oberon finds out about Titania's love for Bottom and feels guilty and sorry for his deed. He therefore reverses the spell and reunites with his wife.
Titania is the queen of all fairies and the wife of Oberon. She is graceful, loving, and a powerful queen. Her marital squabbles with her husband, over their foster child, cause a lot of climatic unrest. This forces the king to trick her into falling in love with someone else, with the help of a little magical potion poured into her eyes while she's asleep.
The potion makes her fall in love with the first person or thing she lays her eyes on. The next day, Titania is awakened by a song sung by Nick Bottom. Compelled by the potion, she falls in love with him. Her love knows no bounds, and therefore, she orders her fairy servants to serve and care for him.
Oberon comes to know of this goofing up and begins to feel sorry about the whole situation. He then reverses the spell and sets the queen free of the enchantment.
Theseus is the powerful Duke of Athens and has a very small and almost insignificant role in the entire play. However, it is his wedding with Amazon queen Hippolyta, that is set in the woods of the Fairyland.
Theseus reminds Hermia of the ancient Athenian law which states that she is to marry a suitor chosen by her farther or face death.
Hippolyta is an Amazon queen who is all set to marry Duke Theseus. Some believe she is no longer an Amazon warrior she used to be, as she is shown quite docile and love-struck.
However, many feminist critics believe she represents many powerful women thumb-pressed under their spouses. She appears only to disappear in the Scene 1 of the Act 1, only to return for her wedding scene in Act 4.
Lysander loves Hermia and wishes to marry her. However, Hermia's father Egeus refuses to bless their alliance. As a result, they decide to elope. On their way away, they take shelter in the woods, where Puck anoints Lysander's eyes with a love potion by mistake, making him fall in love with Helena. This continues till Puck reverses his potion.
Demetrius is an Athenian man engaged to Egeus's daughter Hermia. He too falls prey to Puck's love potion and falls madly in love with Helena.
We later learns that Demetrius was engaged to Helena, but broke the engagement to marry Hermia. He has seemed to have made a deal with the latter's father and wishes to marry her even if it is against her will. At first, he seems curt and rude towards Helena and leaves her alone in the woods. However, later he ends up marrying her.
Hermia is a rebellious daughter of Egeus who is engaged to be married to Demetrius, but is in love with Lysander. She seems to be quite bold as she is willing to risk her life to be with her love. In the forest, when the men are vexed by Puck's love spell, she is willing to fight Helena for him.
Helena is a unique character from that era. She is less of a romantic, and she often speaks in general statements rather than a romantic tone. She disregards love and believes it to be foolish. This could be the case because of her unrequited love for Demetrius who has left her for Hermia.
When the men are influenced by the love potion, and both are in love with Helena, she shows quite an unusual reaction to it. She becomes more self-pitiful as she begins to believe she's become a joke. However, all's well that ends well; at the end of the story, Helena and Demetrius marry.
Egeus has a relatively small but an important role. He is Hermia's father, who wishes her to marry Demetrius. Since she is unwilling to marry as per his wishes, he brings her to Duke Theseus to scare her to marry as per his will. He also advocates the Athenian law, that the daughter has to marry as per the father's wishes or face execution.