Capulet’s ‘finger’s itch’, he threatens to strike her, he is also very abusive to his daughter calling her things such as ‘disobedient wretch! ‘ and ‘hilding’ and describing her as a curse in the family which is degrading. Hermia swears that she will keep her promise to meet Lysander: “I swear to thee by Cupid’s strongest bow, by his best arrow with the golden head, by the simplicity of Venus’ doves,” Hermia makes references to two well known mythological roman icons of love: Cupid and his mother Venus to reinforce her promise.
She swears by ‘Cupid’s strongest bow’ which suggests her promise is strong like Cupid’s bow and it should be treated with the same value as gold as she also swears by his ‘best arrow with the golden head’; Hermia’s promise has the same effect and power as Cupids arrow because, by this, the couple with be free to love each other. The repetition adds to this effect and increases the power of her speech. The colour of Venus’ doves, white, is symbolic because it shows the innocence and purity of Hermias love for Lysander.
Her promise will allow them to love each other away from the patriarchal tyranny of Egeus. The images of Venus and Cupid are not similar to those used by Hermia: “Love’s heralds should be sunbeams… therefore do nimble-pinion’d doves draw love, and therefore hath the wind-swift Cupid wings. ” Juliet is anxious and thinks that her massage of love to Romeo should be as quick as her thoughts, faster than sunbeams which is how doves carry ‘love’, Juliet means Venus the Goddess of Love because her chariot is drawn by doves, which is why Cupid, her son, has wings that carry him as fast as the wind.
Juliet believes that ‘love’ has the power to drive back ‘shadows over louring hills’. Both Hermia and Juliet have references to Cupid and Venus because they are both in love but they use them in different ways. Lysander is poetic when planning there escape, he refers to the moon and speaks in rhyme: “Tomorrow night, when Phoebe doth behold her silver visage in the wat’ry glass, decking with liquid pearl the bladed grass-” Lysander plans to elope with Hernia tomorrow night when the moon is mirrored by the reflection of the ‘wat’ry glass’.
Phoebe is another name for Diana, the Goddess of Chastity and therefore the moon. The moon is also linked to water because ‘Liquid pearl’ is a metaphor for dew drops which Elizabethans believed fell from the moon at night and covered the grass. The names of the Athenian workmen, who are introduced in Act 1, Scene 2, indicate their occupation. Quince is a carpenter and the most intelligent of the amateur actors, his name is derived from ‘quoins’ which are wedges of wood used in building. Snug makes pieces of wood fit together snugly because he is a joiner.
Snout is a tinker and whose regular job is to mend kettle snouts (spouts). The overly confident and big-headed Bottom is a weaver; the thread is wound round a reel or ‘bottom’. Flute, the bellow-maker, is so named because bellows produce a whistling sound when squeezed. And starveling’s name comes from the belief that tailors were always thin. Some of these jobs are now superfluous due to advancements in technology or the service provided is no longer needed e. g. the tinker and the bellow-maker. However carpentry and joinery are still common professions.
Titania and her husband Oberon, queen and king of the fairies are introduced in Act 2, Scene 1, including Titania’s attendants and Oberon’s jester: Puck. The king and queen are quarrelling partly because Titania accuses Oberon of being in love with Hippolyta and in turn he accuses Titania of being in love with Theseus, however these accusations aren’t true as Titania says they are ‘the forgeries of jealousy’ but this argument gives depth to the characters by adding imperfections and makes the couples relationship seem more realistic as jealousy and arguments are not uncommon.
Also because Hippolyta and Theseus are humans it makes the watcher imagine Oberon and Titania as their size also, naturally the audience would visualize them as tiny, mysterious creatures, Shakespeare probably did this to heighten their status over the other fairies and because it would be difficult for the actors to get the correct sizes Shakespeare intended so he has to portray this through words. While Titania and Oberon are human size, we get the impression that the other fairies are small as they regard cowslips as ‘tall’ which are approximately 15cm high.
There is a reference to queen Elizabeth’s bodyguards: “The cowslips tall her pensioners be; in their gold coats spots you see:” Cowslips are yellow wild flowers with red spots which bears a resemblance to Queen Elizabeth’s bodyguards who wore ‘gold coats’ embroidered with rubies which resemble the red spots on the cowslips. The world ‘tall’ could also mean handsome, both of which would be appropriate to describe Queen Elizabeth’s ‘pensioners’. This quote is also an example of how the fairies speak in rhyming couplets
According to Titania the argument between herself and Oberon has caused havoc in the mortal world as Elizabethans believed that their world was affected by the supernatural fairy word and the dances the fairies perform i. e. the Elizabethans believed that patches on unusually rich grass were formed where fairies danced. Because of Titania’s and Oberon’s fall out over ‘a little changeling boy’ the fairies have neglected the proper ceremonies and rituals so this has brought about disastrous consequences for the lives of the ‘human mortals’ because the fairies haven’t dances since the beginning of the midsummer period.
Titania vowed to take care of the Indian boy for the sake of his mother who dies during childbirth but Oberon wants him to be his ‘henchman’. Agriculture has been affected by Titania’s and Oberon’s row: “The ox hath therefore stretch’d his yoke in vain, the ploughman lost his sweat and the green corn hath rotted” The fairies used to dance to the whistling wind but now the wind pipes music with no use so ‘as in revenge have suck’d up from the sea’ and fell on land making every river burst its banks and have flooded. In this Titania is saying that the ox’s efforts spent ploughing were useless because of the water has ruined it.
The farmer has ‘lost his sweat’; his efforts were wasted because his produce, the corn, has rotted which is disastrous for his livelihood. Disease is spreading: “Crows are fatted with the murrion flock” Farm animals such as sheep and cattle have been struck with a disease called murrain thus killing them. A lot of animals must have died because the crows are ‘fatted’ so have plenty to eat. Disease is spreading through ‘contagious fogs’ which give a very dull and bleak atmosphere. People are also succumbing to illness as Titania mentions rheumatic diseases are common.
The seasons are indistinguishable from one another: “And on old Hiems’ thin and icy crown an odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds is, as in mockery, set. ” Winter is personified as an aged man appropriately named Hiems; Latin for winter. He is being mocked with a crown of ‘summer buds’, this suggests that winter is the reigning season because Hiems has a crown like a king; there are layers of frost on the plants and flowers, which is strange since the play is set in the summer months as inferred from the title, suggesting that the seasons have merged together and the typical attributed weather is disturbed.
Titania says the ‘seasons alter’ and the bewildered mortals ‘knows not which is which’. Elizabethans would recognise this awful weather described in this passage to be paralleled with the wretched summer weather they experienced in 1594, shortly before ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ was written. At the beginning of Act 2, Scene 1 the audience gets to know of Puck’s playful and mischievous reputation through a conversation exchanged between himself and one of Titania’s fairies where he boasts of the pranks he plays on mortals.
Shakespeare creates humour through irony by naming Puck in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ ‘Robin Goodfellow’ as his last name contrasts with the mischievous qualities and superstitions associated with the classical puck of Elizabethan mythology. Puck’s job is to ‘jest to Oberon and make him smile’. He entertains himself by playing tricks on humans as Elizabethans believe he has the ability to change form.
Puck’s deeds include labouring in the churn so the milk wont turn to butter despite the ‘breathless housewife’s’ efforts, morphing into a three-foot stool and when a sad old woman goes to sit down he slips from under her bum and laughs and puck also pretends to be a roasted apple in an old woman’s ale so when she drinks he bobs up and down so it spills on her ‘wither’d dewlap’. He also enjoys misleading people at night.
Oberon sees the trouble between Helena and Demetrius so orders puck to sprinkle the juice of the ‘love-in-idleness’ flower on Demetrius’ eyes so he will fall in love with Helena but he accidentally mistakes Lysander for Demetrius as they both wear the same ‘Athenian garments’ and so Lysander falls in love with Helena. Although Puck has an ill-behaved reputation this was not intentional. The tale of how the pansy got its name ‘love-in-idleness’ is purely from Shakespeare’s vast imagination.
He says Queen Elizabeth was a virgin because Cupid missed his target. Oberon saw how the Roman God Cupid took aim on the ‘fair vestal throned by the west’ with his fiery arrow but the moon took away its power as it is both associated with water and chastity. Queen Elizabeth was left ‘fancy free’ and the arrow fell to earth upon a milk-white flower turned purple with ‘love’s wound’. Busy people, like Queen Elizabeth, have no time for love that is why love is connected with idleness.
Shakespeare probably wrote this play for a noble wedding where the guests would desire a light hearted performance at which they can laugh but nothing serious or intellectual as they would be happy and relaxed and would want a comedy. Shakespeare was popular with the monarch at the time: Queen Elizabeth 1, the virgin queen and the many references to Diana, the Goddess of Chastity would be in celebration of her virginity.
There are many references to the moon because it is a symbol of love and the play has a romantic theme, it also plays a big part in Elizabethan’s beliefs and the night creates an interesting setting for the magic, romance and turmoil. It is also necessary for Shakespeare to keep reminding the watcher that most of the play takes place at night but since in his time there were no stage lighting he does this by repeatedly mentioning the moon. The pressure for Hermia from her father Egeus in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is a good example of the restrains put on women and reflects the patriarchal reign in the society which they lived in.
Hermia, and Juliet from ‘Romeo and Juliet’, were dominated by and effectively were slaves to their fathers and the strict laws in Shakespeare’s time. Elizabethans learn a lot about classical mythology which can be seen through such mythical greek characters as Theseus and Hippolyta and used to create imagery by Hermia and Lysander; they use images of Cupid and Venus to express their love. The conversations of the fairies also show many of the beliefs that Elizabethans held at that time regarding the moon and its symbolism.