William Shakespeare was born in the 1564 and died in 1616. He lived in the Elizabethan era and Elizabethan society was very different to the society of today and this difference was very visible in the theatre. In Elizabethan times, theatre was more communal and accessible to the masses than it is today, where theatre is seen as more formal and elitist. Shakespeare’s plays appealed to and attracted a wide audience: Queen Elizabeth herself watched some of his plays.
In the Globe Theatre, where the majority of his plays were performed, the less affluent theatre goers stood around the stage (and were known as the groundlings), whereas those better off would be in the seats and boxes which were arranged in an upwards curve. This mass appeal would manifest itself in the wide variety of characters in his plays. For example, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, there are many different types of characters for the audience to relate to, ranging from the Duke and Duchess to the “rude mechanicals”.
This play is about the meeting of different groups of people and what happens when their worlds collide. In this essay… [A midsummer night’s dream is set in Athens and the part of the play I will be focusing on in this essay occurs in the woods. ] Four Athenian youths are roaming the woods on midsummer’s night. Lysander and Hermia are trying to elope but Demetrius has followed them because he also wants to marry Hermia. Hermia’s father Egeus has promised her to Demetrius and says if she refuses to marry him she should be put to death or become a nun.
Hermia and Lysander have run away to get married and escape this fate, but told Hermia’s friend Helena who then told Demetrius where they ran to because she is in love with him. She also followed Demetrius into the woods despite his protestations that he hates her. Another group in the woods are the working men who are rehearsing a play which is to be performed on Duke Theseus’ wedding day. The third and final group in the forest are the fairies who inhabit it. The audience of the play is introduced to Titania and Oberon who are the King and Queen of the fairies.
They are having an argument over a changeling boy who they both want. Oberon wants the boy in order to train him as a knight, but Titania refuses to let him have him as she promised the boy’s mother she would look after him. Oberon, angered by this, tells his mischievous servant Puck to fetch a magical flower which when its juice is applied to a person’s eyes will make them fall in love with the first person or creature they see. While awaiting Puck’s return Oberon sees Demetrius being obnoxious to Helena and resolves to fix their problem with the flower.
Oberon orders Puck to anoint the eyes of the Athenian youth, not knowing that Lysander and Hermia are also in the woods. Lysander’s eyes are anointed by Puck and he falls madly in love with Helena and much chaos ensues. In this essay I am going to discuss the way Shakespeare uses language and the effects he creates by comparing two of Oberon’s speeches. The first passage I will be focusing on will be from Act three scene two. I am going to claim that Shakespeare’s use of language and rhyme creates the atmosphere of a spell.
When Oberon anoints Titania’s eyes and casts the love spell, Shakespeare uses seven syllables per line to create more of a mystical and spell like atmosphere. The speech I am studying is spoken by Oberon in at three scene two and is as follows; “Flower of this purple dye, Hit with Cupid’s archery, Sink in apple of his eye When his love he doth espy,
Let her shine as gloriously As the Venus of the sky. When thou wak’st, if she be by, Beg of her for remedy. ” As you can see this is not typical of Shakespeare as it is not written in iambic pentameter and has a rhyme scheme of A, B, A, A, B, A, B. This differentiates it from the rest of the prose and marks it out as a spell. Shakespeare neglects to use alliteration as it would depreciate from the ethereal qualities of the spell. In this speech there is a marked lack of literary techniques so as not to detract from the spell itself.
The language used is fairly plain and the meaning is clear; Demetrius should fall in love with Helena and apologise for his past maltreatment of her. The spell is almost like a chant and highlights to the reader or audience that magic is indeed at work here. I will now analyse the second speech I have chosen by Oberon and compare and contrast the two. The second speech I have chosen is also in act three scene two and begins on line 354. The speeches are on sight very different; the second is much longer and is written in iambic pentameter.
Looking more closely we see that the rhyme scheme changes too; in this speech each line rhymes, or half rhymes, with the line following it. This speech is more typical of Shakespeare’s way of writing; it is laden with literary techniques and eloquent prose. Oberon is talking about the solution to the problem which he created. He speaks fluidly and eloquently and in a way which is totally different to that of the previous speech I looked at. I have proved in this essay that when Shakespeare alters the language he uses the effect changes.