William Shakespeare’s comedy, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” has stood the test of time. Across the globe today, repertoire companies take the stage with humorous roles entertaining even by current standards. The comedy, however, with only a few changes, could have been one of Shakespeare’s great tragedies. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was written between 1595 and 1596. Its original name was Bard’s Original Wedding Play (Comedy in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” 2010). The story features two couples, Hermia and Lysander and Helena and Demetrius who enter into a fairyland where Oberon and Titania rule, and the character of Puck plays havoc.
There is another group of characters, Bottom, and his friends, who enter the forest in order to rehearse “Pyramus and Thisbe” (Comedy in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” 2010). “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” can be described as a comedy of errors. Shakespeare uses mistaken identities and reversed relationships. This situation comes from the Italian comedy called “comedia del arte” which had its beginnings with “qui-pro quo” errors. The audience, however, understands the reversal of the relationship of the couples is because of the love juice and actions of the fairies.
There is another incident of comedy that relies on the absurdity. For instance, the fairy Queen falls for the character wearing the asshead. This ridiculous situation forms the basis for humor in this Shakespearean comedy. (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” 2010) There is another presence of humor with the play of “Pyramus and Thisbe. Shakespeare uses satire in this play that occurs within a play. Much of this comedy is based on exaggerated ideas and errors in semantics. Then, there is the character of Bottom which serves as a sort-of court jester (“A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” 2010).
A humorous episode occurs in Act 2, Scene 1, when Helena tells Demetrius that she will follow him regardless of whether or not he rejects her. She compares herself to being his dog. Today, the scene does not appear as funny due to the low self-esteem of the character. However, when the play was first performed, the scene made the audience laugh. Some of the most comical portions of the play involve the activities of the fairies and supernatural effects. In Act 2, Scene 2, Oberon puts love potion, or a “juice” on the eyes of Titania.
He says that he hopes she will awaken when an ugly creature is by her side. Soon after, Puck is unable to find the Athenian couple he was sent to find. He sees Lysander nearby. Lysander is wearing Athenian garb and therefore, Puck makes the error of dusting Lysander’s eyes with the love potion. Helena later sees Lysander sleeping and wakes him up. When Lysander sees it is Helena, who awakened him, he proclaims his deep love and affection for her. Ironically, Shakespeare does not have Lysander forget his past, or get amnesia.
He still remembers his relationship with Hermia and perhaps that contributes to the character’s bitterness in Act 2, Scene 2. Helena tells Lysander that Hermia is still is in love with him, but he does not listen to her words. Helena thinks Lysander is mocking her and making fun of her (Shakespeare Navigator, 2010). In Act 3, Scene 1, Bottom and his band prepare to rehearse the play “Pyramus and Thisbe. ” Bottom is concerned that the topics in the play, such as suicide, may shock some of the ladies in the audience.
Therefore, with the cooperation of the crew, he writes a prologue explaining that there is no real suicide involved. Then, Snout expresses worry that the lion he is to portray may scare people. Therefore, it is agreed that they write another prologue explaining that the lion is not real. When the rehearsal begins, the actors end up using the wrong words, they miss their cues, and often speak all at once. In another humorous situation at the rehearsal, Bottom takes the role of director and appears to suggest that a rewrite of the play is necessary.
The situation provides considerable comic relief for the member of the audience. Then, during the scene, Bottom goes into the bushes where he meets up with Puck. When Bottom returns to read his part, his crew is shocked as he is wearing an “asshead. ” His friends are frightened at the turn of events and run off. Bottom has no idea as to what the problem is. He begins to sing. His singing awakens the Queen, Titania, who immediately sees Bottom wearing the “asshead” and falls madly in love with him. This scene is one of the most humorous of the play (Shakespeare Navigation, 2010).
Ironically, the play “Pyramus and Thisbe” is a parallel of the real situation. It features a secret meeting of couples in the forest, and how an unfortunate incident separates them. The play ends with a comedic parody (Shakespearean Themes, 2010). In Act 4, Scene 1, during this section of the play, Titania asks Bottom if he is hungry. Of course, he is still wearing the “asshead” and tells her he has a strange craving for some hay. The situation, however, changes when Oberon removes the magic from the eyes of Titania. She immediately sees the “asshead” she had fallen for.
She says, “O, how mine eyes do loathe his visage now! ” Puck removes the “asshead” and Bottom becomes just like the other characters of the play, Demetrius, Hermia, Helena and Lysander who all believe the fairy magic is just a dream (Shakespeare Navigation 2010). Although a comedy, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” easily could have turned into a Shakespearean tragedy. A tragedy is a play that features at least one character that has a moral flaw contributing to his failure. In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, readers see a parallel with Romeo in Juliet.
Both plays consist of distinct pairs who are in love and seek help from a family member. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” would have easily been a tragedy if Egeus had been present for the wedding celebration of Hermia and Lysander. Egeus had threatened to kill his daughter if she married a man not of his choosing (Shakespearean Themes, 2010). The audience of the play is induced by the fairy world and its innocent charm. Yet, there is a certain amount of terror within the darkness of the forest, and the potential for a nightmare is possible.
For instance, Puck rehearses in the night air. The audience hears the sound of the lion, wolf and owl. The couples feel their nerves on edge and seem to be victims of the darkness. In fact, Helena worries about the darkness in Act 3, Scene 3 (Taylor, 1969). However, the long dream ends with the break of day. The characters rejoice in their happiness. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is considered one of Shakespeare’s happiest of comedies. It concludes with each of the sets of lovers finding their happiness with the right person to make for a favorable ending.
The audience, however, is well aware from the beginning of the play which partner each will end up with at the play’s conclusion. In conclusion, there are some bawdy moments in the play, but as Puck said; anyone concerned should see the play as just a dream, not fairy antics or foolish behavior. Although the play is humorous throughout, this paper has shown at least three instances of how comic relief is used in the play. The play is a farce, consisting of mistaken identities, and humorous semantics and dialogue. It remains a popular play today across the globe.