William Shakespeare, the acclaimed dramatist of all ages, was born and baptized on 26 April 1564, in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, and died on 23 April 1616. However, Shakespeare’s origin and his identity are yet mysterious because the records of that time have been misplaced but whatever the evidence critics get from pages of the history is enough to get to know about his identification. Shakespeare was multidimensional in his personality, an excellent actor, charming poet, great dramatist, and most popular writer among his contemporary writers. Whatever he took for writing, he changed the shape of that thing and create his style and put his taste into that. As Robert Greene acknowledged and wrote for the Shakespeare, “There is an upstart crow, beautified with our feathers, that with his tiger’s heart wrapped in a player’s hide, supposes he is as well able to bombast out a blank verse as the best of you; and being an absolute Johannes factotum, is in his conceit the only Shakespeare-scene in a country”.
Shakespeare’s literary career lasted for 24 years which is divided into four different phases. In his first period, Shakespeare produced some chronicle plays including some poems and sonnets too which are of high quality and occupy a special place in the English literature. In his second phase, Shakespeare wrote some loveable comedies and historical plays that revived the history of past kings and emperors of England, France, Rome, Greek, etc. In his third period which is quite popular because of the grime and some outstanding tragedies he penned down and are also known as big four tragedies including Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and King Lear. These tragedies are universal because of its variant themes, the art of characterization, construction of the plots, use of blank verse, confusing nature of the characters, and so on. These big four tragedies completely unravel the overall nature of human beings in its fullest way. Therefore, his friend and contemporary fellow writer Ben Jonson defines his greatness, “Shakespeare is not only the writer of his age but for all ages”. In his final period, Shakespeare wrote some tragicomedies along with the partnership of other writers.
Today, I will review and discuss one of Shakespeare’s beautiful comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It is believed that this lovely comedy has been written around the period from 1590 to 1597. The play centers around the marriage ceremony of the duke of Athens Theseus and Hippolyta including the adventures journey of the four young Athenian lovers Hermia, Lysander, Helena, Demetrius, and six amateur actors who are controlled and manipulated by the fairies who live in the forest where the most play is set and performed. This play like other plays of Shakespeare is the most popular piece ever written for the stage and is performed and read widely across the world. However, the play consists of four different simple plots and, in each plot, there is a story that turns and twists here and there.
The play begins with Hermia who is in love with Lysander but his father Egeus interrupted and did not allow her to marry Lysander, instead, Egeus compels Hermia to wed Demetrius. Meanwhile, Egeus came into the court of Duke Theseus for invoking the Athenian law either Hermia must obey her father’s demand else she should face the death penalty. Theseus has a third option for Hermia too to choose and live life-long chastity. This law, however, symbolizes the authority of males over females no matter what the relationship is but a woman cannot have the freedom to marry on her choice. The same phenomena still go on in our societies too where a woman is not allowed to take any decision on her own. This stupid authority of males over females compels women to leave their homes and live their independent life. Man must think and respect the liberty of women because they have got universal independent existence on the planet by God and God has given some rights to women as well to survive their life according to their way and style. If a man does not create a pace for women to live her life, then I do not think that society will develop and accomplish something great in the course of history. This enrages Hermia’s attitude to carry out some bold decision and then she decides to run away from Athens to marry Lysander and live her own life that she wants to live independently. As lines from the play clear the concept of true and pure love, “The course of true love never did run smooth”.
Being an actor and great dramatist, Shakespeare was aware of how to put plots within the plot and make the story more interesting so that audience gets entertained. Peter Quince and his fellow players plan to perform the play on the wedding ceremony of Duke Theseus and Hippolyta. The roles are directed by the Peter quince in which the lead role is played by Nick Bottom who plays the role of Pyramus and the character of Thisbe is also performed by Bottom by changing his outlook and wearing a mask. The play is about the sad death of Pyramus who is in love with Thisbe, but both never meet and died in the tragic end. As lines from the text clear idea, “The most lamentable comedy and the cruelest death of Pyramus and Thisbe”.
When Hermia and Lysander left Athens for going away to wed secretly, they were being followed by Demetrius, and Helena chased Demetrius because she was in love with Demetrius, but Demetrius was ignoring her, scolding her, rebuking her, rejecting her. The more Demetrius hates Helena, the more Helena Loves him. As in the text, Demetrius openly refuses to love Helena, “Do I entice you? Do I speak to you fair? Or, rather, do I in plainest truth tell you, I do not, nor I cannot love you? Helena replies and says, “and even for that do I love you the more. I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius, The more you beat me, I will fawn on you.” Meanwhile, Oberon, king of the fairies, and Titania, his queen appeared in the forest and Titania told Oberon that she plans to stay here in the forest until the wedding ceremony of Theseus and Hippolyta takes place. Oberon and Titania quarreled because Titania refused to hand over the Indian changeling to whom Oberon used as a knight or henchmen. To punish Titania, Oberon calls upon his spirit Robin Puck Goodfellow to apply magical juice which is taken from a flower. Once this juice is applied on the eyelids of a sleeping person then that person after awakening whosoever, he or she sees will fall in love with that. So, Titania got that juice in sleeping up until she wakes up will see any animal and fall in love with that and leave Indian changeling.
As the story progresses, Oberon saw Helena and Demetrius arguing with each other because Helena advances towards Demetrius but Demetrius rebuffs Helena consistently. Observing all this by Oberon, he orders Puck to apply some juice on the eyelids of Demetrius. Mistakenly, Puck put the juice on the Lysander in sleeping. When Helena saw Lysander, she dragged him from a deep sleep and when Lysander woke up and fell in love with Helena. Oberon again orders Puck to apply the juice on the eyelids of Demetrius and bring back Helena to Demetrius. When all is done and set by Puck. Both Lysander and Demetrius fell in love with Helena meanwhile Hermia appeared and saw this all that what is going on. To prove the point who loves Helena, Demetrius and Lysander agreed to fight, whosoever wins will take Helena. Now Oberon comes into play to stop the fight and orders Puck to remove the juice from Lysander so that everything gets normal.
Finally, the problem is resolved between Lysander and Demetrius. Lysander got Hermia back and Demetrius began to love Helena. Fairies disappeared on the screen. Theseus and Hippolyta with their attendants came to the forest for a wedding ceremony and found there Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia, and Helena. Theseus overrules Egeus’ demand and arranges the group wedding. All lovers decided that the night must have been dream only none the less. They all exit. In Athens, Theseus, Hippolyta, and four lovers begin to watch the Quince and his team who perform the play of Pyramus and Thisbe. After all other characters leave the stage and hall, Puck appears and announces that whatever the audience experienced so far is nothing more than a dream, hence the play is therefore named as the A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The play is quite interesting and eye-snatching because of the craftsmanship which has been carried out by Shakespeare. Love finally wins the battle over a reason because love has the immense power to rule over the reason. No law can be applied before pure and true love. Shakespeare plays therefore still relevant to today’s explanation of the love and its battle with reason. Hence, I hold Shakespeare as the greatest dramatist of all time.
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