Themes in the Play
A Midsummer Night's Dream deals with many themes, the most apparent of which is that of love. Not only is there an idea that love will ultimately triumph over all, the play also makes apparent the pitfalls that love can present most especially when it is out of balance. Perhaps the most famous quote in this play can be found in Act 1 Scene 1 when Lysander tells Hermia "the course of true love never did run smooth".
Certainly for these characters, falling in and out of love (mainly through Puck's error) is never a smooth transition. As long as there is no balance in the love, the happy ending cannot be achieved. At the beginning of the play, Lysander loves Hermia who loves him back, but Helena loves Demetrius who is in love with Hermia, and so there can be no happiness because there is no balance. The plot is based on the quest for internal balance. Once the lovers' tangle of pairings is resolved and there are two balanced couples, then the happy ending is achieved.
There are many hints through the play which suggest themes of jealousy.
The first hint of jealousy is seen when Egeus claims to Theseus that Lysander has stolen Hermia's obedience and love. He is slightly jealous of the new man in his daughter's life. This father-daughter relationship can be seen as natural, but is, in some cases, is taken to extremes.
Also, Helena is deeply in love with Demetrius, who is in love with Hermia. Helena is jealous of Hermia's beauty and she claims that she too is as beautiful. She wonders what Hermia has that she doesn't that makes men follow her everywhere. So, out of jealousy, Helena tells Demetrius that Hermia and Lysander plan to escape to the woods.
Helena is in bitter sentiment over her mistreatment from Demetrius. However, she is hurt not plainly because he is rude and mean to her, but because she is jealous of Hermia. This jealousy translates into her perpetual chase after Demetrius.
It is clear who the dominant characters are in A Midsummer Night's Dream, with each having the ability to control situations and have some sense of power and organisation on a situation.
At the start of the play, it is Duke Theseus and his wife Hippolyta that we see as dominating. We are introduced to them as high class characters that have authority over many of the characters in the play. The huge up-roar of a wedding and the celebrations to be had for these two characters only suggests that they are of some importance in the overall scheme of things.
We next see Egeus, Hermia's father, as he dominates her daughter with a horrible decision: To marry Demetrius, join a nunnery or be killed. This type of authority only pushes Hermia away, but none the less, we see that Egeus is dominating in his own way.
In Shakespeare's mythical land it is, of course, Oberon that has all power and authority, even over his wife, Titania. Due to the magic flower juice, he is able to teach Titania a lesson, as does he try and help the Athenians in their messed up love triangle. Oberon's status and ability to delve into such power is obviously important when looking at the dominating characters of the play.
In Shakespeare's time and even now, people believe that everyone has a predetermined life outcome which is their destiny/ fate. Within this play everyone has an ultimate destiny and no matter what happens through the course of the play, their fate/ destiny will be sealed, but it is the choices they make along the way that determine their path to their destiny. For example; the lovers will end up together at the end, but choosing to sleep when they did, means that Puck could find them and pour the love potion in their eyes. This created an illusion that they in fact loved someone else. The choices they made from then on took them down a particular path. Ultimately though everything was made right again and they end up with their ‘true' love. This is just one example of fate within this particular play.
- Mirror Mirror
Students are to break into pairs, where one student is 'A' and the other is 'B'. 'A' is the dominating and 'B', the submissive. Students then face each other, standing in a neutral position. 'A' then has to make movements which 'B' follows in the same sequence, much like a mirror reflection. These must be done slow motion so that 'B' has time to follow through with 'A's movements.
This activity would be appropriate either before or after attending A Midsummer Night's Dream. Split the class into groups of between 4-8. One person is the traveller and another is the destiny. All people in the group are to form a line from one end of the room to the other. At one end of the line is the traveller and at the other end is the destiny. The traveller is to decide what task they are trying to complete. The destiny then decides what the outcome of the task will be. Once this is established the traveller chooses three people in the line. Each of these three people provides an obstacle for the traveller. The traveller acts out each obstacle until they reach the destiny. This can be repeated, with the traveller picking different people along the way. Teacher may explain that the choices they make determine their path to the ultimate destiny.