Adv. English 12
15 September 2004
Similarities Between Worlds
The three worlds in Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream have several similarities: similar systems of hierarchy, relationships between inhabitants of different worlds, and similar situations that occur in more than one of the worlds. The three worlds are like winding and twisting roads, they may cross and converge at several points and are connected by other roads to one another. The forest is the converging point of the three worlds in Shakespeare’s play. The forest is where characters from all worlds come together and interact. Although the three worlds are all separate from one another, they all are connected in several ways. Relationships have taken place between the worlds, such as that between Oberon king of the fairies and Hippolyta of the Amazons. A system of monarchy also relates all of the groups, a caste system with high class and low class beings. Common ground, therefore, exists between creatures of similar rank in different societies. Similar situations are an occurrence in each world no matter how different they may seem. No matter how different these worlds try to be there is no escaping the similarities that connect them.
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, relationships occur not only with people of the same society, but also with those who belong to different worlds. The love of the fairies especially seems to extend into all the other groups. Evidence of a relationship between the fairies and the high-class society is provided in a heated debate between Titania and Oberon, in which Titania reveals that Oberon “sat all day, playing on pipes of corn, and versing love to amorous Phillida” (II.i.66-8). In retaliation Oberon asks, “How canst though thus for shame, Titania, glance at my credit with Hippolyta, knowing I know thy love to Theseus?” (II.i.74-6). These lines prove that there was definitely something going on between the king and queen of the fairies and the Duke and Hippolyta. The way the fairies talk it sounds as though they do not truly love the humans but favor them, like the gods favor Odysseus in The Odyssey. Titania’s love for the lazy, low-class Bottom is not really love, because the nectar of a flower causes it. This short-lived love between Bottom and Titania represents the effects of love at first sight. Once the person underneath of the illusion is seen through reasoning eyes, the love is shattered. These relationships show that love is not reasonable or kind, and even people on opposite ends of the economic ladder can fall in love. This was especially effective in earlier years when people only wed their own kind and there was little affection between people who were different. In many societies prearranged marriages were used and couples were forced into love. Marrying people who were of a different race or nationality was something that just did not occur very often. Even relationships between people on different ends of the economic system seldom occurred. By portraying this love of people from several different groups Shakespeare was helping to break this system and show how love has nothing to do with appearances, but what is inside.
Between the worlds themselves exist many similarities in social interaction and love. Oberon and Titania and Theseus and Hippolyta are so similar that the same actors often portray them when the play is presented. The relationships between the couples are coincidental, and similar events happen to both at similar times. Both couples are not getting along with each other initially. This is shown by sarcastic remarks by Hippolyta, after being asked how she could wait four days she responded, “Four days will quickly steep themselves in night, Four nights will quickly dream away the time” (I.i.7-8). Titania and Oberon are also in the middle of a debate at the same time over a little changeling child. Oberon demands the boy that Titania possesses, but Titania tells him, “Not for thy fairy Kingdom” (II.i.144) and departs. Their relationships are eventually mended later in the story and all is well between the couples. Not only are these relationships alike, but the relationship between Lysander and Hermia and Pyramus and Thisby are also very similar. Hermia and Lysander plan to elope because Theseus himself has forbidden their relationship. Lysander tells Hermia, “…in the wood, a league without the town…There will I stay for thee” (I.i.165-68). Pyramus and Thisby also choose to elope because of their forbidden love. Pyramus asks, “Wilt thou at Ninny’s tomb meet me straight-away?” (V.i.204) to which Thisby agrees. Not only is “The most lamentable comedy, and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisby” similar to a love story within the play, but also to Romeo and Juliet, another one of Shakespeare’s famous plays. All these similar relationships are added to show how universal love is and how everyone can be affected. The similar relationships show that no matter how magical, how charming, or how rich one is, the problems of love are universal and everyone is affected.
Government plays an important role in a society and all three of these worlds are ruled by a monarchy. One or two people have authority over the others and similar tasks are assigned to certain people within their kingdom. Oberon and Titania rule over the fairies, Theseus rules the humans within his kingdom, and Quince is in charge of the players. These characters are respected by the people within their world and are looked up to for advice. Puck and Philostrate are similar in several ways. They are both servants who gladly serve the king in the society to which they belong. In Act I Theseus says: “Go, Philostrate, stir up the Athenian youth to merriments…” (I.i.12) to which Philostrate complies. In Act II Oberon commands: “Fetch me this herb, and be thou here again…” (II.i.173) and Puck immediately does as Oberon says. These two characters are like mirror images of one another playing the same role in opposite worlds. Similar systems of hierarchy are in place in all three of the societies. There are the rulers and other royalty, the middle-class, and the low-class groups. The low-class society is actually a separate world, and the players portray this in the play. The Fairies also have royalty, Oberon and Titania, and other low-class fairies that serve the royalty. By giving the players a role in the play, Shakespeare shows the little interaction that occurs between the low-class and high-class. It occurs only during special occasions and royalty deals with the low class through their own servants.
The three worlds in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream effectively display the universal effect of love and government in all societies. Although these were three completely different worlds, love acted the same way on all three. The play also displays the fact that love knows no boundaries. Love is capable of occurring between people of all societies and social status. This is shown by the several love triangles that took place within and between the three worlds. Government is also the same in all three worlds and has the same effects. All three worlds have their leaders, servants, and low-class citizens. Using the three groups Shakespeare shows many certain concepts are universal and how similar everything really is.