Dream or Reality

Throughout Shakespeare’s play the reader is given various characters in several love triangles. As the viewer or critical thinker, the constant question that arose in my head was whether scenes were dreams or realities. For example when Robin puts a spell on Demetrius and Helena, she is head over heels for him and now Demetrius wants nothing to do with her. I am aware the spell has been cast upon them but this incidence occurs post them falling asleep, seemingly simulating a dream. 
Another prominent example of this situation was when Puck casts the same spell onto Titania just after she falls asleep. On page 868, line 121 “I pray thee, gentle moral sing again” Titania awakens hearing Bottom rehearsing for play to be performed at the wedding. Immediately she has strong, affectionate feelings towards Bottom who in fact, is an ass. Line 131 states “Thou art as wise as thou art beautiful,” Titania is clearly dreaming of a semi attractive man instead of embracing the reality. I imagined this scene to be Titania in a deep sleep and as she’s awakening; she is awake in her dream, not real life. 
Entering mid Act 3 we witness two men battling for the love of Helena in which can be interpreted as a dream. Helena in the beginning of the play was searching for true love, now I believe in her dreams she is presented with two wise men that would greatly sweep her away. It seems too good of a reality for Helena and she aggressively attempts to throw them away. It doesn’t take long for Puck to reverse his spell and all the characters to wake up back into reality.
One line that stood out to me in Act 5 was in a long speech by Theseus in line 18 “Such tricks hath strong imagination,” to me, this line symbolized foreshadowing to the title of the play. Such trickery can in fact turn out to be just a midsummer night’s dream.  
Lastly, we are left with the epilogue by Robin, lines 3-6 “That you have but slumbered here, while these visions did appear; and this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream.” This passage strengthens my belief that Shakespeare integrated phases of imagination with reality and it is the reader or viewers job to decipher them. 
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5 thoughts on “Dream or Reality

  1. Christine Richin

    Amanda, you make a very interesting point in addressing the dream-like characteristics of the various scenes presented throughout the play. I would say the only argument that I can really make against the unrealistic events being no more than a dream is the outcome of the situation between the lovers in Act V. If Helena was not actually pursued by both Demetrius and Lysander as a result of the love potion, then ultimately she would not have ended up marrying anyone by the end of the play. As you mentioned, the beginning of the play illustrates that Helena was struggling with the turmoil of her unrequited love for Demetrius. If she was actually dreaming when the two men began mooning over her, her circumstances with Demetrius would not have changed so drastically by Act V. I am wondering if the unlikelihood of the conflicts and circumstances that arise through the manipulation of love (with the potion) is really just Shakespeare’s way of addressing comedy from an unexpected angle rather than introducing this concept of inception. I’ve noticed in reading A Midsummer Night’s dream that (in regards to pivotal plot points) the audience should expect the unexpected. He surprises us with language that simply does not fit with the situation and as a result, we find ourselves laughing. We can see this same sort of method alive and well in today’s comic entertainment. I would argue that the most successful modern-day comedians follow Shakespeare’s footsteps in using the element of surprise in language and behavior throughout their acts. In specific reference to Shakespeare’s play one of the more striking moments where this element of surprise is displayed was addressed in your post; the way Titania speaks to Bottom when she awakens from the potion. I see how you would think she was awakening within her dream considering we would not expect to hear words of love and beauty being spoken to a man with an ass’s head, but the fact that Titania needs an antidote to be released from her sudden obsession of this man suggests to me that the fictional aspects of this play were meant to be taken as reality for the purposes of humor. The hilarity of this situation is represented by the sudden dumb-struck behavior of Titania’s character. Granted, Robin’s epilogue does force us to wonder if the entire production was meant to be absorbed through the perspective of a dream, so I completely understand where you are coming from. When the lovers fall victim to the love potion, the language (in reference to the quotations you pulled from the text) becomes unclear. “Such tricks hath strong imagination” is a really good example for this side of the argument because it demonstrates how the characters themselves are not completely sure of whether or not what they experienced is real. Your last point in your blog post really hits home on what I think Shakespeare was doing with all this ambiguity; he wanted to create a story open to interpretation. Personally, I think the fact that his plays are still open to new discussions is a signifier of his genius as a playwright. He definitely succeeded in leaving us wondering about the true nature of the reality within the play as well as the nature of the reality in the audiences experience.

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  2. Clifford Venho

    Dear Amanda,Some very interesting observations here. I agree, Shapekspeare is dealing with dream and reality, or to put it another way the weaving of dream life and waking life, of two or more modes of experience: the clean surface of day and the shadowy depths of night. You could argue that what happens in dreams is less important than what happens in full wakefulness, and yet much of the drama of the play depends on these scenes, these dreamy interludes in the woods under the light of the moon, the dark plains (mares) of the moon; it's in a way even reminiscent of the magic in a play like Macbeth, where the forces of fate are strangely at work in the nighttime vigils of the Weird Sisters. But whereas tragedy follows the trajectory of one character's story as s/he comes up against the overwhelming forces of destiny, of a maddening fate–which work themselves out like the forces and secret energies of dream life, of nightmare–a comedy plays with these realities mischievously; it plays and mocks the tragic mode with a distanced knowledge that in the end it resolves itself in order, that, as Puck says, it’s been “but a dream…”

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  3. Joshua Briggs

    I think Christine brought up a few interesting points. It's interesting that the dream scenes take place in the woods, outside the realm of the city and the law. Like Cliff said in class, perhaps the woods exist outside the rules of the city. Perhaps they are a dream themselves.

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  4. Nicole Belladone

    I completely agee with you here Amanda. The whole time I was reading the play I kept thinking to myself the difference between the reality of these situations, compared to dreamlike, imaginary fantasies that are being acted out. Shakespeare likes to mix the imagination with reality, as most of the scenes throughout the play seem to be focused on unexplainable scenarios, just as dreams can seem to us. Although dreams are not real and are abstract, they feel very real when we are experiencing them. The woods compared to Athens is a world of dreams and imagination, away from reality and law.

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  5. Nicole Belladone

    I completely agee with you here Amanda. The whole time I was reading the play I kept thinking to myself the difference between the reality of these situations, compared to dreamlike, imaginary fantasies that are being acted out. Shakespeare likes to mix the imagination with reality, as most of the scenes throughout the play seem to be focused on unexplainable scenarios, just as dreams can seem to us. Although dreams are not real and are abstract, they feel very real when we are experiencing them. The woods compared to Athens is a world of dreams and imagination, away from reality and law.

    Reply

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