A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens with love with complications—typical, right? First, we get a dominating power dynamic. On the first page we learn that Theseus dominated Hippolyta during a military conquest, and now they will be married in four days. Although this arrangement seems completely aggressive and one-sided, Hippolyta too is excited to be married.
Soon after, we are introduced to another male dominated relationship. Egeus, Hermia’s father, comes to complain that this daughter will not obey him in that she will not marry Demetrius. However, here we see the female speaking up for her wants. Hermia’s first line in the play “So is Lysander” (1.1.53) is ambivalent in that this line speaks to her independent desires, but the three words also reinforce her compliance to men. Hermia does not want to be independent of men, rather she wants choice of who to marry (which does exert some independence). In addition, I find that Egeus’ 23 line complaint about his daughter, with her three word response to contrast one another greatly. The power dynamic is implicitly reinforced through the language in this way.
Theseus goes on to add that if Hermia does not act as he wishes she will “For aye to be in shady cloister mewed” (1.1.71). In reality though, Hermia is already caged in by the societal forces which give men the right to reign over women.
To contrast the absurdity of the first scene, the second scene can be viewed as a foil to the harsh realities of society’s boundaries. These working class men stumble around trying to put together a production of The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe. The title of the production, which uses excessive (and unnecessary) modifiers by using “most” twice. To make the production even more absurd, they are throwing together parts only days before they are supposed to perform. The conglomeration of these misfit men do not fluidly fit together as a crew. Bottom has no idea what the play is about and has to ask whether Pyramus is a lover or tyrant, when the story of Pyramus and Thisbe is one of the most classic stories. Flute does not want to play a woman because he is growing a beard, and so on. These men clearly have little experience in theater and are not fit to put together such a production.
The absurdity of Scene 2 contrasts with the underlying absurdity of yet another love story about two young people not being able to be together because of their parents’ wishes.