Dreaming in a Midsummer Night’s Dream

When Puck offers his epilogue, he says “If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended: That you have but slumbered here, while these visions did appear.” This made me think of the function of dreams and sleep throughout the play, and the ways in which they blur reality. This epilogue is telling its audience to pretend you were dreaming if you didn’t like the play. It references the idea in the play that the drama caused by the love juice was remembered to be a dream when the lovers woke up cured. It ties together many different ways that sleep and dreams are used in the story, and the suggestion that the fantastical elements of the play may have been dreamt up.

The drama of the story is created by Puck’s love juice, that he sprinkles over characters’ eyes as they sleep. The application of this juice during sleep suggests that maybe they dream the whole thing. Another aspect of the love juice/sleep dynamic that stuck out to me is the fact that the characters frequently fall asleep alone in the woods. I’m not sure if this is something that happened more commonly in Shakespeare’s time,  but I think it adds another dreamlike element to the story. The setting of the results of the love potion in the woods makes it more stark and surreal, and contributes to the suggestion that these events are only happening in dreams.

The events of the play occur in a way that seems dreamlike, and the climax is followed by what seems like “waking up.” After Puck applies the cure to the lovers, they wake up and things are not only back to normal, but even better than before. Demetrius finds himself no longer in love with Hermia, but back in love with Helena. This allows Egeus to permit Hermia to be with Lysander. It happens so quickly that all of their problems are solved upon waking up that it seems as though the whole thing was a dream, and sort of insignificant. I also get the feeling it could be a suggestion of a dreamlike resolution, that maybe suggests reality isn’t that different than dreaming.

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4 thoughts on “Dreaming in a Midsummer Night’s Dream

  1. Danielle Walsh

    It is interesting that you mention the idea the whole play could be a dream if you wanted it to be. I like this notion. On one hand, as we talked about in class, it could almost be a disclaimer by Shakespeare to prevent any harsh judgement on himself for presenting a disruption to the class system. By saying “if you don’t like what I said just pretend you’re dreaming.” It could also be a more pointed jab at the class system, these lovers had to go through all this just to finally be with the one they love. Maybe he making fun of the aristocracy for being in a dream land not allowing women to marry who they want or to just be strong women. I don’t know maybe that idea is too modernist but it could work.

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  2. cmstewart024

    I really enjoy this post, as I was thinking the same thing. The switch from rupture to normalcy was so quick that I honestly, did not like the latter act of the play. I hate to say it but I felt that Shakespeare copped out, despite that he was probably one of the first writers to use the “it was all a dream” cliche. I was angry mostly from a feminist standpoint; of course for once when we saw Hermia being such a strong female character with such a unwavering voice, she is completely silent by the end of the play. I have to disagree, in my opinion I don’t think Egeus allows Hermia to have her choice of Lysander as a husband. I feel this because she no longer has voice in Act V, to me symbolizing that all the men have won, and this idea of female dominance was just all a silly little dream. Even when Hippolyta, the only female to speak in Act V, speaks she is not saying anything of value. She is either making commentary on the play or agreeing with Theseus. It plays on the spectrum of comedy, that woman’s voices are not to be taken seriously just like this play. It is supposed to be funny, not in any way serious. I do imagine that when this play was put on in a Shakespearean theater, that Hermia part, who was played by a younger male, was probably comical for most males in the audience. With that, I definitely agree, and I am not a fan of the dream sequence ending of the play.

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  3. ethansmestad

    I understand that the silence of Hermia and Helena is disappointing, especially considering how wild and unconfined they were in the forest–that’s when they have their best moments as characters. This thought just crossed my mind though: isn’t it odd that the play ends with everyone in the play going to bed, although this entire time, Puck claims that we the audience have been asleep, having dreams while the play has been happening–and I guess the people in the play have for the most part, been awake. What I’m trying to get at is that interesting idea that the characters of the play might go to bed and have dreams of being someone leaving a play. Who’s dreaming who? We assume that we are dreaming up the characters of the play with our imagination and belief, but the play’s dreaming metaphors suggest that waking characters we saw might be going to sleep to dream of us, and watch our strange silly lives unfold.

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  4. n02600944

    To mix dreams… or make dreams seem a reality and reality seem like a dream…
    When we doubt our memory, the doubting creates a sense of insecurity, a sense of being unreliable to the self, and it makes the characters question themselves. You bring up a good point that the epilogue says “pretend you are dreaming if you did not like the play.” Puck’s words are essentially saying the audience does have a choice. The idea that one can choose to believe or not to believe is interesting. It is interesting also that the love-juice almost takes pain away when the user wakes up. The memories seem like dreams, distant and detached. This leads to another good point that “The fantastical elements might have been dreamt up.” This suggestion brings us back to the beginning where when you question one thing, you start to question it all. So now do we wonder about the entire play? Is Shakespeare making a point about how we perceive what is reality and what is a dream? The characters may have dreamt the whole thing, but how did Demetrius wake up in love with Helena. It does seem fantastical that each Athenian lover felt safe enough to fall asleep in the woods. They just got so tired they would easily fall asleep as soon as they would lay down — narcoleptic lovers.

    The idea of waking up is an interesting topic. When the point was made that the “…suggestion of a dreamlike resolution, that maybe suggests reality isn’t that different than dreaming…” it is so important because this relates to what we have discussed in class. Part of Theseus’s speech to Hippolyta was saying how you can dream up your reality, just as the madmen, poets, and lovers dream up their creations. They make an idea out of nothing, they see things that are not there, and create things that are. This post illuminates to me the world of mentality — that what a person believes, is what their world is made out to be.

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