Magic in “A Midsummer Nights Dream”

An essay analyzing the magic used in "A Midsummer Nights Dream" and the plays reflection on the culture of the Elizabethan Era.

A Midsummer Nights Dream is a play fully comprised of magical happenings.  Although there are many themes, love being a significant aspect, magic is a theme that encompasses all the themes.  All the events that happen in the story are based off some sort of magical element that is occurring. 

            Many of the main characters in the story are magical and mythical creatures called fairies.  These characters include Puck (Robin Goodfellow), Titania, Oberon, Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Mustardseed, and Mote (MSD).  Fairies are known as a form of a nature spirit.  During the sixteenth century, when Shakespeare wrote his plays, the general population accepted that supernatural creatures of nature existed.  Fairies, being both good and evil forest dwellers, are believed to be “in limbo”(All things Faerie) between Earth and Heaven (All things Faerie).  According to legend, fairies can also predict and even control the fates of humans (All things Faerie).  This is especially significant to Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream because the entire plot is based around the fairies controlling and changing the fate of the Athenians, Hermia, Helena, Demetrius, and Lysander as well as the actors. 

            Puck is the fairy that instigates most of the action in the story.  A trouble-maker at heart, Puck uses his magic to interfere with the lives of humans causing chaos for all in the story, along with an entertaining sequence of events for the reader.  Puck uses the magical nectar from the flower to anoint the eyes of not two, but four Athenians, leaving them to fall under a spell of love with the first creature they lay their eyes on (MSD).  All too often Puck is aware that he is stirring up trouble.  However, he has good intentions in the end, and by the conclusion of the story restores peace to the lovers.  Fairies are believed to be troublesome at times, but they are also known to be “peace-makers of the forest”(All things Faerie). 

            The magical nectar also plays a large part in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  Although Puck anoints the eyes’ of the lovers, it is ultimately the nectar that entrances the Athenians.  There is a specific reason that Shakespeare chose to use the potion of a flower as the magical substance that puts in motion the chain of events in this play.  Flowers are said to be the magical tool of fairies.  During the Elizabethan Era, people had many supernatural beliefs, one being that flowers were precious plants that could often contain magical substances.  Flowers were believed magical, just as fairies were. Because they both reside deep within the forest, they are the perfect partners for one another.  While many today may think that Shakespeare was being extremely innovative using the idea of magical nectar as an aide to fairies, a common citizen during the sixteenth century would know this to be common knowledge (All things Fairies). 

            Often there is the inquiry of why Shakespeare was not ridiculed for writing a play based almost solely on magical happenings.  Today, most group all supernatural things into a single group that we define as abnormal and untrue.  During the Elizabethan Era, the supernatural forces of nature were common truth.  Witchcraft was not categorized with fairies or other nature related magic (All things Fairies).  Witches were made to be the martyrs of society. 

            The characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream reflect this history accurately.  Not one of the Athenians doubts the existence of the fairies, nor did they grow excessively angry at the fairies for controlling their emotions and fates.  No matter if they believed it was all a dream or not, none of them had feelings of disbelief or rage during the time of reality when they were awake.

            A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written and set in a time when mythical creatures were thought to roam the Earth.  Whether they actually existed or not, is up to each individual to decide for him/herself.  Act 5, Scene 1, Lines 430-445encompasses everything that this play is about, along with the beliefs of the people of the Elizabethan Era.  This quote shows that, although the fairies played eagerly with the fates’ of simple humans throughout the play, in the end they set everything right because they are truly good creatures and are the peace-makers of not only the woods, but also A Midsummer Night’s Dream; they just decided to have a bit of fun along the way.  

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