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Essay/Term paper: A dream

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Cliff Notes

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A Midsummer Night's Dream By: A. Theseus More strange

than true. I never may believe These antic fables nor these

fairy toys. Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,

Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool

reason ever comprehends. The lunatic, the lover, and the

poet Are of imagination all compact. One sees more devils

than vast hell can hold: That is the madman. The lover, all as

frantic Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt. The poet's

eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, Doth glance from heaven to

earth, from earth to heaven And as imagination bodies forth

The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen Turns them to

shapes, and gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a

name. Such tricks hath strong imagination That, if it would

but apprehend some joy, It comprehends some bringer of

that joy; Or in the night, imagining some fear, How easy is a

bush supposed a bear! (V,i,2-22) Theseus, in Scene V of A

Midsummer Night's Dream, expresses his doubt in the

verisimilitude of the lover's recount of their night in the forest.

He says that he has no faith in the ravings of lovers- or

poets-, as they are as likely as madmen are to be divorced

from reason. Coming, as it does, after the resolution of the

lovers' dilemma, this monologue serves to dismiss most of

the play a hallucinatory imaginings. Theseus is the voice of

reason and authority but, he bows to the resulting change of

affection brought about by the night's confused goings on,

and allows Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius to

marry where their hearts would have them. This place where

the line between dream and reality blurs is an important

theme of the play. Theseus is also a lover, but his affair with

Hippolyta is based upon the cold reality of war, "Hippolyta,

I wooed thee with my sword, And won thy love doing thee

injuries..."(I,i,16-17). He is eager to wed Hippolyta and

marriage is the place where reason and judgement rule. He

wins the hand of his bride through action not through flattery,

kisses and sighs inspired by her beauty. In lines 4-6 of his

monologue he dismisses the accounts of lovers and madmen

on the grounds that they are both apt to imagine a false

reality as being real. When, in I,i,56, Hermia tells Theseus, "I

would my father looked but with my eyes", Theseus

responds, "Rather your eyes must with his judgment

look."(57). Theseus has a firm belief that the eyes of lovers

are not to be trusted. That the eye of the lover "...Sees

Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt..."(11) is, to him, proof of

this. It precisely by enchanting the eyes of the lovers that the

faeries manage to create so much mayhem: "Flower of this

purple dye, hit with cupid's archery, sink in apple of his eye!

When his love he doth espy, let her shine as gloriously as the

Venus of the sky."(III,ii,101-7) Puck doesn't change

Helena's nature, nor does he change her features. When

Lysander wakes, he beholds the same Helena that he's

always despised and suddenly he is enthralled. For Theseus

this is merely caprice and in no means grounded in reality.

Theseus doubts even the existence of the faeries, believing

the lovers have, at a loss to explain the inexplicable changes

of heart they've experienced, dreamed them up: "And as

imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the

poet's pen turns them into shapes and gives to airy nothing a

local habitation and a name."(14-17) A trick of the light, an

abundance of shadows, lack of sleep, an overactive

imagination or any one of these or million other causes are

the most likely explanation. In equating lovers, poets and

lunatics Theseus gets into interesting territory and serves to

elevate lovers while he denounces them. The lunatic "...sees

more devils than vast hell can hold.." while the poet's eye

"...Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to

heaven..."(9-13); thus this same imagination is responsible

for both mad ravings and great art. The concrete reality of

earth co-exists with both heaven and hell as the Faerie world

co-exists with the mortal world. A poet could, just as easily,

be a lunatic depending on the nature of his visions. That

lover's are often (bad) poets, is prime example of this

interchangeability. "Such tricks hath strong imagination, that,

if it would but apprehend a joy, it comprehends some

bringer of that joy; or in the night imagining some fear, how

easy is a bush supposed a bear!"(18-22) Theseus describes

the faulty and incomplete reasoning employed by poets and

lovers alike. Given evidence of some thing, conclusions are

made as to the nature of that thing. This usually incorrect

conclusion, having been reached, is followed by madcap

mix-ups and hilarity- at least for the audience. While

distrusting the nature of love and its effect on people,

Theseus also recognizes the salutary effect it has, as

Demetrius and Lysander, once bitter foes, present

themselves to him as friends. He allows the lovers to marry

according to their affection and betrays his own affection and

appreciation for the intoxicating draught called love, "Here

come the lovers, full of joy and mirth. Joy, gentle friends, go

and fresh days of love accompany your hearts!"(V,i,28-30)

Word Count: 881  

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