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A midsummer nights dream contrast in human mentality

A Midsummer Night's Dream: Contrast In Human Mentality

The Play: "A Midsummer Night's Dream", by William Shakespeare offers a

wonderful contrast in human mentality. Shakespeare provides insight into man's

conflict with the rational versus the emotional characteristics of our behavior

through his settings. The rational, logical side is represented by Athens, with

its flourishing government and society. The wilder emotional side is

represented by the fairy woods. Here things do not make sense, and mystical

magic takes the place of human logic. Every impulse may be acted upon without

and forethought to there outcome.

The city of Athens represents the epitome of civilized man. Ruled by

the laws of man and kept in check by society's own norms. The human struggle to

suppress its unrestrained and irrational tendencies, still being undertaken

today, discourages the ‘civilized' man from making rash and foolish actions.

Thus every action should have a sound and logical purpose, based on the social

norms.

In the play, Egeus, the father of Hermia, has thoughtfully chosen what

he considers an acceptable mate to wed his daughter. Egeus most likely based

his decision on economic, political, and social factors in his choosing of

Demetrius. He is making a reasonable decision based on Hermia's future in their

society. Unfortunately Hermia is smitten by Lysander and vice versa. Although

her father may have made his decision with every good intension, keeping with

the traditional customs of his day, and even perhaps taking into consideration

such things as attractiveness, he failed to foresee the desires of his daughter.

The young Lysander, who like most young men, cares little for the rules of

society, is willing to break tradition and flee Athens to obtain Hermia.

Therefore they must leave the rational Athens to enjoy their irrational love.

Theseus, the king of Athens, is the highest symbol of law and order in

his kingdom. After winning a war with another kingdom, he chooses to marry

their queen, Hippolyta. His decision may very well have been inspired by love,

but the political ramifications of their marriage is a more plausible rationale.

In fact Theseus' apparent love for Hippolyta seems almost as an added reward to

an already beneficial partnership. Whether any attraction was there or not

probably would not have made a difference. As king, Theseus must place the

kingdom before his own feelings. It simply comes with the position.

In short Athens represents the desire to suppress feelings and impulses

and to make decisions based on logic. Thus it does not give the power of raw

emotion the true respect it requires, for man is both emotional and rational.

Love never has, and never will, be predictable.

The fairy world represents man's undisciplined emotional quality. Here

the laws of man do not apply and things simply need not make sense. Attributes

like adventure, romance, fear, foolishness, and mockery are all things

suppressed by Athens and welcomed by the fairy woods. The fairies respect the

untamed heart and they understand the power love holds. These creatures embrace

the unruly craziness that passion brings, they live for the moment and are pure

at heart. Along with love and passion the fairy world is also susceptible to

other emotions running wild. Jealousy, anger, and humor at the expense of

others are all abound here.

Oberon, king of the fairies, is the quintessential symbol of human

impulsiveness. He obviously loves his queen, Titania, very much and is

instantly jealous of her love for a indian child. He rashly devises a plan to

snatch up the child for himself and at the same time have a little amusement at

Titania expense. His plan is to cast a magic spell over her with a ‘love

flower' causing her to fall in love with the first person, or creature, she sees.

There is no rational reason for Oberon's actions, for jealousy is irrationality

at it's most basic level.

Robin Goodfellow, or puck, is Oberon's fairy servant, and perhaps the

most irrational person in the play. He is the essence of wild and untamed

foolishness. He pleases himself by performing his fairy magic on unsuspecting

travelers, and simply devotes his time to mischief. He is the one that Oberon

entrusts with his plan to inflict Titania with the love spell, and also gives

him an extra chore as a bonus. This ends up to be a disastrous, yet

entertaining event.

Shakespeare successfully contrasts the duality of man's nature by using

two settings with opposite characteristics. Whether this was the entire purpose

of the play is doubtful, but is remains an interesting and well paralleled

feature. The people of Athens, struggling to understand the illogical fairy

world, and at the same time exhibiting the same behavior. Perhaps Shakespeare

seeing the era of logic and reason obtaining new highs, wished to remind us all

of our other side. The emotional quality of mankind may get him into trouble,

but it is also what makes life so thrilling and bearable. Like the ying-yang,

one cannot live without the other.



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