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In Shakespeare’s ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, the use of magic and the supernatural is used throughout to create mischief, but also to create love and fun. Shakespeare uses this to make the play comical, romantic, and mysterious and to capture the audience and make it an entertaining play. It’s a story full of imagination and uses many supernatural powers which strengthen the play. The supernatural makes the play humorous and magical. Without it, the play would lack entertainment. He has created characters, which use supernatural powers to alter, and play with the course of love and to show true love and the dark side of love.
The use of dreams is a common supernatural theme used, as it suggests in the title ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. Shakespeare entices the audience to believe that the characters cannot distinguish between dream state and real life which is extremely engaging and entertaining. Dreams contain events that do not normally occur in real life. They contain magical adventures that do not happen in the real world, however, they can also be frightening and horrifying. For example when the juice of a magical flower (the love potion) is placed upon ones sleeping eyelids, this is the only way it can work when a person is sleeping; the dream comes to life during their sleep. The love potion works alongside the dreams when a person is sleeping. This happens when Puck places the magical juice in Lysander’s eye when he is sleeping beside his true love Hermia, when he awakes the supernatural power of the love juice makes him fall in love with Helena. Lysander enters a new dream or fantasy world where the love potion has totally altered his mind and feelings for his true love Hermia. When Hermia awakes she finds herself alone as Lysander has disappeared, she is frightened from a horrible nightmare of a serpent eating her heart out.
Help me, Lysander help me! Do thy best
To pluck this crawling serpent from my breast.
Ay me, for pity. What a dream was here!
Lysander, look how I do quake with fear.
Me thought a serpent ate my heart away,
And you sat smiling at his cruel prey.
Lysander-what, removed? Lysander, lord!
What, out of hearing gone? No sound, no word?
Alack, where are you? Speak, an if you hear;
Speak, of all loves: I swoon almost with fear.
No? Then I will perceive you are not nigh.
Either death or you I’ll find immediately.
This terrifying dream is symbolic of the treatment that she will now receive from Lysander, as the serpent signifies that she will have her heart broken. Premonitions like this make the play exciting and entertaining as the audience wants to know whether this is going to come true and encourages them to continue watching.
Another use of dreams is when Oberon plays a trick on Titania to teach her a lesson for not handing over the Indian boy, again the love potion is used and carried out when she is asleep and he whispers into her ear that when she awakes she will fall in love with something vile.
What thou see’st when thou dost wake,
Do it for thy true-love take:
Love and languish for his sake.
Be it ounce, or cat, or bear,
Pard, or boar with bristled hair,
In thy eye that shall appear
When thou wak’st, it is thy dear:
Wake when some vile thing is near.
When Oberon vindictively uses his magic to humiliate Titania and to get his own way this entertains the audience as it’s an ugly and dramatic event which contrasts to the story of love. Puck has changed Button’s head to a donkey who is the first person that Titaina see when she awakes, although this is very comical for the audience, it’s shameful for the beautiful queen who is over powered by the love potion and falls completely and madly in love with a grotesque creature. This is typical of Pucks character who loves to play tricks and create self amusement and has the audience memorised, and how can such a thing happen. Oberon’s behaviour shows the darker side of magic which he uses to get what he wants at Titanias expense. Although this is not a pleasant thing to do, it’s extremely amusing for the audience.
A major supernatural theme is the fairies and their powers, which creates most of the fantastic and amusing moments in the play, this keeps the audience guessing. Pucks power enables him to be able to transform his voice and appearance which is a supernatural gift to have and intrigues the audience. Fairies themselves create an extraordinary and whimsical world and again take the audience mind beyond reality.
Puck ends the play by referring to a dream by saying to the audience that if they have been offended by the play, then they should think if it than nothing more of a dream.
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended:
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme
No more yielding but a dream.
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to `scape the serpent’s tongue,
We will make amends, ere long.
Else the puck a lair call.
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
He makes reference to the fairies in this speech as shadows which is a figment of the imagination and not real. This gives the audience a sense of illusion and to make sense of the strange situations that have happened during the play. Shakespeare uses dreams throughout to try and explain how some events occur without an explanation and how the impossible occurs. He uses fairies and a magical forest to recreate this. Dreams are connected to the bizarre and magical moments in the enchanted forest.
In summary Shakespeare has created a play that reaches beyond reality using supernatural characters and supernatural events. Shakespeare cleverly includes a story of love, hate, deceit, friendship, good, bad and ugly, taking the audience on an exciting and dramatic journey which manages to captivate and entertain them. Shakespeare also includes humour in his play to keep it light hearted, which I believe is a major contribution to the entertainment value.
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