Scene Commentary on II.2. of William Shakespeare’s
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
In the following paper I will comment upon the second scene of the second act from William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream and will present its main events and actions and also the structural features. The features will be analysed according to their dramaturgical aspects and problems. At the same time I will discuss the most important stylistical, linguistical and structural features which will play an essential role in a better understanding of the play. I will additionally point out the relevant events from the previous and following scene in order to clarify the events which surround the scene and will also refer to the role that the scene (2.2.) has within the whole play.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the fifth Shakespearian comedy from the list of Francis Meres from Palladis Tamia, registered and published in 1600. The play was written in 1598 and it was “composed to celebrate a marriage – possibly for private performance at some great house, possibly even at Court, but most certainly for a wedding somewhere” (Quiller-Couch ix). The verse of the play is blank with “iambic pentameters [...], trohaic tetrameter [...] and very occasionally there is also a two-stress line”(Hollindale 44). A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a comedy, which can be demonstrated by the following comedy factors which have been discovered in the play: the deception and disguise manifested in the characters’ actions, the multiple plot twists and turns, love which overcomes any obstacle, irony, the three final marriages, the drama displayed in the two royal families etc. A Midsummer Night’s Dream contains elements of romance although it cannot be fully considered to be a romance because it is not a love story as Romeo and Juliet is , but rather a satire or comedy based on a love story.
The scene II.2. introduces the concept of the love potion, which Shakespeare uses to explore the comic possibilities that are found within the motif of love. Oberon’s alteration of the relationships in the play disrupts the balance of love in the play. The love potion is a symbol for the lovers' refusal to solve their dilemmas. The magic flower or the love potion brought by Puck is used by Shakespeare in order to circle through the future ridiculous arrangements before he actually allows the love story to end with a happy conclusion. Love and dreams are alike and if Puck would have been the one to give the play a finer conclusion, the cast of the on-stage audience could have stepped appropriately forward in order to address the real-life audience.
Scene II.2. begins with the moment when Titania demands the fairies to dance and sing her to sleep. The scene then continues with a song “sung by the fairies”(Quiller-Couch 91) which is “more than just a lullaby, or even a magic lullaby but it is rather a charm or an incantation meant to ward off evils” (Holland 169-170). This song proves the existence of magic which is a major theme of the play. Some other good examples, where magic is involved, are the kind of moments when, for example, Robin Goodfellow uses a love potion or the magic flower, over Hermia and Lysander and the moment when King Oberon “squeezes the juice on Titania’s eyelids”(II.2.) in order to receive his child back, the exact moment when she falls asleep because of the fairies’ song:
What thou sets 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.
Robin Goodfellow interacts verbally only with one creature who is “one other character for the whole of the rest of the play, (King) Oberon” (Holland 45). This interaction of Goodfellow can be even found in the scene which is the main focus of this paper. In this scene, the attainment Puck has towards Oberon’s demand for the magic flower is a clear example of a moment when he spoke with the King of fairies.
Later in the scene, Robin Goofellow who is always “demonic and powerful, and uncaring in his actions” (Holland 45) complains but only to himself that he cannot find the Athenians after for whom Oberon sent him. He spreads the potion on the eyelids of Lysander the “churl”(II.2. 77) while the two Athenian lovers were sleeping and he does this almost at the same time when he finds Lysander and Hermia, about whom he thinks they are the Athenians he was looking for. Helena pursues Demetrius her unrequited love even though he insults her and insists that she should stop following him. She sees the sleeping Lysander and wakes him up and he falls deeply in love with her as a result of the potion’s effect. When Helena tries to remind him that he loves Hermia, he declares that Hermia means nothing to him anymore moment when the motif of love is presented in an almost comic way. When Hermia wakes up she does not see Lysander and is terrified because of the dream she had with a snake:
What a dream was here!
Lysander, look how I do quake with fear.
Methought a serpent ate my heart away,
And you sat smiling at his cruel prey.
A fundamental theme of the play, which is reflected over the identity of the characters, is the theme of love which is a typical concept for this type of written creation. In the context of the scene in question, love is present in several romantic situations of the play where disproportion and inequality between the emotions of the characters interferes with the harmony between the relationships of the four young Athenians: Hermia loves Lysander, Lysander loves Hermia, Helena loves Demetrius, and Demetrius loves Hermia instead of Helena and it turns out that after Puck’s spell Lysander doesn’t love Hermia anymore but Helena, and Demetrius turns his love to Helena as well. In this scene, the intervention of Robin Goodfellow the puck, also known as the ‘hobgoblin’” (Holland 35) brings a crucial change to the course of the events.
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s approach to love has troubled many of his readers who consider that he profanes the idea of true love. The ease with which Lysander, Demetrius and Titania gave up their feelings for their former lover proves that the play’s aim is not to show the nature of true love but rather to gently mock the afflictions and confusions that love can induce.