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Symbolism and Imagery in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Uploaded by hilarios604 on Jul 10, 2002

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare brilliantly uses the night as a motif which plays a valuable role in the play. He combines this motif with the related symbols of the play to demonstrate the power of night and its correlation with love and vision. He uses symbolism and imagery to develop the motif and makes extensive use of the night forest which, in part, helps the situation of the four young lovers, one of the main plots of the play.

It might seem strange that Shakespeare would choose a forest at night as the main setting for a comedy; the dark forest serves as the center of the play’s world, ousting Athens, a city that was regarded as the center of ancient Greek civilization. The darkness of the night is intensified in the forest; the dark is intense enough for the characters to fear being alone. Helena cries out to Demetrius not to abandon her “darkling”, or in the dark (Act II, Scene 2, 85). When Lysander abandons Hermia, she is convinced that being alone in the dark could lead her to death:

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.
(Act II, Scene 2, 153-155)

The night symbolizes darkness and a state of blindness. It symbolizes mischief and madness, fairies and magic. The night forest provides a setting for dangerous and daring acts such as Hermia and Lysander’s plan to escape Athens. The lovers plan to execute their plan and meet at “deep midnight” (Act I, Scene 1, 223).

The moon, which has been said all throughout the play to affect human behaviour, is the only source of light at night which allows the lovers the see each other. Shakespeare associates the moon with love. In the opening scene of the play, Theseus is anxious to get married to Hippolyta. He complains “four happy days bring in/ Another moon: but O, methinks how slow/ This old moon wanes! She lingers my desires/ Like to a step-dame” (Act 1, Scene 1, 2-5). Shakespeare also compares the moon to a bow, and Cupid, the Roman god of love, carries a bow to shoot arrows of love. “And then the moon, like to a silver bow/ New bent in heaven, shall behold the night/ Of our solemnities”(Act I, Scene 1, 9-11).

Shakespeare uses symbolism to strengthen the...

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Uploaded by:   hilarios604

Date:   07/10/2002

Category:   Shakespeare

Length:   6 pages (1,245 words)

Views:   8726

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