A Midsummer Night Dream


Illustration by Arthur Rackham, accessed at The University of Arkansas Library, Special Collections

One of my favorite aspects of Shakespeare’s comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is how Shakespeare shows his readers the effects of man’s actions. In Act 2, Scene 1, the reader sees the Fairy King and the Fairy Queen in Fairyland. In this speech of Titania, the Queen of Fairyland, speaks of the effects of her and her husband’s quarrel:

These are the forgeries of jealousy:

And never since the middle summer’s spring

Met we on hill, in dale, forest, or mead,

By pavèd fountain or by rushy brook,

Or in the breached margent of the sea

To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind,

But with thy brawls thou hast disturbed our sport.

Therefore the winds, piping to us in vain,

As in revenge have sucked up from the sea

Contagious fogs; which, falling in the land,

Hath every pelting river made so proud

That they have overborne their continents.

The ox hath therefore stretched his yoke in vain,

The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn

Hath rotted ere his youth attained a beard.

The fold stands empty in the drownèd field,

And crows are fatted with the murrion flock;

The nine-men’s-morris is filled up with mud,

And the quaint mazes in the wanton green

For lack of tread are undistinguishable.

The human mortals want their winter cheer;

No night is now with hymn or carol blessed.

Therefore the moon, the governess of floods,

Pale in her anger, washes all the air,

That rheumatic diseases do abound;

And thorough this distemperature we see

The seasons alter; hoary-headed frosts

Fall in the fresh lap of the crimson rose,

And on old Hiems’ thin and icy crown

An odorous chaplet of sweet summer buds

Is, as in mockery, set. The spring, the summer,

The childing autumn, and the mazèd world

By their increase now knows not which is which.

And this same progeny of evils comes

From our debate, from our dissension.

We are their parents and original.

(William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream)

The entire realm or area surrounding Titania and Oberon is effected in tangible ways by their fight of jealousy and faithlessness.

Our actions, whether bad or good, effect the world around us – whether we like it or not, whether we see it or not. This reminds me of a passage in Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novel, The Brothers Karamazov. This comes from the section recounting the life and homilies of Elder Zosima:

“…for all is like an ocean, all flows and connects; touch it in place and it echoes at the other end of the world…”

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov


Illustration by Arthur Rackham, accessed at The University of Arkansas Library, Special Collections

  • Act I
    • Scene 1: Hermia’s Case
    • Scene 2: Alotment of Roles
  • Act II
    • Scene 1: Oberon and Titania’s Quarrel
    • Scene 2: Changing Loves
  • Act III
    • Scene 1: The Queen Loves an Ass
    • Scene 2: Trying to Fix It All
  • Act IV
    • Scene 1: Lovers
    • Scene 2: To Perform the Play
  • Act V
    • Scene 1: The Play

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