The importance of literary works to the contemporary human society cannot be gainsaid as far as enhancing the knowledge of the society is concerned. Indeed, literary works have had numerous uses in the society including entertainment, education and even inspiration of new ideas. History shows that literary works, including works of art, poems and even fictional stories have been responsible for quite a number of fundamental social changes in varied societies and countries. This not only underlines the popularity of these literary works, but also that of their authors or creators. While different authors, playwrights, poets and artists have varying degrees of popularity from their works, none can arguably outdo Shakespeare in terms of popularity, both in his time and in the years that followed. Indeed, a large number of his works remain relevant and applicable in the contemporary human society, in spite of the fact that they were written centuries ago. This is the case for “A Midsummer Night Dream”, a play thought to have been written between 1590 and 1596. The play shows the events that surround the married between Hippolyta and the Duke of Athens, Theseus (Montrose 61). Included in the events are the adventures pertaining to four young Athenian lovers, as well as a groups of six inexperienced actors, who are manipulated and under the control of the fairies inhabiting the forest which makes up the setting for the larger part of the play. Indeed, the play makes up one of the most popular stage works for Shakespeare and has been performed widely across the globe. While there may be differing opinions as to the nature of the play, it is evident that the play remains a classic comedy.
First, the play, like a large number of comedies written at this period opens with discussions pertaining to love and marriage. Indeed, Hermia has declined to get married to Demetrius, a man chosen by Egeus her father. This is against the ancient Athenian law that underlines the requirement that a daughter has to get married to a man or rather a suitor selected by her father, a deviance of which would attract a death penalty (Croce 367). On the other hand, she could choose the path of lifelong chastity as a reward for worshiping Diana. Unfortunately, Hermia is uncomfortable with this option as well, in which case she elopes with her fiancée named Lysander, with whom she runs away. The classic nature of the story is underlined by its extensive exploration of the theme of love, as well as the struggle between two young lovers and the draconian laws that they are required to follow by their elders (Croce 367).
In addition, the overlap between situational and dramatic irony would make the play a classic comedy. Dramatic irony revolves around the manner in which the audience perceives the circumstances of the four lovers incorporated in the play. First, both Lysander and Demetrius suddenly stop being in love with Hermia and instead fall in love with Helena. Both of them are unaware of the reason for this although the audience is well aware (Montrose 65). On the same note, dramatic irony may be seen in the instance where Helena responds scornfully to the advances of the two. Indeed, she believes that not only are the two men playing a plank on her but also that Hermia knows and is part of that joke. She concludes that Lysander’s advances are scornful to her when she states “Wherefore was I to this keen mockery born / When at your hands did I deserve this scorn?” (II.ii.125-126). This is the same belief that she that she holds pertaining to the advances of Demetrius as shown by her statement “O spite! O hell! I see you all are bent / To set against me for your merriment” (III.ii.147-148). Her statement “Lo, she is one of this confederacy!” (195) underlines her belief that Hermia is part of this joke. Unfortunately, she is unaware that the two are sincere in their love as they have been enchanted using a love portion. The dramatic irony is mixed with situational irony as it is purely accidental that the two men stop their pursuit of Hermia and instead start pursuing Helena. On the same note, Puck thinks that Lysander is Demetrius, which makes Lysander fall in love and start pursuing Helena as she is seen just as Lysander is waking up. At that time, Oberon intentionally places the love portion on the eyes of Demetrius, which makes the two men start their pursuit of Helena. Indeed, the situatiobnal irony emanating from Puck’s mistake results in arguments between the characters, as well as a number of humorous lines.
In conclusion, Shakespeare comes as one of the most popular playwrights both in his times and in the contemporary human society. This may be seen in the case of “A midsummer Night Dream” a play written centuries ago but whose themes are applicable in the modern times. His exploration of the theme of love and marriage makes it a classic. In addition, it has situational and dramatic irony overlapping each other, with tidbits of humor.
Montrose, Louis. “The Imperial Votaress”. A Shakespeare Reader: Sources and Criticism. Eds. Richard Danson Brown and David Johnson. London: Macmillan Press, Ltd, 2000. 60–71
Croce, Benedetto. “Comedy of Love”. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Eds. Judith M. Kennedy and Richard F. Kennedy. London: Athlone Press, 1999. 386–8.
Shakespeare, William (1979). Harold F. Brooks, ed. The Arden Shakespeare “A Midsummer Nights Dream”. Methuen & Co. Ltd.