Monday, September 30, 2019

The Darker Side of Shakespeare

In William Shakespeare’s play, â€Å"A Midsummer Night’s Dream†, the audience is spectator to a much darker Shakespearian comedy than many of Shakespeare’s other works. The play begins with a young woman by the name of Hermia is torn between marrying the man that her father has chosen for her or facing death for defying her father’s wishes. The audience sees dark humor through Puck’s antics in pleasing his Oberon. The two enjoy playing mean tricks on innocent characters they come across, obviously exhibiting a dark sense of humor. Shakespeare also incorporates dark magic into â€Å"A Midsummer Night’s Dream† with the fairies in the forest. Whereas fairies are typically portrayed as helpful, innocent creatures, Shakespeare’s fairies seem only to create mischief and chaos. Also portrayed in this play is the dark side of love and romance. The darkness of the play is obvious from the first page through the last page, obviously displaying Shakespeare’s darker intentions for this play. The most obvious element of â€Å"A Midsummer Night’s Dream† is the element of dark humor. Oberon’s mignon, Puck, is constantly entertaining Oberon in any way possible. In most cases, this entertainment incorporates playing tricks on unsuspecting characters. Puck and Oberon seem to have a darker sense of humor, enjoying seeing others in states of confusion or embarrassment. Early in the play, Puck talks about the pranks that he has been known to play, telling the audience that, â€Å"†¦ sometimes lurk I in a gossip’s bowl, in very likeness of a roasted crab, and when she drinks, against her lips I bob and on her withered dewlap pour the ale. The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale, sometimes for three-foot stool mistaketh me; then slip I from her bum, down topples she, and â€Å"tailor† cries, and falls into a cough† (Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 47-54). By turning himself into a crab and lurking in a bowl of ale to scare a woman, and making himself appear to be a stool so that when a woman sits on him, he can make her fall, Puck makes it obvious that he cares about nothing but entertaining himself and his king. One example of this darker humor is when Puck changes Bottom’s head into that of an ass. As if this single trick isn’t entertaining enough, Puck then casts a spell over Titania causing the fairy queen to fall in love with Bottom. When Puck tells Oberon how the trick played out, Oberon is obviously happy with the results, telling Puck that, â€Å"This falls out better than I could devise† (Act 3, Scene 2, Line 35). The relationship between Oberon and Puck is one similar to a King and Court Jester during medieval times. Puck exists only to entertain Oberon, and it is very obvious that the two have a much darker sense of humor than others. The second element of â€Å"A Midsummer Night’s Dream† that exhibits an obvious darkness is the magic and fairies within the play. Typically, fairies are thought to be good creatures who are helpful and innocent. However, the fairies that Shakespeare has envisioned are a much darker breed than what the audience would normally expect. The fairies that exist in this play are more known for creating a sense of chaos. The most prominent fairy in the play is Puck, the trickster of the forest. We see the darker side of the magic that Puck practices on several occasions throughout the play. One of the more obvious examples of Puck’s dark magic is when he decides to relinquish the Athenian youngsters of their relationship troubles. Puck uses magic to make Demetrius fall in love with Helena. This is a darker spell because it interferes with the ability of Demetrius to truly exhibit free will and love who he wants. Puck tracks down the Athenian he is to cast the spell upon in the forest, â€Å"When thou wakest, let love forbid; Sleep his seat on thy eyelid: So awake when I am gone† (Act 2, Scene 2, Lines 67-68). In the process of â€Å"helping† the young lovers with this love triangle, Puck casts the spell on the wrong Athenian man. The plan backfires, and it is Lysander who is made to woo Helena. As Puck and Oberon watch their antics unfold, Puck is obviously entertained by the confusion that he has caused. Puck tells Oberon, â€Å"Shall we their fond pageant see? Lord, what fools these mortals be!† (Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 115-116). The third element of Shakespeare’s play that incorporates a darker feeling is that of love and relationships. This is most evident in the relationship that exists between Titania and Oberon. While most comedies are full of love and passion, Shakespeare places a dark emphasis on relationships in â€Å"A Midsummer Night’s Dream†. The marriage of Titania and Oberon is thrown into chaos over a changeling that Titania has taken under her care. Because of Titania’s actions, Oberon is in a rage and essentially trying to get revenge on her. This takes on a dark element when Oberon encourages Puck to play a trick on her, resulting in Titania falling temporarily in love with Bottom. Unfortunately for the fairy queen, Bottom’s head has been transformed into that of an ass. Puck takes great delight in his bizarre love connection, however, saying, â€Å"When in that moment, so it came to pass, Titania waked and straightway loved an ass† (Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 33-34). The audience sees a different kind of relationship between Titania and Oberon – one in which Oberon obviously must always be â€Å"in charge†. By not allowing Oberon to have control of the changeling, she has obviously thrown their relationship out of balance. It appears to the audience that Titania is expected to bend to Oberon’s wishes at all times. The audience is exposed to the darker side of Titania in her battle with Oberon. When the two meet by accident in the woods, Titania is furious with Oberon for interrupting the fairy dances that Titania and her fairies partake in. Titania’s darker side is uncovered in her accusations to her husband, â€Å"The ox hath therefore stretch'd his yoke in vain; The ploughman lost his sweat, and the green corn; Hath rotted ere his youth attain'd a beard; The fold stands empty in the drowned field; And crows are fatted with the murrion flock† (Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 78-82). Titania’s word choice alone has a dark connotation, and she makes it clear that the disturbance of the fairy dance will have dark consequences for others. Shakespeare’s comedy, â€Å"A Midsummer Night’s Dream† leaves the audience reeling from a sense of darkness within the play. This play is not a typical comedy in that many of the comedic elements are darker than other plays in the same genre. Shakespeare shows the audience the darker side of humor through the interactions between Oberon and his servant, Puck. The element of dark magic also makes its way into the play, through the chaotic realm of the fairies in the forest, changing the typical role of a fairy in writing. Lastly, Shakespeare makes his audience aware of the darkness that exists within the various relationships in the play. Almost all of the lovers in this play have a darker element to their relationships. Shakespeare, through diverse characters, intrigues the audience with an obvious fascination with the darker side of the most common elements of his play. Works Cited Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night's Dream. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1980.   

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