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Plot Analysis of 3 Shakespearean Plays

The lack of realism of A Midsummer Night's Dream is so obvious that it seems superfluous to mention it. The setting is supposedly ancient Athens, but this is not the Athens of history, for the impending marriage of two mythical characters, Theseus and Hippolyta, is the anticipated occasion. Supposedly real-life characters, the young lovers and their parents, are in jeopardy because Hermia refuses to marry Demetrius, and to avoid the death penalty for filial impiety, she betakes herself (followed by Demetrius, Lysander, and Helena) to what turns out to be an enchanted forest populated by fairies and elves.

The fact that A Midsummer Night's Dream is a comedy may allow a willing suspension of disbelief with regard to plot, character, and setting. As Brown, et al., suggest, the young Athenian lovers of the play make very good Elizabethans and Shakespeare never intended that they should be mistaken for ancient Greeks. On the other hand, it may be difficult for the modern reader to become attuned to the fact that the play is structured around such a theme as defiance of parental authority. This has been referred to as the play's "ugly plot."

Right at the beginning, it's an ugly situation. Hermia's father, Egeus, comes to the ruler of Athens and he says, in effect: "My daughter wants to marry a fellow I don't want her to marry and unless she agrees not to marry him, I summon you as the Chief Executive of Athens to enforce the law and have her killed." . . . I could imagine this story, the bare plot, being made into a pretty unpleasant story (Brown, et al., 211-12).

Taken out of context, the conflict between Hermia and Egeus is irretrievably serious. Hermia pleads, "I would my father look'd but with my eyes, but the king, Theseus, confirms parental rights: "Rather your eyes must with his judgement look" (I.i.56-57). On its face, this exchange contains nothing remotely comic. The mood of the piece derives broad comedy from an essentia...

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