A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written at the end of the sixteenth century, the period marking the rise of Elizabethan era. Represented as a city comedy, the play also refers to the golden epoch of English history. Shakespeare’s literary work can be considered satirical in tone because it focuses on the audience of youth originating from gentry and nobility.
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At the beginning of the seventeenth century, the play, however, underwent slight changes due to the tangible impact of old tradition of writing plots premised on folklore, legends, and myths. As a result, the mixture of reality and fictional characters highlights the main features of Elizabethan comedy. At the same time, there were some attributes that pointed to the writer’s willingness to experiment.
For instance, the plays contains ‘nocturnal’ elements through the playwright depicts characters involved in a variety of events happened during one night. With regard to the above-presented overview, it should be stressed that genre, content, and fictional characters are the main aspects that were influenced by cultural, political, and social background of the time.
Socio-political background has an immense influence on the literary works because Shakespeare’s political, cultural, and social views were brightly illustrated in his play. Specifically, the playwright attains much importance to the social hierarchy, as well as to class barriers that this organization has to literary work.
Despite the class barriers, each individual has the right to receive good wages for hard labor, which led to greater self-reliance and self-respect (Ray 42). Industrial revolution was another feature contributing to social background of Shakespeare’s time, as well as glorious defeat of Spain, and active social movement.
Such a situation develops sense of pride penetrating to the entire England and reflected in the literature (Ray 12). Because the play was written during the prosperity of the England, Shakespeare’s Dream illustrates positive orientation and welfare of social classes that strived to better future.
Shakespeare associated the title of the play Midsummer Night’s Dream with celebrations of dances, festivals, and pageants and merrymaking. Therefore, the play includes fairies, witches, devils, and goblins who can change people into animals and birds and influence by means of magic potions.
Therefore, it is logical that Shakespeare chooses to set the play in a fictional context. To prove the issues, Mulherin et al. introduce historic evidence according to which “it was common for people to suffer from midsummer ‘madness’ when, for example they imagined strange things or behaved in adds ways” (10). Despite the fact that an enchanted wood forms the main setting the place, the author never went to Athens, but his education allowed him to rely on Roman and Greek history.
Therefore, the characters, the content, and the setting are based on ancient Greek motifs. At the same, most of the folks and legend refer more to the old English traditions rather than to Greek mythology (Mulherin et al 12). In the play, the author depicts some Greek divine creatures, “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;/ And therefore is wing’d Cupid painted blind” (Shakespeare n. p.).
The synthesis of old and new traditions in play writing contributes to the development of new genres that Shakespeare makes use of to reflect the historic and cultural context of his epoch. Hence, the playwright focuses on the plot rather on characters, which underlines the audience’s greater interest in the background of the place, as well as sequences of the events in which the main heroes are involved.
Although A Midsummer Night’s Dream belongs to a city comedy, it incorporates a great number of mythic elements. However, myths and legends are used for decorative purposes rather than for integrating mythic motives. For instance, such mythic characters as Theseus who is closely connected with the Greek world whereas his wife Hyppolyta interferes with this fictional world and mixes the Amazons myths with the Greek legends.
There are also some similarities related to the name of Egeus, Hermia’s farther, that reminds of the Minotaur. Old mythical narrations are accepted as ancient fables that were popular in the Middle Ages. Therefore, Shakespeare combines symbolic meaning of ancient stories with the old English tradition of Elizabethan era.
Aside from ancient motifs, A Midsummer Night’s Dream encompasses various topics from Renaissance psychology, including Elizabethan viewpoint on fairies, as well as the transformation of reactions to witchcraft. Due to the fact that the play relates to performance with play-within-the-play and drama belongs to a living art form that alters over times, it has been interpreted and adapted over centuries to diverse social and historic backgrounds and values.
More importantly, it can be seen that Shakespeare’s play borrows much from other historic sources to develop the plot. In particular, the playwright combines various approaches to create complex storylines based on his cultural and social experience. As a result, the play involves many patterns that interwoven together with images and words of the historic period.
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A Midsummer Night’s Dream refers to a lyric drama, poetic and songlike in which the art of language dominates over the importance of the heroes’ circumstances, as well as the consequences of the conflict and pressure between them. Imagery and allusion prevail in the play to create atmosphere that links reality and supernatural world.
Understanding social constructs represented in the play shifts the reader’s attention from the content and allows to explore the attributes of individual unconsciousness. It also inquires into the patterns of translation, production, and representation of imaginative experiences. Therefore, the complexity of plotlines is not significant because the major focus is made on the stage directions. Dynamics and verbal irony are other approaches that are typical of Shakespeare’s plays.
Elizabethan culture is closely associated with peculiar representation of genders in literary works. Although the play illustrates the complicated and unpredicted mixture of relations between the characters, it shows that women are rejected in their choices related to marriage.
Therefore, the Shakespearean and Elizabethan cultural representations constitute ideological concepts of human physiology, as well as socio-historical constructs of sexual identities.
Additionally, play skillfully synthesizes both gender and sexuality to adjust to the main social realms of Elizabethan epoch. These discourses are closely associated with diverse modes of political, cultural, and social organization and experience. Such a perspective relies on criticism of love and marriage, which is among the core themes in the play.
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare employs genre, Greek motifs, and old English tradition to describe the social, cultural, and political modes of social organization during the times of Elizabeth I’s reign. Specific emphasis should be placed on humorous approach to representing relations between men and women. Because the play addresses to young gentry and higher social classes, it also refers to the high prosperity period in England.
Mulherin Jennifer, Frost Abigail, and Norman Bancroft Hunt. Midsummer Night’s Dream. US: Cherrytree Books. 2002. Print.
Ray, Ratri. William Shakespeare’s a Midsummer Night Dream. US: Atlantic Publishers & Dist, 2008. Print.
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night Dream. n. d. Web. http://shakespeare.mit.edu/midsummer/full.html