A Midsummer Night’s Dream: the Confusion of Dreams

Kelly Johnson ENGL 3000-006 Remien March 5, 2010 Paper 1 The Confusion of Dreams You are falling faster and faster through the pale blue sky with no parachute and nothing to grab on to. The shards of rock below seem to get sharper and sharper as a wave of terror and hopelessness takes over. You are just moments away from certain death when all of the sudden you wake up and realize it was all a dream. In William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he uses the power of dreams to construct the possibility of an alternate reality.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream has many crude elements, which may have been offensive to many members of the audience, possibly causing the removal of his play. In order to combat this potential problem, Shakespeare adds Puck’s final speech to serve as an apology. Instead of using a simple apology though, Shakespeare attempts to convince the audience members they too were in a dream by linking the audience to the characters of the play, powerful discourse and imagery. All of these elements allow the reader or viewer to feel at ease instead of resentment as the play commences.
The final speech of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at first seems out of place. As this play is a comedy, Oberon’s final speech appears to be the perfect ending. However, the last words go to Puck, the fairy responsible for all of the mischief seen throughout the play, as he tries to fill the audience with a sense of peace by playing with the idea of dreams. In concurrence with the title, dreams are a dominant element throughout the play. Instead of the lovers questioning anything that previously happened, they just accept they all had the same dream, which allows them to happily continue with their lives as all peace was restored.

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This speech offers an extension of the possibility that it was all a dream to the audience. Puck calls on the audience to think, “That you have but slumbered here/ While these visions did appear” (5. 1. 417-418). Puck and the other fairies were able to mend all of the problems between the lovers and this speech should do just the same for the audience. If everything previously witnessed is only a dream, then there is no need for outrage and “all is mended” (5. 1. 416). By creating a dream-like environment, the focus turns from the drama that unfolded throughout the play to the mystical and humorous occurrences.
This enables the audience to feel sense of closure. In addition to relating the audience to the characters, the use of discourse aids to the dream-like sense. Throughout A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the way language is used plays an important role in the message Shakespeare is portraying and the final speech is no different, with the language used mirroring the language throughout the play. The final lines of the play extend upon the use of binary opposites. Throughout this speech, Puck offers conflicting ideas that cause further confusion for the audience, similar to the way dreams are viewed as perplexing upon waking up.
Puck insists “And, as I am an honest Puck, If we have enearned luck Now to scape the serpent’s tongue, We will make amends ere long; Else the Puck a liar call. ” (5. 1. 415-420) The contraction between “honest” and “liar” is blatant and it is impossible to be both. Additionally, while this is an apology as Puck attempts to gain the audience’s trust, this speech is filled with dangerous images, such as “serpent’s tongue;” adding a sense of doubt and unease. This confusion further adds to the dream-like sense Shakespeare is trying to create.
In addition to the binary opposites that are used, this speech is spoken in such a way that it has a feeling of a lullaby. After suggesting the fact everything previously witnessed may have been a dream, Puck utters the lines “And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream, Gentles, do not reprehend, If you pardon, we will mend. ” (5. 1. 419-422) While throughout the play, various other characters spoke lyrically, these lyrically spoken lines sound like something out of a lullaby, as if Puck wants the audience to once again fall asleep and dream as to possibly forget everything that had just transpired.
Unlike the supernatural magic that was used on the characters throughout the play, Puck is attempting to use the magic of words to get the audience to do and think as he pleases. Using the words “weak and idle,” “yielding” and “Gentles” make the audience feel at peace and willing to do what Puck is asking of them. In addition to the form used, Shakespeare uses the images of shadows in this complex apology. The use of imagery throughout A Midsummer Night’s Dream, including the final speech, plays a powerful role in the underlying meaning of the play.
In the first lines of his short monologue, Puck states “If we shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended- That you have but slumbered here While these visions did appear. ” (5. 1. 415-418) Instead of referring to the actors as a people, he calls them “shadows. ” The fairies, whose presence has often been mysterious and murky, throughout the play have directed the course of events that transpired. Therefore, it would make sense to the audience to want to follow what Puck is saying, as in the moment, it is the most natural thing to do.
Similar to many of the other aspects of this speech, this proposes that what had just happened was simply the work of each person’s imagination. In this sense, Puck is therefore leaving it up to the audience to decide if what they have just witnessed is good or bad. The “shadows” simply exist; it is up to the audience to give them meaning that relates to each of their lives, just as the characters in the play did. The final speech of A Midsummer Night’s Dream wants to make the audience feel as though they were dreaming, which is accomplished by linking the audience to the characters, discourse and imagery.
Puck’s final monologue of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is more than just a simple apology. Even with the darker images and contradictions of the speech, it provides closure for the audience. Just as the characters in the play were able to think everything happened was simply a dream and continue to go about with their lives, Shakespeare is attempting to instill the same belief in the audience and hoping they enjoy the happy ending. Works Cited Shakespeare, William, and Russ McDonald. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. New York, N. Y. : Penguin, 2000. Print.

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