How would I track the motif of dreams/reality in A Midsummer Night's Dream? Could you tell me what I need to find with an example in text?My teacher has assigned me to track the motif of...

How would I track the motif of dreams/reality in A Midsummer Night's Dream? Could you tell me what I need to find with an example in text?

My teacher has assigned me to track the motif of dreams/reality in midsummer night's dream. My teacher wants me to find examples of this motif in the text. I do not know what to find.

Asked on by julau71

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted on

I expect that your teacher wants you to look through the play and find any mention of the motif of "dreams," providing quotations that support the essence of dreams because they are central to the plot of the play. I can give you some examples.

In Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, the entire plot surrounds the "dreams" the young Athenian lovers seem to experience in the woods one evening, and the dreams of Titania and Bottom (with his ass's head).

The Elizabethan audience believed without question in the supernatural. Shakespeare is probably single-handedly responsible for portraying fairies in a positive light, where before they were considered malevolent characters. This audience also firmly believed that the woods belonged to the fairy realm after dark: to be caught there meant that one might be at the mercy of "fairy magic."

Dreams are a large part of the play. There are two sets of main characters: the two pairs of Athenian lovers who travel into the woods, and Titania and Oberon, the Queen and King of the fairies. When the Athenian lovers meet in the woods, they will fall asleep twice. When they wake the second time, the antics of the fairies in their lives have ended, and all has been restored between the lovers as Oberon has seen fit. They all wake and feel as if they had been dreaming, though they have really lived what they think was only a dream.

While Oberon and Titania fight over a changeling child that a dead friend of Titania left in the Queen's care, Titania falls asleep and Puck puts a spell on her. He changes Bottom the weaver, a potential actor for the Duke's upcoming nuptials, into a creature with the head of an ass (donkey). When Titania awakes, she falls in love with him, much to the amusement of Oberon and Puck.

Ultimately, when Bottom is returned to his natural state and awakes, he comments on what he perceives to be extraordinary dreams:

I have had a dream, past the wit of man to

say what dream it was. Man is but an ass,

if he go about to expound this dream.


The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of

man hath not seen; man's hand is not able

to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his

heart to report, what my dream was.

When the Athenian lovers awake, they also think they have had incredible dreams. They cannot explain what has happened to them, but after Hermia's father and the Duke have left, they discuss their experiences.


Are you sure (195)

That we are awake? It seems to me

That yet we sleep, we dream. Do not you think

The Duke was here, and bid us follow him?

And then...


Why, then, we are awake; let's follow him;

And by the way let us recount our dreams.

The idea of dreams to explain the extraordinary experiences allow the characters to dismiss the reality of what has happened to them, and to dismiss the presence of the fairies in the woods that night. Oberon and Titania make-up, and their only concern is the well-being of the human world. The sense of dreams may also introduce the concept that a thin veil separates this world and another imaginary one. Shakespeare has, in fact, created two different worlds.

...more than just a dream-world, the realm that Shakespeare the world of imagination.




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