What is the name of a character who wakes up in Act 4, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, and what is that character's reaction to what happened?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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One of the many characters that awakens in Act 4, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night's Dream is Bottom. Bottom's reaction to his night's adventure is particularly interesting. Not only is he in a state of shock, half believing his experience was a dream and half believing it was real, he also transforms from his typical state of conceit to one of humility.

We see Bottom's conflicting views on what was a dream and what was reality in his soliloquy immediately after he wakes up. His first reaction is to say, "I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was" (IV.i.208-209). In other words, he is declaring that he has just had a dream that is beyond man's comprehension. In his next statements, he says:

Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this
Methought I was--there is no man can tell what dream.
Methought I was, and methought I had, but man is but a patched fool, if he will offer to say what methought I had. (210-213)

In other words, Bottom is saying that he thought he was a donkey, and he thought he had donkey ears. But he also says that no man can really say what he thought he was and what he thought he had. He, himself, is even too shocked and embarrassed to say what he thought he was. The repetition of the word "methought" shows us that Bottom is in that cross state of half believing he had a dream and half believing it was reality.

Next he does something that is characteristic of his conceit. Even though he states that a man would be a fool to speak of his dream or to try and explain it, he next says that he will have Quince write a ballad about the dream for Bottom to sing before the duke at the end of their play's performance. He then gets the brilliant idea to sing it when Thisbe dies in the play, even though a ballad about being a donkey would have absolutely nothing to do with Thisbe's death.

However, Bottom then makes a very sudden and unexpected transformation. By the time we see Bottom again in the second scene of Act 4, he has suddenly changed his mind. When his friends ask him what happened to him, he absolutely refuses to say. All he says is that something amazing had happened to him but that he won't speak a word of it, as we see in his lines, "Master, I am to discourse wonders; but ask me not what," followed by, "Not a word of me" (IV.ii.26-27, 30). This sudden change of mind is also a sudden transformation in Bottom from being conceited to being humble.

Hence, when Bottom awakes, he half believes that what he had experienced was a dream and half believes it was real. His experience also changed him from being conceited into being humble.


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