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The main conflict in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is that people want to make decisions for others.
A conflict is a struggle between two characters, or between a character and an outside force. In this case, most of the character vs. character conflicts are caused by interference.
If I were to generalize all of the conflict in the play, it seems to sum up this way: people are making decisions for other people, and those people resent it. In some cases there is a cultural justification for the decision, such as Egeus’s desire to choose his daughter’s husband or Oberon’s desire to keep the changeling out. However, in some cases stubbornness is as much to blame.
Theseus is asked to intervene when Egeus realizes that his daughter Hermia is in love with Lysander instead of Demetrius, the man he wants her to marry. Theseus reminds Hermia that she has no will of her own in the matter, and instead should be following her father’s.
Be advis'd, fair maid.
To you your father should be as a god;
One that composed your beauties; yea, and one
To whom you are but as a form in wax,(50)
By him imprinted (Act 1, Scene 1)
Hermia completely disagrees. We see the same problem in that Helena wants to marry Demetrius, but he wants to marry Hermia since her father has requested him. Demetrius did love Helena until Egeus interfered. It is downhill from there. Although in the end everyone ends up happy, they could have avoided pain by letting others make choices instead of forcing them on them.
Conflict is central to the functionality of any successful play text. Of course Shakespeare is a master, and MSND is no exception to this rule.
At the outset of the play, Oberon and Titania demonstrate a very impassioned and volatile relationship. As they scamper from the central action on stage momentarily the audience is then privy to Lysander and Hermia who have become entangled in the woods, whilst Demetrius and Helena have followed.
It becomes apparent that when the fairies' quarrel there are diabolical out workings for the entire natural world. Whilst the experiences of the fairies appears entertaining yet frivolous to the audiences, the navigating of a romantic relationship for the human characters is sharply to the contrary, full of intricate complexities that also contribute to the conflict in the text.
These conflicting worlds of faires and humans, and the conflicting interests of their individual desires to achieve their respective ends in the context of relationships form much of the fabric of the play.
However in addition to the macro relational issues presented, it is also useful to consider the internal conflicts experienced by the characters. There is an overt conflict amongst the lovers obviously, yet there are tacit statements regarding conflicts around gender divisions also that may warrant further investigation from the perceptive student.
Theatrical binary opposites that feature in the play are also in acute visual conflict with one another throughout. Fairies grace in conflict with the craftsman’s baseness, the beauty of Titania conflicts with Bottoms ugliness.
There is also inter-textual conflict with the appropriation and amalgamation of English folklore characters interacting with those from Greek mythology.
Hope this helps!
On enotes.com we have many study guides for books which include well-detailed summarys that include the main points and conflict in this play. Check it out! There is even detailed summary for each act!
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