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Shakespeare begins the play in the royal palace of Duke Theseus, who is listening to a legal petition brought to him by the nobleman Egeus against his own daughter, Hermia. The style is very formal. The matter is one of life and death, actually, and yet the tone is rigid and inflexible, as is the law regarding paternal rights over daughters. It is a scene in which the structures of society, i.e., the laws, are dominant over the passions. The effect of this rigidity is that the passionate opponents to the law saying daughters must abide in all things, by their fathers' wishes, burst the boundaries of the laws that try to encase them, and, in defiance, escape by running away to the forest. It is a case of two extremes coming into conflict, the passionate desires of the lovers, and the unrelenting, rigid demands of the law. What happens is like a chemical reaction......the rigid structures collapse when exposed to the unstoppable heat of passion.
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