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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare
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How does the play A Midsummer Night's Dream comment on Elizabethan society?

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The play A Midsummer Night's Dreamcomments on Elizabethan society by exposing its rigid, hierarchical nature.

Although the play doesn't actually take place in Elizabethan England, it's clear that Shakespeare is using Athens as a substitute for the society in which he lived and worked. And that society was characterized...

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The play A Midsummer Night's Dream comments on Elizabethan society by exposing its rigid, hierarchical nature.

Although the play doesn't actually take place in Elizabethan England, it's clear that Shakespeare is using Athens as a substitute for the society in which he lived and worked. And that society was characterized by staid conventions that prevented people from pursuing happiness.

Take Hermia and Lysander, for example. Very much in love, they understandably want to get married. But Hermia's stern father, Egeus, is adamant that this will not happen, and so the two lovebirds have no choice but to flee Athens for the safety of the Forest of Arden. There, and only there, are they able to be together.

It says a lot about Elizabethan society—as depicted in the Athens in the play—that love is so often subordinated to the dictates of social convention. Love in Elizabethan England may well have been the subject of countless plays, poems, and songs, but in society, it was almost always restricted and confined.

Even so, Shakespeare holds out the hope that in the end, love can prevail, albeit in exceptional circumstances. The course of love may never run smooth in real life, but through works of art such as A Midsummer Night's Dream, it can nevertheless be idealized, thus presenting a challenge to prevailing social norms.

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