How is the theme of CONTROL shown in Act One of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream? Please give some examples.

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

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In Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, we see the theme of control more prevalently in Act One, scene one, than in scene two. 

In scene two, the players (amateurs from town) have joined in the woods to receive their parts in the play they plan to perform for the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. If they win approval from Theseus, they will be able to "give up their day jobs" and become actors full-time.

This is a comic scene because Bottom the Weaver has quite the ego, believing that he should play all the parts. While Peter Quince, the "director" of the play assigns each man a role, Bottom explains why he should play the part. Peter Quince finally has to explain to Bottom, with some exasperation, why he must only play one part.


You can play no part but Pyramus; for Pyramus is

a sweet-faced man; a proper man, as one shall see in a

summer's day; a most lovely gentleman-like man; therefore

you must needs play Pyramus. (I.ii.77-80)

(I have seen the play on stage several times: in Quince's speech, Bottom becomes petulant—like a child—and Peter appeals to his ego to ensure that Bottom will take the role, by telling Bottom that Pyramus is handsome and a gentleman. This placates Bottom and he agrees.)

In this way, Quince exerts some control over Bottom.

It is, however, in scene one that we see the strong presence of control, for it is in this scene that Egeus has brought his daughter Hermia to Theseus to force her to marry Demetrius. She has no desire for the marriage. We find out that Demetrius is a player—a lady's man. (We will learn that he has recently spurned Helena.) Hermia is also very much in love with Lysander. However, Egeus favors Demetrius and calls upon Theseus to carry out the ancient law of Greece:


And, my gracious duke,

Be it so she will not here before your Grace 

Consent to marry with Demetrius,

I beg the ancient privilege of Athens:

As she is mine, I may dispose of her;

Which shall be either to this gentleman

Or to her death, according to our law

Immediately provided in that case. (I.i.39-46)

Theseus lets Hermia know that she must marry Demetrius, or either be put to death or enter the temple of Diana (like a convent, but to the Greek gods) to serve in that temple, like a cloistered (and virginal) nun, never to marry or have children. 

It is in scene one, then, that the theme of control is much more prevalent—as Hermia's happiness (at the least) or life (at the most) is in jeopardy.