In A Midsummer Night's Dream, why does Shakespeare use fairies in his play instead of humans? What effects does this choice of characters have on the play?

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winston-smith | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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Shakespeare’s use of fairies is as essential to the play as the setting is the forest. They represent the chaos and lawlessness that are in opposition to order and law, which are represented by humans and the city.

When Helena, Hermia, Lysander and Demetri enter the forest they enter the realm of the fairies where they are not restrained by human laws. The fairies introduce chaos into the lives of the young lovers when Puck “accidently” places the juice of the love flower on the wrong lover’s eyes. It is the magical problems caused by the fairies that are one of the play’s major conflicts.

Puck, Robin Goodfellow, causes chaos for not only the lovers but for Bottom. Giving him the head of a donkey which ultimately leads to a reconciliation between Oberon and Titania.

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mlsldy3 | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

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In A Midsummer Night's Dream, we meet Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena. Hermia is in love with Lysander, but her father demands that she marry Demetrius. Meanwhile Helena is in love with Demetrius. We see the beginning of what is going to be the biggest part of the play. Shakespeare uses the concept of fairies in the play to create a hilarious work of art.

Fairies are known for being magical creatures who, when introduced to the human world, create havoc and mischief along the way. Puck is probably the most famous of fairies in this play. When he comes into the picture, total chaos ensues. He casts a love charm on Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena. This love charm causes the four of them to act in ways they wouldn't otherwise act. The fairies are also introduced for comic relief. There influence in the human lives are some of the funniest parts of the play. Shakespeare uses fairies instead of humans for the simple reason of bringing comedy into a play. They fairies are beyond the human rules of living. They have their own rules. The confusion they bring into the human world moves the plot along, with some major fun, I might add. Fairies also create plot twists that we just wouldn't see without their help. 

Shakespeare is mostly known for his tragedies, but with the introduction of the fairies and especially Puck we see a lighter side to Shakespeare. We see his sense of humor and enjoy every single minute of it. Even at the end of the play, Puck comes out and tells the audience all that we saw was just a dream. 

"If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended, that you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream, Gentles, do not reprimand: If you pardon, we will mend and, as I am an honest Puck, if we have unearned luck now to 'scape the serpent's tongue, we will make amends ere long, Else the Puck a liar call; So, good night unto you all. Give me your hands, if we be friends, and Robin shall restore amends."

This is the most famous speech from the play. Puck is one of those characters that stays with you for a long time. Shakespeare knew what he was doing by creating the fairies and we will be forever grateful to him for doing so.

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