What is the definition of doubling when talking about it in A Midsummer Night's Dream?I think it is talking about character doubling, but when I look it up on the internet or an online dictionary,...

What is the definition of doubling when talking about it in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

I think it is talking about character doubling, but when I look it up on the internet or an online dictionary, I can't find it. If you know a site where there is a definition of this, it would be awesome. Thanks!

Expert Answers
shakespeareguru eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Character doubling is a theatrical term used for an actor who plays two parts in one play -- he/she is "doubling" his/her presence on stage.  This is relevant to A Midsummer Night's Dream because it is often a device in casting the play to have the same actor play Theseus and Oberon and the same actor/actress play Hippolyta and Titania.

There are a few reasons that this casting is common.  First, the two royals (Theseus and Hippolyta) are only onstage at the beginning and ending of the play, yet are important characters.  The practicalities of casting a company of actors would suggest that having a very seasoned actor play each part separately might be a "waste," so why not combine the roles and let one actor play both?  It's quite do-able and can be a nice comment on the play.  Which brings up the second reason....

The play being called a "Dream" lends itself to thinking of the fairies as imaginary characters.  And, since Theseus and Hippolyta are the rulers of the waking world, what fun it is to have the same actors play the rulers of the imaginary or fairy world!  To really round out this dream world within the real world idea, the Philostrate(a high-ranking officer in Thesus' court) is often doubled with Puck.

Hope this helps you understand how theatrical choices can have a real effect on a play.

kmcappello eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I believe the technique you are referring to is a plot device where the main storyline is mirrored, or "doubled" in a minor plotline.  Shakespeare used this technique in many of his plays to comment on, expand, or reinterpret various themes.

In his comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream, the major theme is love.  The main plot involves a love square between four mortals: Hermia, Helena, Lysander, and Demetrius.  Hermia and Lysander love each other.  Demetrius loves Hermia, and Helena loves Demetrius.  Their relationships are, to say the least, difficult.  The foursome are discovered by fairies, who decide to have some fun with them.  Under the influence of a spell, both men forsake their love for Hermia and chase after a very confused and hurt Helena.  But in the end, love (or magic) prevails, and two strong couples emerge from the forest.

The doubled plotline involves the king and queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania.  In the same way that Demetrius wants what he can't have (Hermia), Oberon covets Titania's new companion, a young changeling boy.  But instead of giving in to chance (or magic), Oberon uses trickery to steal the boy away from her.  These doubled plots show the different ways in which power can manifest in a romantic relationship.

fares27 | Student


dramaturgyprof | Student

If you are looking for the definitive text on this subject and others within "dramaturgy" locate John Meagher's work Shakespeare's Shakespeare. Some of the classic moments where Shakespeare "uses" doubling, beyond simple economy, are Lear's lines as he carries Cordelia onstage and cries "Alas my poor Fool is hang'd" Odd name for the daughter who spoke the truth (much as the Fool did in riddles); further why is Bartholomew Romeo's man all of a sudden in Act 4 and 5? where is Benvolio? if you create a doubling chart Benvolio never appears onstage with Lady Montague or Friar Laurence! Every wonder why Lady Montague dies mysteriously prior to the scene in the tomb when the guilty parties come together; lastly imagine the effect if the actor who plays the Ghost in Hamlet appears in the very next scene as Claudius the newly crowned king and murderer of Hamlet Sr.  Shakespeare doubled roles to save money but he did so often with intended effects on the staging and response from his audience.

Read the study guide:
A Midsummer Night's Dream

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question