What does "A Midsummer Night's Dream"  say about reason and imagination?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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A Midsunmmer Night's Dream is essentially about the dream world. The characters do actually fall asleep twice but it is far more than just dreams. We are encouraged by the fairies to follow them  

on a path of endless fantasy.

Over hill, over dale,
Through bush, through brier,
Over park, over pale,
Through flood, through fire,

Love which naturally plays a pivotal role in the play, according to Helena, is blind, irrational, and cruel.Her reference to

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind

is not a reference to logical thought but most certainly to fantasy and its effect on the mind. The natural elements are highlighted through the fairies, in particular fire and the moon - which is a major feature throughout.

Puck's magical abilities to transform himself  

Sometime a horse I'll be, sometime a hound,
A hog, a headless bear, sometime a fire;
And neigh, and bark, and grunt, and roar, and burn,
Like horse, hound, hog, bear, fire, at every turn.

allow the reader, or audience to appreciate the realm of the imagination as the mind manipulates human thoughts.

Theseus captures the true essence of the imagination and reality in Act V when he says to Hippolyta

More strange than true. I never may believe
These antic fables, nor these fairy toys.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact.

There is a boundary between the real world as we know it and the world of the fairies and the supernatural. To make it flow,Bottom,for example,

seems caught somewhere between the two levels of existence.

Acts I to IV of A Midsummer Night's Dream present an almost kind of symmetry, interchanging between

court to enchanted realm and then back to daylight

The need to bring things down to earth is not overlooked and the human marriages receive a blessing from the rulers of fairyland. Puck adds

you have but slumbr'ed here
While these visions did appear.

Refer to the eNotes study guide and navigate to the themes and other information for more insight into the play and its workings.

Sources:

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