Illustration of a donkey-headed musician in between two white trees

A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

Start Free Trial

What is author's purpose in act 2 with the lines that begin, "Lysander riddles very prettily" and ends with "and good night, sweet friend"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Having lost his way to his aunt's house as he and Hermia pass through the forest in the dark, the young lovers stop in Act II, Scene 2 and decide to rest.  With this scene, Shakespeare introduces another aspect of love not previously mentioned in the play:  sexual attraction. When Lysander suggests that they lie together,

One turf shall serve as pillow for us both;
One heart, one bed, two bosoms, and one troth. (2.2.41-42)

Hermia becomes upset at the threat to her maidenhood, and she to "Lie further" away from her for her "innocence."  Lysander, then, explains that he meant nothing suggestive; he means that his heart lies with hers as they love each other and he is not lying about not doing anything ungentlemanly if he lies beside her:

 O, take the sense, sweet, of my innocence!
Love takes the meaning in love's conference.
I mean, that my heart unto yours is knit,
So that but one heart we can make of it;
Two bosoms interchained with an oath,
So then two bosoms and a single troth.
Then by your side no bed-room me deny,
For lying so, Hermia, I do not lie. (2.2.47-53)

But, Hermia still believes that he makes a riddle of the word lie. Still, she apologies if she misconstrues what he says; nevertheless, she prefers that Lysander sleep away from her as such a separation is appropriate for them.

Ironically, however, this physical separation to which Lysander agrees is the cause of Lysander's not seeing Hermia first when he awakens after Puck mistakenly dusts his eyes with the love potion intended for "the Athenian."  So, the dichotomy of dreams/reality in love is furthered in this second act with the ambiguity of feelings, the suggestion of sexual attraction, and as Lysander, so deeply in love with Hermia, then shortly finds himself infatuated with Helena, demonstrating, too, "what fools these mortals be" as Puck later comments. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team