What is the most important dramatic unit of Act I, scene i in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream?   *A dramatic unit occurs when: there is a change in setting a major character enters a...

What is the most important dramatic unit of Act I, scene i in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream?

 

*A dramatic unit occurs when:

  1. there is a change in setting
  2. a major character enters a scene
  3. a  major character exits a scene
  4. there is a dramatic change in the type of speech used by a character
  5. one or two characters are left alone in a scene
  6. the mood of a scene shifts

 

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shakespeareguru | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

I did a bit of research on the term "dramatic unit," and, as far as I can determine, it was first used by John Howard Lawson, a playwright and screenwriter, in his 1960 treatise:  Theory and Technique of Playwriting.

I feel that it is important to begin the answer to your question with this information, so that you understand that the term "dramatic unit" was not one that Shakespeare knew or understood.  It was coined in the 20th century many hundreds of years after Shakespeare lived and worked in the theatre.  So, while it might be a useful way to analyze the structure of Shakespeare's scenes from a modern perspective, it has nothing to do with the writing Shakespeare was doing in the Renaissance.

All of this being said, the best that I can conform Act I, scene i to the progression of rising and falling action as described above, it fits the part of the scene beginning at line 20 with the entrance of Egeus, Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius and ending at line 127 with the exit of Theseus, Hippolyta, Egeus, and Demetrius, which leaves Hermia and Lysander onstage alone for a new "dramatic unit" of action.

The "dramatic unit" encased between these two points in the scene involves the rising and falling action concerning Hermia and her father's insistence and Theseus' decree that she marry Demetrius, though she is in love with Lysander.  This unit of action rises to a climax with Hermia's plea to Theseus to override her father's edict and concludes with his decision to uphold the command that Hermia marry Demetrius or face the consequences.

Please follow the links below for more on Act I, scene i and John Howard Lawson.

 

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