A Midsummer Night's Dream Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night's Dream book cover
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What parallels does Theseus draw between the lover, the madman, and the poet?

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David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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According to Theseus, the madman, the lover, and the poet all have very strong imaginations. This allows them to see things that most others never would. The imagination strongly colors their way of seeing the world, giving them a unique insight into the true nature of things. Yet ordinary people—those not blessed with much in the way of imagination—all too often dismiss them as just plain mad.

Theseus is sympathetic to their plight, and this should come as no surprise. After all, he is himself a lover, a man with a strong, well-developed romantic streak. He is therefore well placed to make a strong case for those with a heightened perception of things. Although the relative few blessed with a vivid imagination might not always be able to tell the difference between reality and fantasy, there is no doubting the sincerity with which they follow and act upon their perceptions. And Theseus greatly respects them for that.

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pohnpei397 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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You can find all the lines that show Thesues drawing these parallels at the very beginning of Act V, Scene 1.

In general, what Theseus is saying is that all of these kinds of people are crazy -- not just the madman.

He says that all of them have "seething" brains that see whatever they want to see.  Lovers think their ugly lovers are beautiful and poets make up things that totally don't exist.

So Theseus is saying that all of these kinds of people have overactive imaginations that end up making them perceive the world differently from normal people.

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