In "A Midsummer Night's Dream," what parallels does Theseus draw between the lover, the madman, and the poet?

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luannw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The quote you are referring to comes from Act 5, sc. 1, at the beginning of the scene when Theseus, Hippolyta, and others come upon the four lovers in the woods and hear their fantastical story of what they figure must have been a dream.  Theseus doesn't believe the story that Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius, and Helena tell him and the others about what went on that night (which is why it is assumed to be a dream), so he says that lovers and madmen have crazy "fantasies" that sane people don't have.  With that he draws a parallel between people in love and people who are insane.  He goes on to say that the lunatic, the lover, and the poet all have very active imaginations.  He says the madman sees devils everywhere, the lover looks upon the one he loves and sees beauty even if no one else does, and poets describe what they see in ways that make those things seem more beautiful and wonderful than they really are.  In other words, lunatics, lovers, and poets all see things that aren't there, or that no one else can see.  It fits the play well because no one saw the faeries except for Bottom, and no one believes the four lovers, so there is lots going on that is too removed from the realm of possibility to be believed.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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