What are some traits of the major and minor characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

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jalden eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Okay, character traits:

Theseus - Noble, formal of speech, passionate under his noble exterior, an intellectual, and basically kind

Hippolyta - Also noble, however a virtual captive of Theseus from a war between them that he won. She and Theseus are the human versions of Oberon and Titania. Their human-ness makes them more restrained than the Fairy pair in their actions and speech. Also they are post-war, where as the Fairy King and Queen are AT war in the beginning of the play.

Egeus - A stubborn, man, insistent upon tradition, which allows for no freedom for daughters and the absolute rule of fathers.

Hermia - Rebellious daughter and mad with passion for Lysander

Lysander - Rebellious youth and mad with passion for Hermia

Demetrius - Willful youth and fickle, having once professed to love Helena, but now is mad with love for Hermia

Helena - Mad with love for Demetrius

The four lovers above are virtually interchangeable, expressing Shakespeare's intention to show the kind of mindless passion that is one aspect of Love.

Oberon - The Male Archetype, regal, powerful, passionate, and willful.

Titania - The Female Archetype, also regal, powerful, passionate, and willful.

Puck - The spirit of mischief and play

The Workmen, or Mechanicals, as they are called - These are the representatives of the common people, or that aspect of humanity that is in us all. They are uncomplicated and literal,

Bottom - A Mechanical, yet different from the others. He has true poetic enthusiasm, and a poetic heart. He is the ONLY human who is able to comprehend both the Fairy world and the human one. He is an example of The Holy Innocent.

jlfinch | Student

I believe another way to show different character traits between the major and minor characters is to look at the way they speak. Shakespeare obviously writes in both Verse and Prose. It is interesting to note that in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the lovers, Titania, Puck, etc. all speak in Verse. Whereas, the Mechanicals speak in Prose. Take Bottom's speech in Act 4, Scene 2 for example:

When my cue comes, call me, and I will answer. My next is, 'Most fair Pyramus.' Hey-ho! Peter Quince?...

Throughout the play all of the Mechanicals speak in Prose until they put on 'Pyramus and Thisbe.' One must also note that that the lovers speak in rhyming verse, like Helena's speech in Act 3, Scene 2:

Lo, she is one of this confederacy!

Now I perceive they have conjoined all three

To fashion this false sport in spite of me.

Three and me, rhyme. Rhyming couplets pop up continuously throughout the play.

By looking at Shakespeare's text, one is able to see a different dichotomy between characters and it can also help to distinguish social class. Though this is not necessarily a hard and fast rule within his plays.

 

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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