Suggested Essay Topics
Act I, Scene 1
1. How does the exposition in Act I, Scene i seem to support Lysander’s statement that, “The course of true love never did run smooth?”
2. Helena tells Hermia, “My ear should catch your voice; my eye your eye….” Considering Hermia’s present relationship and Helena’s past relationship with Demetrius, explain how this exemplifies Shakespeare’s use of the first part of Plautus’ and Terence’s three-part method of writing comedic plays.
3. How does Egeus’ statement (referring to Hermia), “And she is mine, and all my right of her I do estate unto Demetrius,” demonstrate that Shakespeare is using this character to fulfill the role of the opposing father, which is a typical character in the New Comedy of Plautus and Terence?
Act I, Scene 2
1. Quince admonishes Bottom that if he were to have the part of the lion and roar too loudly, he “…would frighten the Duchess and the ladies that they would shriek….” What does this tell us about the Elizabethan view of women? Validate your opinion with clues from the text.
2. In talking about the beard to go with his costume, Bottom says, “…either your straw-color beard, your orange-tawny beard, your purple-in-grain beard, or your French-crown-color beard, your perfit yellow.” In your opinion, and taking hints from his conversations with Quince, just how much experience has Bottom had with acting?
3. The name of the play is “The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe.” Considering that Bottom has already presented himself as something of a clown, why do you think it appropriate he play the lead in a play with this title?
Act II, Scene 1
1. How does Oberon’s instructing Puck to anoint the eye of the youth in “Athenian garments” allow Shakespeare to introduce complications to the situation that is opposite of the “right” one?
2. Considering they are the king and queen of the fairies, explain in your own words why Titania has “… forsworn his [Oberon’s] bed and company.”
3. “I love thee not; therefore pursue me not,” demands Demetrius of Helena, but she will not desist. How can you explain her actions and Demetrius’ reactions in view of Plautus’ and Terence’s plot structure for love comedies?
Act II, Scene 2
1. As Oberon, king of the fairies, carefully present an argument to your wife and queen, Titania, explaining why her past affairs (and yours) did not threaten your marriage but her insistence on keeping this changeling boy rather than conceding to your demands is a threat.
2. Hermia, who is defying Athenian law and facing death or banishment to a nunnery in order to marry the man she loves rather than the man her father chose as her husband, is concerned when Lysander wants to sleep with her in the wood on their way to his aunt’s house to be married. She begs him, “Do not lie so near.” How may her fears concerning her pristine reputation as a maid (unmarried young woman) be justified at this point in the play?
3. Helena is dumbfounded and hurt when she awakens Lysander in the wood and he professes his love for her, “Yet Hermia still loves you [Lysander].” Carefully, decide why she is dumbfounded and hurt that he would mock her so. Explain this, step by step, to the newly-besotted Lysander....
(The entire section is 1398 words.)