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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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How do events in Act 2 of A Midsummer Night's Dream contribute to its "comedy of errors" label?

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Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream can be thought of as one of the quintessential comedies of error, as it involves hilarious love quarrels brought on by both mistaken identities and pure rotten luck.

In many ways, Act II can be viewed as the epicenter of this reputation, for it is in this part of the play that Oberon and his mischievous servant, Puck, make use of a love potion with disastrous results. Oberon orders Puck to use the potion, which causes a sleeping recipient to fall in love with the first person he or she sees upon waking, on Demetrius, who was last seen fleeing from an enamored Helena. Puck, however, mistakes Lysander for Demetrius, and this mistake causes Lysander to fall in love with Helena, an occurrence that understandably enrages Hermia, Lysander's real true love. Meanwhile, Oberon administers the same love potion to Titania, who later wakes up to fall in love with the ridiculous (and donkey-headed) Bottom. 

In short, Act II sets up the comedic activities for the rest of the play. Furthermore, all of this hilarity is based on errors, mistakes, and blunders enacted by truly buffoonish characters. For this reason, it is easy to see why the play is not only considered a comedy of errors, but also one of Shakespeare's most hilarious pieces. 

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