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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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How do the fairies in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream affect the play's outcome?

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One of Shakespeare's most important themes in A Midsummer Night's Dream is the irrationality or foolishness of mankind. Shakespeare portrays the foolishness of mankind by pointing out that love is an irrational emotion. Demetrius is especially one character he uses to prove the irrationality of love and mankind in general. In addition, Shakespeare uses the fairies to both point out the foolishness of mankind and to resolve the characters' foolishness. The fairies affect the outcome of the play by pairing the couples in a way that is sensible and rational and also by blessing their marriages.

The irrationality of love is first pointed out by Helena in the opening scene. Helena is bemoaning the fact that Demetrius has abandoned loving her for Hermia, even though he has no rational reason for it. For instance, Helena points out that throughout all of Athens she is thought to be just as beautiful as Hermia, as we see in her line, "Through Athens I am thought as fair as she" (I.i.232). Hence, Helena is pointing out that Demetrius's reasons for ceasing to love her are not based on objective reality, but rather his subjective opinion. Helena further points out that love is not based on anything objective and real when she declares, "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; / And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind" (239-240). Because love is based solely on the irrational imagination, we see just how foolish love truly is and how foolish mankind is as well. Even Puck illustrates the foolishness of mankind in his famous line, "Lord, what fools these mortals be!" (III.ii.116).

Since it is perfectly foolish and irrational for Demetrius to be pursuing Hermia instead of Helena, especially when Hermia is in love with Lysander, the fairies amend this foolish situation by rightly pairing the couples. Puck goofs things up at first, adding more conflict and creating the climax; but, based on Oberon's commands, he eventually makes Demetrius fall in love with Helena and makes Lysander fall back in love with Hermia. Pairing the lovers this way is sensible and rational because now neither woman is alone and abandoned with a broken heart, and as Puck phrases it, each "Jack shall have [a] Jill" (III.ii.481). Demetrius even points out the rationality of the match when he confesses to Theseus that he was engaged to Helena before he saw Hermia, showing us that renewing his faithfulness to Helena is really the only rational way to behave. We see Demetrius's confession to their engagement in his line, "To her, my lord, / Was I betroth'd ere I saw Hermia" (IV.172-173).

Not only do the fairies affect the outcome of the play by appropriately pairing the lovers, they further affect the outcome by blessing the lovers in the end. One of the purposes of their blessing is to ensure that the lovers will remain in love and forever true to each other, as we see in Oberon's line, "So shall all the couples three / Ever true in loving be" (V.i.402-403).

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How do the fairies affect the outcome of the story?

They affect the outcome of the story tremendously. More specifically, they affect the middle of the play through their mischief, providing much of the humor through Bottom's transformations and the confusion and plight of the four young lovers.

This sets up the audience for the happy ending, and so affects the outcome for readers. For those inside the story, they affect the ending in two major ways. First, the lovers who were lost and at odds are now together (especially Helena and Demetrius). Second, and more subtly, the entire natural world is out of alignment because Titania and Oberon were feuding. Since they get together again at the play's end, things will go into their proper alignment and run smoothly.


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