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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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What is the significance of Athenian couples falling asleep twice in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

Quick answer:

The two sleeps of the Athenian couples in A Midsummer Night's Dream are significant in that the first allows the play's plot to progress through Puck's mistaken application of the love potion and the second allows Puck to fix his mistake and Theseus and Hippolyta to find the young couples.

Expert Answers

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The Athenian couples, Lysander and Hermia and Demetrius and Helena, in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream fall asleep twice during the course of the play. The first time they drift off, they are making themselves vulnerable. They are letting go of control over themselves in order to allow the play's action to move forward.

This first sleep allows Puck to make his mistake. Oberon has ordered Puck to spread some of the love potion on the eyelids of the young Athenian man sleeping in the forest. Oberon means Demetrius, but Puck anoints Lysander instead. Notice that sleep is required for the administration of the love potion. Puck would never be able to get close enough to anyone to smear love potion on his or her eyelids if that person was not asleep.

Chaos ensues as Lysander turns his back on his true love, Hermia, in order to chase after Helena, whom he sees first when he wakes up. That's how the love potion works; the recipient falls in love with the first person he sees upon waking.

Puck quickly realizes his mistake, but he requires another sleep in order to fix it. This time, when the young couples go back to sleep, Puck spreads love potion on Lysander's eyelids again and makes sure that Lysander sees the right woman when he wakes up. The young couples' second sleep in the forest also gives Theseus and Hippolyta the opportunity to find them and lead them back to Athens so everyone can get married to the correct people.

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