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Free Study Guide-A Midsummer Nights Dream by William Shakespeare-Free
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ACT IV, SCENE 1

Summary

Titania is still under the spell and very much in love with Bottom, who continues to be the bully and enjoys the attention he gets. Oberon, who has been watching the pair from behind, comes forward, followed shortly afterwards by Puck. Oberon tells Puck that after taunting Titania about Bottom, he has asked for the boy and gotten him; "and now I have the boy I will undo / This hateful imperfections of her eyes." Oberon is determined to right all the wrongs done by the fairies, including himself. As a result, he also directs Puck to remove the ass's head from Bottom and let him go back to Athens. When everything is returned to normal, Oberon hopes that everyone will consider the night's incidents as "the fierce vexation of a dream." When Oberon removes the spell from Titania, she wakes and says, "What visions have I seen! / Methought I was enamoured of an ass." Puck carefully removes the ass's head from Bottom so that Titania will not see it. Oberon calls for music and starts dancing with Titania.

Theseus, Hippolyta, Egeus, and the others enter the woods to start the celebrations prior to the wedding. Theseus spots the four "lovers," who are asleep. Egeus recognizes them and wonders what brings the four of them together. Theseus, in his happiness, cannot see anything amiss and so concludes that they must have arrived early to join the revelries. He also remembers that this is the day when Hermia is to give her answer about marrying Demetrius.

The horns are sounded to wake the lovers. Upon rising, Lysander confesses that he and Hermia had planned to escape "the perils of the Athenian Law" and marry. Egeus is angry and again demands that Hermia marry Demetrius. He then tries to rouse Demetrius against Lysander, who is trying to steal his future wife. Demetrius says that a change has come over him. He is no longer in love with Hermia; Helena is now the object and pleasure of his eye. In the climatic moment of the plot, Theseus tells Egeus, "I will overbear your will" and adds that on the ramp, along with him, "these couples shall eternally be knit." With the unknown help of the fairies, Theseus rights the wrongs between the two couples so that true love can flourish.

When Theseus and his entourage depart for Athens, the two couples are left behind to decipher what has happened the previous night. They are totally confused and not certain whether they are still dreaming or whether the duke and his followers have really been in the woods. They decide to follow the Duke to Athens, and on the way the try to figure last night's "dreams."


Bottom, now free of Puck's prank, enters and thinks he has had a strange dream as well. He then remembers the play about Pyramus and decides to request that Peter Quince write a ballad and call it "Bottom's Dream," to be sung at the end of the play.

Notes

This scene is the most important one in the play, for it brings the plot to a climax, with all the wrongs being set right by Theseus and the fairies. The magical flower spell has been removed from all concerned. Lysander again loves Hermia; Demetrius acknowledges his love for Helena; and Bottom is released from the clutches of Titania. All of them, however, are left with the feeling that they have had a rare vision, "a midsummer night's dream." Theseus then overrules Egeus and commands that the two couples marry on the ramp with him and Hippolyta.

There is a minor discrepancy in time in the play. In the beginning, Theseus claims that his wedding is four days away. But the entire action of the drama takes place within a span of three days. The first day the lovers decide that the following night they will meet in the woods. The bulk of the action then takes place in the woods on the following night. On the morning of the third day, Theseus and his entourage find the lovers and go back to Athens to make final arrangements for the wedding, which will be held the same night. This time error would probably not have been noticed by the Elizabethan audience, for Shakespearean plays were written to be performed as entertainment, not as texts to be studied in a classroom.

One remarkable feature of the scene is Shakespeare's mingling of poetry and prose. Nick Bottom always speaks in prose with language filled with malapropisms and bordering on crudity. In contrast, Titania speaks in stilted rhyming poetry. The contrast is humorous. Bottom says, "Kill me a red-hipped humble bee." The doting Titania tells Bottom to "come, sit thee down upon this flowery bed / While I thy amiable checks do coy / And stick mush roses in thy sleek smooth head / And kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy." Similar to Titania, Theseus and Hippolyta speak in poetry, but it does not rhyme, making Theseus sound more authoritarian, as befits a Duke. Shakespeare obviously and masterfully employs the English language as a tool to capture both the essence of his characters and the situations they experience.

It is important to notice that Bottom does not change in this scene. Even in the clutches of Titania, he remains the innate bully that he is, trying to boss her around. The interactions between the fairy and "the ass" lend humor to the play.

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