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The Role of Magic in a Midsummer Night's Dream

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The role of magic in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The role of magic in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

William Shakespeare was born on April 23, 1564 in Stratford-on-Avon, and it is believed that he died on the same day in 1616 (Gaines, 2011). At the age of 18 he married Anne Hathaway, and the two went on to have three children together. In the end, there is very little true information about the personal life of this marvelous writer (Fishcher, 2010). However, it is apparent that he often incorporated Biblical imagery into his plays that would lead one to believe he was a man of faith. Another trait of this man could be visible through his lighter side. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a perfect example of this. Through the magic laden play, the reader cannot help but have a smile on their face when they finish. Magic plays an impactful role throughout A Midsummer Night’s Dream, originating through many different characters and influencing and directing the overall flow of the play.

From very early in the play, the magical aspects of this magical sprite come to forefront. Through Puck’s introduction, Shakespeare leads the reader into a magical beginning. According to the fairy, “Either I mistake your shape and making quite, or else you are that shrewed and kavish sprite called Robin Goodfellow” (2. 1. 32-33). Puck’s features would later be addressed even more when the fairy even goes further in stating, “Some call you a hobgoblin and sweet puck” (2. 1. 40). However, Puck’s looks were not the only interesting aspects of his magical being. Despite his crazy looks, he was full of magic and fantasy. He often used his magic to zip around the magical wood and get from place to place. In his own words, “I am the merry wonderer of the night” (2. 1. 43) and “I’ll put a girdle around the earth in forty minutes” (2. 1. 175). Shakespeare used magic in many ways in creating Puck as a magical trickster that would lend plenty of depth to the overall plot of the play. Having a trickster such as Puck in the play was typical for this time period in literature (Conroy & Davis, 2002). Even though Puck was without question a trickster, he was not the lone magical character of the play.

The interaction of Titania and the little Indian Boy was another part which brought magic and fantasy to the play. Oberon was enthralled with the idea of having the boy for himself. However, Titania never planned on letting that happen. Given that the boy was the son of one of her dancers that lost her life during childbirth, Titania felt she was the one to raise the child. Through this storyline, there is more fantasy and magic revealed. In one conversation with Oberon she tells him, “Set your heart at rest, the fairyland buys not the child of me” (2. 1. 121). This was just the beginning of the magical story surrounding the Indian child and his birth. This event in its entirety drips of fantasy and magic. In the speech where she is describing the time before his birth, Titania talks of magical, fantastical moments with his mother. She states, “And sat with me on Neptune’s yellow sands, making the embarked traders on the flood. (2. 1 126-127). In the period surrounding the young Indian boy, it is obvious that magic is in the air.

Shakespeare went on to reveal even more magic that would once again include Puck and his trickster nature. This would be in the use of a magic elixir that was brought about when “the bolt of Cupid fell, it fell upon a little western flower” (2. 1. 165-166). Oberon witnessed this event and knew that if he could find the flower, he would hold the magic of love that it possessed. Therefore, he sent Puck on a mission to find the flower and bring it to him. He explained to Puck that “the juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid will make or man or woman madly dote” (2. 1. 170-171). His plan was not for just anyone, but for Titania. Oberon once again explained to Puck, “I’ll watch Titania when she is asleep and drop the liquor of it in her eyes…I’ll make her render up her page to me” (2. 1. 178-179). He was determined to go to any length to get the little Indian boy for his use.

Shakespeare once again uses Puck and his mystical satire to entice the audience. Through the use of trickery, Puck would set in motion a plot that would be crucial in the overall outcome of the play. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, there is a play inside a play. There, Puck is found watching as the play unfolds. Being the trickster that he is, he finds the play



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