The play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare is characterized by comedy, farce and humor that are present throughout the play. It is mainly based on love, magic, mistaken identity and the sudden reversal of relationships.
Act I begins with a scene where Duke Theseus is conversing with his bride. They are going to get married in four days and Theseus is very happy. The funny thing, however, is that he is going to marry someone whom he defeated and conquered in a battle. It is ironical since love is a natural thing and one cannot be forced to feel love. This signals the start of confusion and love entanglements that become more tense throughout the entire play. As they continue talking happily, Hermia’s father enters the palace.
Hermia’s father wants his daughter to marry Demetrius, a young man whom he fancies. Hermia however loves Lysander and wants to marry him. Helena is in love with Demetrius who does not want anything to do with her. Hermia’s father reports her to Duke Theseus who advises her to listen to her father. Hermia, however, refuses this and the Duke threatens her that if she disobeys her father then she would be executed or condemned to nunnery for the rest of her life.
Hermia’s refusal to marry Demetrius thus plays a very crucial role as it leads to her eloping with Lysander and the later decision by Demetrius to pursue them into the forest. It is very humorous when Lysander makes fun of Demetrius by telling him that since he has won the love of Hermia’s father, he should go ahead and marry him and leave Hermia to him. This simple joke further contributes to the tension between the two men. Later when Demetrius learns of their plan to elope he follows them to the dark forest.
Shakespeare further develops the technique of comedy through the craftsmen. They are a bunch of funny and foolish people whose actions and utterances leave the audience rocking with laughter.
Bottom is one of the craftsmen; he is the centre of comedy in the play. His role involves dancing, singing and laughing. His performance is very important as it draws the audience attention to serious themes such as the relationship between reality and imagination. His bossy character eventually results in the fact that his head is being transformed by Punk into that of a donkey.
In Act II, all the characters meet in the forest resulting in hilarious incidences. The craftsmen have gone to the forest to rehearse their play. Lysander and Hermia are planning to elope to their aunt’s place and have gone to the forest to plan. Helena gets wound of their plan and tells Demetrius who follows them in pursuit. It is also at this time that the fairies from India have come to bless Theseus’s wedding and are haunting the same woods. Their presence is comical and leads to funny episodes in the story.
It is in this act that we also meet Oberon who has a dispute with his wife Titania over an Indian boy whom they both adore. Oberon wants the boy but Titania is holding to him. Oberon, therefore, asks Puck to prepare a love charm for him that he will put on Titania’s eye lids to make her fall in love with the first person that she sets her eyes upon. This love charm lead to a series of funny events. Puck mistakenly squeezes the juice on Lysander who ends up falling in love with Helena. When Oberon realizes his mistake, he tries to correct this by ensuring that Demetrius also partakes the love charm.
In Act III humor comes is in the climax through the fairies’ magic. Puck is a supernatural being who is also known as Robin Good’s fellow. He is light-hearted and enjoys playing practical jokes on mortals by pulling pranks on practically anyone. First he mischievously transforms Bottom’s head into that of a donkey. He does this not because Bottom has done anything to him, but just to please himself. To further aggravate the situation when instructed by Oberon, Puck applies the love charm on Titania’ s eyelids and when she wakes up the first being she sees is Bottom whom she falls in love with. Bottom is unaware of his transformed state and when his friends are mocking at him about the queen that has fallen in love with him, he says that he finds nothing unusual with that. He is proud of his looks and believes that any girl would want him as a potential lover. These incidences are very funny and they give much development to the plot.
In act IV, the conflict is remarkably resolved and conflict resolution occurring faster makes it comical. Another love charm on Lysander’s eyes makes him fall in love again thus turning back to Hermia. Oberon forgives his wife after she has agreed to give him the Indian boy, and the love entanglements are, therefore, resolved. The play comes to a happy ending and we see the couples getting married to each other.
The play in Act V is very hilarious since the craftsmen are clumsy and awkward actors. They are obviously very silly and not intelligent at all. They distort the play in spelling, pronunciation and as a result change the original meaning of the utterances. The performance uses satire to ridicule the melodramatic lovers and hence giving the play a comedic and joyful ending. In the play, Hermia and Lysander are satirically compared to Pyramus and Thisbe. As the craftsmen attempt to act, a comedy of irony arises. The story would have been very familiar to the educated members of the Shakespeare audiences but the rough, unsophisticated men who are attempting to act make it an insensible and meaningless performance.
In conclusion, Shakespeare employed the use of humor in his play to advance his themes. He has attracted attention of audiences with his joyful and very interesting comedies. Without this technique, the plot would have taken a different course. It also helps develop the plot; as actions flow from one point to another the story develops making the comedy.