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Forbidden Desire in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream Essay

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Forbidden Desire in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream


In his play A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare explores the conflict of forbidden desire, as revealed through the experience of four young lovers dwelling in ancient Greece. Hermia and Lysander are two of these lovers, and their desire to marry one another is prohibited by Hermia's father Egeus, and enforced by the governor of Athenian law-King Theseus. Hermia is informed that she may only agree to one of three undesirable choices: marry Demetrius unwillingly, submit to an austere, celibate life as a nun, or face certain execution. Confronted with these dreadful options, Hermia agrees to flee from Athens towards the remote house of Lysanders' widowed aunt, in the wood of Greece. While wandering in this nearby wood, Hermia and Lysander lose their way in the silent, moonlit night, and drift into sleep. Here-away from the prohibitions of rational Greek civilization-Shakespeare plunges his audience into the psychological realm of his characters, by developing the dream-filled, darkened wilderness of Greece as a medium offering access to the unconscious realm of his characters. In the ensuing forest scenes, Shakespeare blends fiction with fantasy, and ultimately allows his characters to confront the boundaries of consciousness and unconsciousness, thus resolving the conflict of socially repressed desire.

The departure of Hermia and Lysander from the city of Athens to the wood intentionally coincides with the first appearance of fantasy in the play. In Act 2, Scene 1, Robin Goodfellow (also known as Puck the mischievous spirit), and a fairy, enter into the plot outside the perimeter of Athens; with the entrance of these otherworldly figures, Shakespeare is ...


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...er Night's Dream is comedic in nature, it provides serious insight into the importance of fantasy and desire to humanity-especially amidst certain intellectual thought in advancing civilization. A Midsummer Night's Dream demonstrates that fantasy is inseparably interconnected with desire, existent both within the imagination, and within the unconscious.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. "A Midsummer Night's Dream." The Norton Shakespeare.Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. W.W. Norton and Co: New York, 1997. 1.1, 65-67. 2.2, 155. 4.1, 167. 5.1, 1-8.

Freud, Sigmund. "The Interpretation of Dreams." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Julie Rivkin, and Michael Ryan, eds. Blackwell: Malden, Massachussets. 2000. 148

Freud, Sigmund. "The Uncanny." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Julie Rivkin, and Michael Ryan, eds. Blackwell: Malden, Massachussets. 2000. 166.


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