Foolishness and Folly

There are two sides to the comedy in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’: the physical comedy of Bottom and his acting troupe’s incompetence (not to mention Bottom’s change of head) and the less obvious humour present in the melodramatic nature of almost every single character in relation to love: threatening or committing to death, abandoning their lives and wearing their hearts on their sleeves.

Questions – have a think yourself first before clicking on the spoilers to see my analysis.

1) Consider the reactions of the young lovers (Demetrius, Helena, Lysander and Hermia) and how far they are willing to go for their love. Is Shakespeare trying to tell us all love = foolishness or just their love?


2) Bottom and the other actors are always a target for mockery from the audience and the other characters in the play. What’s the point of their incompetence and bumbling?


3) Lysander and Demetrius fight throughout the play, even before being enchanted, while Hermia and Helena fight without enchantment at all. What can explain their rash behaviour?


4) Does Midsummer Night’s Dream provide us with one of Shakespeare’s fool characters who provide mischief and jokes?


Author: Mr Sir

Although I've only been teaching Literature since 2011 and did my degree in History, I think that makes me better placed than many Lit teachers to provide notes that make sense and aren't garbled and wrapped up with inaccessible terminology and effluent nonsense. After adventures in Uganda and Uzbekistan, I am now settling down in the Netherlands. However, currently I am just about as unsettled as I have ever been, with a new job, a new baby, a new country and a hundred other things going on! Ask me a question, collaborate or abuse me.

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