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William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

There are so many references to “the eyes” in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” that one would expect there to be a solid and consistent reason for their appearance. However, this does not seem to be the case. Indeed, the images associated with the eyes are so varied, and shift so frequently, that it is practically impossible to define what it is they represent. This difficulty reflects the problem of distinguishing between what is real and what is illusion — a central theme of the play.

Confusion and misunderstanding abound throughout “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The lovers’ chase through the forest is perhaps the most obvious example. The “mechanicks'” bumbling performance of “Pyramus and Thisbe” is perhaps the most comic. However, as the play commences, it is a misunderstanding between Egeus and Hermia that threatens to throw the court into turmoil.

This particular misunderstanding revolves around Hermia’s love for Lysander. Although Egeus has arranged for his daughter to wed Demetrius, it is Lysander that Hermia really wants to marry. However, Egeus refuses to ascent to their marriage, threatening to enforce on his daughter the “ancient privilege of Athens” (1.1.41) if she does not condescend to his original choice. Even though this would entail her entering a nunnery (or perhaps even being executed), Egeus’ opinion cannot be swayed. His stubbornness leads Hermia to exclaim: “I would my father looked but with mine eyes” (1.1.56).

Clearly, Hermia believes that if her father could see Lysander in the same light as her, then he would quickly form a different opinion of him. In this instance, then, the eyes symbolize judgment. Theseus’ response to Hermia not only …

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…e, nor his heart to report what my dream was” (4.1.204-207). Here, he confuses the senses in his attempt to get a grip on reality, thus demonstrating the blurred boundary between reality and illusion.

Clearly, then, the eye alone cannot be trusted to provide adequate information about the nature of reality. The fluid, endlessly shifting imagery of the eyes serves to represent this problem, adding to the dreamlike quality of the play in the process. Possibly, it is left to the “poet’s eye” (5.1.12) to make the distinction between reality and illusion: “The forms of things unknown, the poet’s pen/Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing/A local habitation and a name” (5.1.15-17).

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The Norton Shakespeare. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W. W. Norton

Alice Walker

Alice Walker

Alice Walker, one of the best-known and most highly respected writers in the US, was born in Eatonton , Georgia, the eighth and last child of Willie Lee and Minnie Lou Grant Walker. Her parents were sharecroppers, and money was not always available as needed. At the tender age of eight, Walker lost sight of one eye when one of her older brothers shot her with a BB gun by accident. This left her in somewhat a depression, and she secluded herself from the other children. Walker felt like she was no longer a little girl because of the traumatic experience she had undergone, and she was filled with shame because she thought she was unpleasant to look at. During this seclusion from other kids her age, Walker began to write poems. Hence, her career as a writer began.

Despite this tragedy in her life and the feelings of inferiority, Walker became valedictorian of her class in high school and received a “rehabilitation scholarship” to attend Spelman. Spelman College was a college for black women in Atlanta, Georgia, not far from Walker’s home. While at Spelman, Walker became involved in civil rights demonstrations where she spoke out against the silence of the institution’s curriculum when it came to African-American culture and history. Her involvement in such activities led to her dismissal from the college. So she transferred to Sarah Lawrence College in New York and had the opportunity to travel to Africa as an exchange student. Upon her return, she received her bachelor of arts degree from Sarah Lawrence College in 1965. She received a writing fellowship and was planning to spend it in Senegal, West Africa, but her plans changed when she decided to take ajob as a case worker in the New York City welfare department. Walker later moved to Tougaloo, Mississippi, during which time she became more involved in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. She used her own and others’ experiences as material for her searing examinations of politics. She also volunteered her time working at the voter registration drive in Mississippi. Walker often admits that her decision not to take the writing fellowship was based on the realization that she could never live happily in Africa or anywhere else until she could live freely in Mississippi.

Walker found the love of her life in 1967, a white activist civil rights lawyer name Mel Leventhal, and they were married in 1967.

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