Major Male Characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream

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      The characters of Theseus, Oberon and Bottom especially stand out in the play A Midsummer Night's Dream. However There are numerous characters in the play that are important in both the sub plot and the main plot. Their characters and significance have been discussed in greater detail below.

      Theseus: Theseus is the duke of Athens and therefore is the character in the play who commands the most respect. We are introduced to this character in the very beginning of this play. It is Theseus' speech that opens the play. In this speech, we realize that Theseus is to get married to the 'fair Hippolyta' or beautiful Hippolyta. We also understand that Theseus is deeply in love with Hippolyta and is getting impatient for his wedding day to approach faster. He compares the dreary night to an old but rich widow who continues to live depriving her son, the rightful heir to the property from enjoying his right. He is mindful of his duty of being the king and therefore urges Hermia to obey the wishes of her father even though towards the end of the play, he makes love conquer over everything else and grants Hermia the permission to marry Lysander. He only appears at the beginning and end of the play, removed from the middle part, the dream-like section of the play. Theseus represents power and order in the play. Theseus is the duke of Athens and therefore it is needless to say that he is a symbol of power and domination in the play. His marriage to Hippolyta is not a simple marriage, as is the case with most rulers. He has won Hippolyta after displaying his valor on the battlefield. Hippolyta is impressed with his courage and therefore agrees to marry him. However Theseus, character is not a character which is intensely aggressive. He is most certainly brave but does not wear it as a badge or show bouts of heroism mindlessly. He is also a man who enjoys merriment. On the occasion of his wedding with Hippolyta, he provides special attention to the minute details of the entertainment programs planned. Even at the end of the play, Theseus is very careful about which play to watch. It is only after a careful deliberation does he approve of the play 'Pyramus and Thisbe'. Theseus is a very wise ruler and extremely considerate as well as mindful of others. When he is watching a group of artisans perform the play, Tyramus and Thisbe' with Hippolyta, he does not get offended with their unrefined performance. Rather he seizes this opportunity to explain to Hippolyta that once must appreciate a speaker's stumbling during their speech as they are mindful of the great duty that they have to perform. Unlike Hippolyta and others who judge everyone by the performance that the artisans have put up, it is only Tlneseus who appreciates the sincerity of the artisans instead of condemning their performance. This particular episode in the play exemplifies Theseus' wisdom.

      Oberon: Oberon is the king of fairies and a source of supernatural interference in the play. He is married to Titania. Being the king of fairies, he has numerous fairies at his order of which Puck is his chief attendant. However, he is inclined towards getting an Indian page for himself who is currently with Titania. This is the major cause of conflict between Oberon and Titania throughout the play to the extent that they are not willing to talk to each other or be in each other's company. Whenever they are forced to talk to each other, they end up quarreling and creating a negative atmosphere. Oberon is extremely angry with Titania as she has a changeling, an Indian boy who was stolen from a human household. Oberon is enchanted with this boy and wants to acquire him so that he can use him as his own page. However, Titania is also obsessed with this boy and does not want to give him away. This leads to a bitter ego clash between them. Oberon keeps this as a grudge and starts to conceive of a plan to make Titania give up this attendant voluntarily. While Titania and Oberon are arguing, we realize that Oberon has not been entirely faithful in his marriage. Titania accuses him of having an illegitimate affair with the 'Queen of the Amazons' referring to Hippolyta. Thus the reader infers that Oberon is not only stubborn and arrogant in his marriage but also disloyal in his marriage.

      Cunning nature: Oberon conceives a plan to cause a change of heart Titania. He devises this plan to ensure that Titania will give up her Indian changeling or attendant voluntarily. He asks Puck to squeeze the juice of a magical flower on the eyes of Titania. He also instructs Puck to do this task in such a way that Titania should wake up and see a living creature. Under the influence of this magical potion, Titania would fall in love with this living creature. Oberon would seize this opportunity and make give up her attendant voluntarily. She would easily agree to do this as she would be preoccupied with her love. This is an interesting and a rather complicated plan. It goes on to show that Oberon is a cunning and conniving person who is willing to go to any end so that his ends are served. He is also comfortable with making his own wife look foolish in front of others as long as his needs are being served and suited.

      In some instances, Oberon is a benevolent fairy and blesses the three married couples to lead a life of prosperity happiness, health and wealth. However, a close reading and analysis of the play reveals that it is nearly impossible for the reader to generalize anything about Oberon's character. He seems nice to characters that he likes and is despicable towards characters who he detests. For instance, he is extremely wrathful towards Titania often calling her names and alleging infidelity on her part. Puck, however, is his favorite fairy and he treats him very gently often referring to him as 'my gentle Puck’ or 'my sweet Puck'. During the end of the play; there is also an instance where he starts feeling pitiable towards Titania and wishes to reverse the action of the magical flower but only after his own work is done.

      Bottom: He is a weaver, by profession. Bottom is the most outstanding and outgoing of all actors. He is ready to engage in dancing, singing and merriment to ensure that the play which they are due to perform is a success and the audience enjoys it. He is also very confident about his acting prowess. He does not shy away from showing off these abilities. He says that if he gets to play the role of Pyramus, he will play it in such a way that the audience will be moved to tears. They will be forced to carry truckloads of tears as his performance will be so sensitive and moving. Very soon, however, the audience realizes that Bottom is nothing more than a boastful fool. Puck, in one of his pranks, places a donkey's head on Bottom's shoulders. His company becomes scared of him and starts running away from him. Even then Bottom is unable to identify the problem and keeps running hither and thither. Bottom's language is very interesting and a major contributor to his comic appeal. He constantly uses contradiction to be more effective. He says that if he were to play the role of a lion, he would "aggravate" his voice so that it does not scare the audience, thereby combining two opposing ideas. He is a sensitive person as when he is preparing for the play along with the other actors, he is continually drawn to questions like "would the ladies be scared to see a lion on the stage"; "would the ladies be scared to see a murder on stage" and so on. He customizes the play, adding a prologue and an epilogue so that the play is toned down in according to the sensibilities of the audience. He is also an artist in a way as he wants to capture the lived experiences in the form of a lyrical ballad.

      To conclude it can be said that all the three characters are extremely important in the play. These characters can also be seen as exemplifying the union or coming together of three worlds, the nobles, the mortals and the divine. The nobles are represented by Theseus, the mortals are represented by Bottom and the divine group or the fairies are represented by Oberon.

University Questions

Discuss the significance of the roles of Theseus, Oberon and Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Comment on the characters of Theseus, Oberon and Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Substantiate on the roles of Theseus, Oberon and Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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