A Midsummer Night's Dream: Act 4, Scene 1 - Summary & Analysis

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      Summary: Titania along with her attendant fairies and Bottom reach the scene. Titania is completely in love with Bottom and therefore, wants to place musk-roses around Bottom's hairy head and kiss his floppy ears, but all Bottom can think about is oats and hay. When Bottom grows tired, Titania curls up in his arms and they take a nap together. Oberon and Puck enter the scene and Oberon pities Titania for having fallen in love with a donkey. Oberon tells Puck that he will release Titania from the spell because she has already given her consent to give him the changeling. Oberon orders Puck to change Bottom's head back to its original form and he awakens his queen, who is under the impression that she was sleeping and is now astonished by the dreams she has had: "My Oberon! what visions I have seen!/Methought I was enamour'd of an ass". The royal fairies, Oberon and Titania have now buried the hatchet and reconciled. Now all the characters prepare to celebrate and engage in merriment at Theseus' wedding the next day and Oberon vows that all the pairs of "faithful lovers" will be wed in a solemn ceremony.

      The next morning, Theseus, Hippolyta, Egeus, and the duke's attendants are enjoying hunting in the woods. Theseus sees the four sleeping lovers and orders the huntsmen to wake them with their horns. Lysander immediately tells Theseus of his plan to elope with Hermia, and Egeus demands that Theseus must order the killing of Lysander for his treachery; disloyalty and betrayal. But Demetrius quickly interrupts saying that he no longer has any desire to wed Hermia and that now Helena is the sole "object and pleasure" of his eyes. Theseus is overjoyed and graciously insists that the two reunited couples should marry on the same day that he marries Hippolyta. They all return to Athens, except for Bottom who wakes up in the forest, puzzled by the strange dream he has had. He decides to write a ballad about his dream which he will sing at the wedding. He calls it "Bottom's dream, because it hath no bottom" or that the dream was meaningless.

      Critical Analysis: This scene presents the forest as an ominous and forsaken place. The transition of reality which is assumed by the characters to be a dream or a vision emerges a second time in Act Four. Oberon tells Titania that Bottom will "think no more of this night's accidents / But as the fierce vexation of a dream". Indeed, this is exactly what happens: "The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was".

      It is the way that Bottom is able to grapple with the nightmare of a dream that is important and interesting, albeit scary. However he is not afraid of it rather he wants to document it and pen it down in the form of a ballad. Turning a fearful nightmare into a fun song is crucial to understanding what Shakespeare has done with A Midsummer Night's Dream. Through this particular incident, Shakespeare seems to be making a further and more emphasizing comment about the nature of plays and acting, showing them to be a medium by which our worst fears can be dissipated into hilarity and something inconsequential. Shakespeare seems to be propounding a theory of the art of writing and the multi-faceted purposes it serves.

      The nature of doubling also emerges once again in this act, but for the last time. Hermia emphatically remarks that, "Methinks I see these things with parted eye, / When everything seems double". This comment comes exactly after Theseus disregards Egeus demands and Hermia is correct about the fact that this is a doubling of marriages / In spite of escaping from the confusion of the forest, there is still an overarching uncertainty about whether Lysander and Demetrius have been able to distinguish between Helena and Hermia. The effect of having a double wedding merely makes the newfound differences more abstract and cloud-like, making Hermia wonder if things still are truly double.

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