Supernatural Elements in A Midsummer Night's Dream

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      Shakespeare has succeeded in creating a fantastical supernatural atmosphere in A Midsummer Night's Dream by incorporating the world of fairies in the play. He has weaved an elaborate world which he has been able to do through the characters of Oberon, Titania and Puck.

      Spiteful fairies or not?: Shakespeare's portrayal of the fairies in this play has always been a bone of contention among literary critics. Shakespeare has not portrayed the fairies in a conventional and usual manner. Fairies have been shown in a positive light as benevolent and helpful creatures usually in literary texts. Fairies have been portrayed
in a negative light in the play. They are mischievous and bicker with each other incessantly. This also leads to the establishment of the sub plot of the fairy world. However, Shakespeare has presented this situation in a complicated way. Initially, the fairies, including their king, Oberon and queen, Titania have been presented to be extremely spiteful in nature. Puck also seems sadist. However in the end, they also show shades of goodness, as they bless the newlywed couple, Theseus and Hippolyta and the other two couples also. The blessing by these fairies is testimony to the goodness, albeit latent in these fairies.

      Titania is a powerful fairy and the queen of the fairy world. She is a force to be reckoned with. She has many attendants but she seems preoccupied with one particular attendant. He is an Indian boy and a changeling. She adores him and showers him with fancy gifts. But her husband, Oberon, king of the fairies also wants to get hold of this boy. This difference of opinion leads to disagreements and squabbles between them. The intensity of these squabbles is so much that it even leads to changes in the nature as well. Both of them are obstinate about their decision and do not alter their mind even till the end. Titania is eventually forced to give up the boy due to Puck's magic. Oberon gives Puck a magical flower and instructs him to squeeze its juice on Titania's eyelids. This would make Titania fall in love with the first living creature she sees on waking up. When Titania wakes up, she sees Bottom who is wearing a donkey's head on his shoulders. She immediately falls in love with him and gives up the attendant since she is deeply in love with Bottom now. This particular incident is the first incidence of the malice steeped in the nature and heart of these fairies.

      Puck is another interesting character who is an evil fairy. We do not see any shades of goodness in his character. Puck from the beginning has been shown to be a mean fairy. He is the chief attendant of Oberon and therefore commands some respect himself also. He is always preoccupied in playing pranks on the mortal humans. Puck transforms himself into various shapes. He also transforms into a stool. An old lady; who mistakes him for this stool, tries to sit on it but Puck disappears making the old woman fall. Puck does not concern himself with the age or gender of a mortal as he enjoys making fun of everyone. He mocks and plays practical pranks on everyone. But there is one good quality which Puck has which is his sincerity towards his duty. He is dedicated towards Oberon and follows all his instructions. He goes to extreme lengths to ensure that he rectifies all the follies which he has committed in following Oberon's instructions.

      The benevolence of the fairies: Shakespeare has also portrayed a good and positive side of the fairies. We see the fairies in blissfully blessing the newlywed Theseus and Hippolyta and the other couples for eternal togetherness and happiness. They are instructed by Oberon to do so and they all obey him. We also see Oberon to be extremely sensitive when he observes Demetrius reaction towards Helena. He feels that Demetrius is being cold and rude towards Helena. He immediately instructs his chief attendant, Puck to squeeze a little magical juice (meant for Titania) on Demetrius' eyes in such a way that he sees Helena on waking up and falls in love with her. Oberon was not required to do this but he did this only to help Helena who until then is a stranger to her. This shows that Oberon is a good fairy, at the end of the day wishing for the goodwill of others.

      In another instance, when Titania falls in love with Bottom, who is disguised as a donkey. Titania starts looking ridiculous to everyone. At this moment in time, Oberon feels apologetic and Titania becomes a pitiable figure for him. He wants to get her changeling soon so that her original self can be restored through the counter effect of another flower known to have magical properties.

University Questions

How has Shakespeare represented the fairy world in A Midsummer Night's Dream?
Do you see any element of the supernatural in A Midsummer Night's Dream? Elucidate.
How has Shakespeare succeeded in creating a fantastical atmosphere in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

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