The play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is delightful due to its course of fairies and magical powers. However, focusing on its amusements and to ignore its “paradox is to do an injustice to the play’s complexity”. The play opens up with Theseus and Hippolyta waiting eagerly for their “nupital hours”. Although this very event seems a sight of merriment, becomes dark as soon as Theseus says “I wooed thee with my sword, And, won thy love doing thee injuries…”
An event of marriage in Shakespeare comedies is conventional one but the attributes associated here with the wedding sounds cynical. The world of Hippolyta is evidently quite different from the world of Athens.1 This union almost sound like a forced engagement and could be called a crafted one. Infact this union isn’t the only union that is forced one. Union of Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena at the end of the play is the product of magic. Also, there’s a father-daughter conflict. Egeus doesn’t allow Hermia to marry the man of her choice and forces her to marry her with the man she detests. All of these incidents very well portray the subjugation of woman in a patriarchal society.
Shakespeare comedies give importance to females. Shakespeare explores matriarchy by challenging Elizabethan patriarchal convention as all these women try hard to subvert patriarchal expectations such as (a)Hermia’s flee to woods along with Lysander, (b)Helena following Demetrius, wooing him, which transgresses patriarchal norms. A woman shouldn’t woo while Helena does and gets insults in return.2 In-fact gender oppression isn’t limited to human world only it extends up to the world of fairies. Oberon forcefully persuades Titania to give him the changeling.
Therefore, it can be alluded that the world of fairies is no different from the world of humans. In-fact humans seem to be struggling more in the effect of magic. Instead of getting the stability the lovers expect to get in the woods the whole scenario becomes triggered giving rise to confusion, suffering and struggle. As Lysander says; “the jaws of darkness do devour it up so quick bright things come to confusion”
Magic therefore is a comment upon inexplicability of human affair. This proves that fairy land is an uncertain world which enables us to come to terms to ourselves and discovers “the search for identity” is a constant process.
This play ridicules love not romantic one but the madness that takes place in love relationship. It’s ironical how in their most vulnerable stage, characters, pretends that they are making their choice out of reason. Bottom very well speaks of love when he says “…reason and/love keep little company together now-a-days.”
Therefore, there are paradox, that are running simultaneously throughout the play. Irrational passion in conflict with rational organized world, mirth and tragedy, celebration and catastrophe etc. The emergence of fairy world is important as it brings out the lurking darkness of reality on the surface but presents itself as “dream” that must not be decoded as Bottom would say “man is but an ass, if go about to expound this dream.”