What are the dramatic conventions which mark out A Midsummer Nights Dream as a comedy? What aspects of the play show that a comedy can also be serious?

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Simon Johnson

Shakespeare Coursework

A Midsummer Nights Dream

What are the dramatic conventions which mark out A Midsummer Nights Dream as a comedy?  What aspects of the play show that a comedy can also be serious?

Comedy appears throughout A Midsummer Nights Dream.  However, some aspects of comedy come across as quite serious.

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a play of the comic form. It is therefore intended to amuse the audience and make them laugh. It also means that there is a very specific outline to the story, i.e. normality to chaos and back to normality once the chaos has been resolved, which at the end, is signalled by the feasting, drinking and laughing.


The play comes into existence in the Athenian court. As expected there is perfect normality and the court of Athens rules with its law and order.

Athens is very much a place of reason in this play. Whenever it is set around the court of Athens, the “situation” is either perfectly common, or problems are being solved there that have occurred in the chaotic woods.

Dramatic conventions

The main dramatic conventions that mark out A Midsummer Nights Dream are things like the chaotic ordeal of losing a partner and finding a partner. Theseus and Hippolyta are about to be married, but Hippolyta doesn’t return the love that Theseus professes for her.  This is a serious issue in the play, as Hippolyta’s apparent rejection of Theseus as a husband is signalled by the language of her response to Theseus, when she refers to the moon as a ‘bow, new bent in heaven’, a reference to Diana, the huntress, who represents Hippolyta’s own feminist side, inclining to chastity, rather than to the full moon.

Helena and Demetrius used to be in love, and Helena still is.  However, Demetrius no longer loves her.  He appears to be followed by her, and Helena clearly still loves him. Demetrius obviously dislikes Helena because she continues to follow him.  Their relationship is now over and Helena is finding it very hard to cope with this situation.  This may be seen by the reader as comical, but in real life would be quite the opposite for both people, Demetrius because he is not happy with Helena following him around all the time and Helena because she spends all her time following Demetrius and yet he constantly rejects her.

This play takes you on a roller coaster ride, from the order, sense, harmony and ultimately reality of the Athenian court to the nocturnal chaos of the exceedingly unreality of the woods and then all the way back to reality again. In this play the comic elements occur amidst the chaos and unruliness of the woods, for example the predicament of Hermia and Helena, the introduction of the mechanicals, etc.

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Despite these comic elements, illogic events and behaviour, there are many serious issues within this play that need to be addressed.

Many of these “serious issues” actually result in cruelty towards some of the characters. A lot of the cruelty is found within the comedy. For example, the audience is expected to chortle at the two girls having a “scuffle” in the woods but the girls are both in a very horrible predicament. Both are confused and scared and laughing at them taking their frustrations out on each other is cruel.

Other cruel aspects include the fact that Hermia ...

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