A Dream


Word Count: 803

A Midsummer Night\'s Dream By: A. Theseus More strange
than true. I never may believe These antic fables nor these
fairy toys. Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool
reason ever comprehends. The lunatic, the lover, and the
poet Are of imagination all compact. One sees more devils
than vast hell can hold: That is the madman. The lover, all as
frantic Sees Helen\'s beauty in a brow of Egypt. The poet\'s
eye, in a fine frenzy rolling, Doth glance from heaven to
earth, from earth to heaven And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet\'s pen Turns them to
shapes, and gives to airy nothing A local habitation and a
name. Such tricks hath strong imagination That, if it would
but apprehend some joy, It comprehends some bringer of
that joy; Or in the night, imagining some fear, How easy is a
bush supposed a bear! (V,i,2-22) Theseus, in Scene V of A
Midsummer Night\'s Dream, expresses his doubt in the
verisimilitude of the lover\'s recount of their night in the forest.
He says that he has no faith in the ravings of lovers- or
poets-, as they are as likely as madmen are to be divorced
from reason. Coming, as it does, after the resolution of the
lovers\' dilemma, this monologue serves to dismiss most of
the play a hallucinatory imaginings. Theseus is the voice of
reason and authority but, he bows to the resulting change of
affection brought about by the night\'s confused goings on,
and allows Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius to
marry where their hearts would have them. This place where
the line between dream and reality blurs is an important
theme of the play. Theseus is also a lover, but his affair with
Hippolyta is based upon the cold reality of war, "Hippolyta,
I wooed thee with my sword, And won thy love doing thee
injuries..."(I,i,16-17). He is eager to wed Hippolyta and
marriage is the place where reason and judgement rule. He
wins the hand of his bride through action not through flattery,
kisses and sighs inspired by her beauty. In lines 4-6 of his
monologue he dismisses the accounts of lovers and madmen
on the grounds that they are both apt to imagine a false
reality as being real. When, in I,i,56, Hermia tells Theseus, "I
would my father looked but with my eyes", Theseus
responds, "Rather your eyes must with his judgment
look."(57). Theseus has a firm belief that the eyes of lovers
are not to be trusted. That the eye of the lover "...Sees
Helen\'s beauty in a brow of Egypt..."(11) is, to him, proof of
this. It precisely by enchanting the eyes of the lovers that the
faeries manage to create so much mayhem: "Flower of this
purple dye, hit with cupid\'s archery, sink in apple of his eye!
When his love he doth espy, let her shine as gloriously as the
Venus of the sky."(III,ii,101-7) Puck doesn\'t change
Helena\'s nature, nor does he change her features. When
Lysander wakes, he beholds the same Helena that he\'s
always despised and suddenly he is enthralled. For Theseus
this is merely caprice and in no means grounded in reality.
Theseus doubts even the existence of the faeries, believing
the lovers have, at a loss to explain the inexplicable changes
of heart they\'ve experienced, dreamed them up: "And as
imagination bodies forth the forms of things unknown, the
poet\'s pen turns them into shapes and gives to airy nothing a
local habitation and a name."(14-17) A trick of the light, an
abundance of shadows, lack of sleep, an overactive
imagination or any one of these or million other causes are
the most likely explanation. In equating lovers, poets and
lunatics Theseus gets into interesting territory and serves to
elevate lovers while he denounces them. The lunatic "...sees
more devils than vast hell can hold.. while the poet\'s eye
"...Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to
heaven..."(9-13); thus this same imagination is responsible
for both mad ravings and great art. The concrete reality of
earth co-exists with both heaven and hell as the Faerie world
co-exists with the mortal world. A poet could, just as easily,
be a lunatic depending on the nature of his visions. That
lover\'s are often (bad) poets, is prime example of this
interchangeability. "Such tricks hath strong imagination, that,
if it would but apprehend a joy, it comprehends some
bringer of that joy; or in the night imagining some fear, how
easy is a bush supposed a bear!"(18-22) Theseus describes
the faulty and incomplete reasoning employed by poets and
lovers alike. Given evidence of some thing, conclusions