A Midsummer Night's Dream

by

William Shakespeare

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A Midsummer Night's Dream: Alliteration 2 key examples

Read our modern English translation.
Definition of Alliteration
Alliteration is a figure of speech in which the same sound repeats in a group of words, such as the “b” sound in: “Bob brought the box of bricks to... read full definition
Alliteration is a figure of speech in which the same sound repeats in a group of words, such as the “b” sound in: “Bob brought... read full definition
Alliteration is a figure of speech in which the same sound repeats in a group of words, such as the... read full definition
Act 1, scene 1
Explanation and Analysis:

In Act 1, Scene 1, Lysander uses alliteration to assert his devotion to Hermia. He, Hermia, and Lysander have been brought before the Duke of Athens because Hermia is refusing to acquiesce to her father’s will. She wishes to follow her heart and marry Lysander over Demetrius, the man her father has chosen for her. Lysander is quiet through most of the initial conflict. But when the opportunity comes to plead his case before the Duke, he asserts his legitimacy. He is similar enough in rank and honor to Demetrius. Then, he adds the most important factor: 

And (which is more than all these boasts can be) 
I am beloved of beauteous Hermia.
Why should not I then prosecute my right?

Using the repeated /b/ sound, Lysander uses alliteration as a way to assert himself. He is attempting to make his position clear, to emphasize that he is the one that Hermia has chosen, and prove that their love deserves to override her father’s will. Because these are the most important lines of his speech, they stand out from the rest because of their repeated sounds. The /b/ sound gives his declaration extra weight, catching the audience’s attention more than the previous section of his speech, which involved a list of his own virtues. Lysander believes himself righteous, and he uses his language to fight the will of Hermia’s father. His position is precarious, so he emphasizes the most important and persuasive part of his argument: namely, that Hermia loves him.

Act 5, scene 1
Explanation and Analysis:

In Act 5, Scene 1, Quince and the other players perform at the triple wedding. The recently betrothed lovers—Hippolyta and Theseus, Demetrius and Helena, and Lysander and Hermia—are gathered to witness the spectacle of the player’s performance. As he recites the prologue to the humorous play, Quince uses alliteration to expand upon the violence to follow. He says: 

Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
He bravely broached his boiling bloody breast.

Quince uses repeated /b/ sounds in this passage, but he also repeats the words themselves. The repetition of these violent images—which are accentuated by his use of the same hard consonants—parodies his speech. He sounds foolish as he tries to express the seriousness of the character Pyramus’s suicide. His recitation of the prologue makes it clear that the performance to follow will be just as nonsensical and silly as its opening language.

This use of alliteration serves both to make the players and their performance comical, but also to reference the purported seriousness of the lovers’ plight. The lovers have been subject to the meddling of the fairy world, and the results have been disastrous. Now that A Midsummer Night's Dream is nearly over, and the characters are happily united, this performance about Pyramus and Thisbe parallels their struggle against the obstacles that kept them apart. The performance therefore makes light of the lovers’ earlier conflict and allows them to laugh at their previous hardship. This alliteration is just one example of how their conflicts are exaggerated and parodied to comedic effect.

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