A Midsummer Night's Dream


William Shakespeare

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A Midsummer Night's Dream: Genre 1 key example

Read our modern English translation.
Act 2, scene 2
Explanation and Analysis:

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a classic example of a Shakespearean comedy. The absurdity of some of the characters’ situations, the presence of fairy magic and trickery, and the triumph of love over hardship all contribute to the play’s comedic effect. The comedy relies on the confusion created by Robin’s misdeeds and Bottom’s transformation into part ass. Because the reality of the play leaves room for the absurd and the mystical, the audience is never forced to take the drama seriously, even though the mood is grim at times, especially for the lovers. 

The richness of the wordplay and the sparring of wits also exemplify the comedic form. The characters banter and quarrel with each other, and their relationships have unexpected twists and changes of heart. In Act 2, Scene 2, when Helena wakes Lysander up and unknowingly causes him to fall in love with her, his response showcases what the combination of an absurd situation and witty dialogue can do. He says to her, upon waking: 

And run through fire I will for thy sweet sake. 
Transparent Helena! Nature shows art, 
That through thy bosom makes me see thy heart. 
Where is Demetrius? O how fit a word 
Is that vile name to perish on my sword!

In this scene, it is both the unexpectedness of his change of heart and the extent of his sudden devotion to Helena that creates humor. His speech to her is clever and totally earnest—so earnest, in fact, that it feels a little over the top. What's more, the unreality of the lovers' situation gives the audience a chance to laugh at the melodramatic nature of love, which often drives people to say and do crazy things.