A Midsummer Night's Dream

by

William Shakespeare

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A Midsummer Night's Dream: Idioms 1 key example

Read our modern English translation.
Definition of Idiom
An idiom is a phrase that conveys a figurative meaning that is difficult or impossible to understand based solely on a literal interpretation of the words in the phrase. For... read full definition
An idiom is a phrase that conveys a figurative meaning that is difficult or impossible to understand based solely on a literal interpretation of the... read full definition
An idiom is a phrase that conveys a figurative meaning that is difficult or impossible to understand based solely on... read full definition
Act 2, scene 1
Explanation and Analysis—Fancy-Free:

In Act 2, Scene 1, Oberon tells Robin about the origin of a magical purple flower, pierced by Cupid’s arrow, that creates instant love. The arrow was originally aimed at a virginal maiden, but she proves invulnerable to its effects and continues on unharmed. In his story, he uses an idiom to describe those unencumbered by love. His use of an idiom helps clarify his intentions with the flower and his view of love overall. He says: 

But I might see young Cupid’s fiery shaft 
Quenched in the chaste beams of the wat’ry moon, 
And the imperial vot-ress passèd on
In maiden meditation, fancy-free.
Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell.

Oberon describes the arrow that falls but doesn’t cause the young maiden in his story to fall in love. Instead, she is able to continue on, living her life as though nothing has happened to her. Oberon describes her using the idiom "fancy-free," indicating that she has no romantic attachments and that she is able to live as she pleases. Oberon’s use of this idiom communicates his view of love: because the maiden is unaffected by Cupid’s arrow, she is free of attachment to other people. Oberon then asks Robin to retrieve this flower so that they may use it on Titania, Queen of the Fairies. Oberon seems to be aware that enchantment and love will complicate Titania’s life. This forms his intentions around the flower and his desire to steal a child from her. His use of the idiom "fancy-free" showcases his view that love is something that leads to complication and entanglement.