A Midsummer Night's Dream

by

William Shakespeare

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A Midsummer Night's Dream: Imagery 1 key example

Read our modern English translation.
Definition of Imagery
Imagery, in any sort of writing, refers to descriptive language that engages the human senses. For instance, the following lines from Robert Frost's poem "After Apple-Picking" contain imagery that engages... read full definition
Imagery, in any sort of writing, refers to descriptive language that engages the human senses. For instance, the following lines from Robert Frost's poem "After... read full definition
Imagery, in any sort of writing, refers to descriptive language that engages the human senses. For instance, the following lines... read full definition
Act 2, scene 1
Explanation and Analysis:

In Act 2, Scene 1, Oberon uses figurative language and vivid imagery to paint the scene of his sleeping lover. Oberon intends to sneak into the fairy queen Titania’s sleeping hollow to put a magical love potion on her eyes. He describes the place where she sometimes sleeps, using images of the natural world to enhance the atmosphere of his nighttime visit. Because his speech is dependent on the plants and smells of the woods around him, it characterizes both him and his lover as beings who are in touch with their natural surroundings. The magic of the scene is enhanced by his language. He says: 

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows, 
Where oxlips and the nodding violent grows, 
Quite overcanopied with luscious woodbine, 
With sweet muskroses, and with eglantine. 
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,

Oberon’s language calls on the audience’s sense of both smell and sight. He lists many of the plants that grow around Titania’s sleeping place, invoking their natural odors and appearances to describe his lover’s peace. The scent of thyme is in the air, he suggests, and he thereby invokes the revelry of Titania’s forest parties.

His decision to sneak to her and anoint her eyes with his love potion therefore seems like somewhat of an imposition on the peace of her surroundings. Oberon’s careful attention to his lover’s location and the atmosphere around her sleeping figure also indicates the depth of their relationship. He paints the scene before he sneaks off to pull a prank on her, and in his language, the audience gets a sense of her as both a fairy queen and as Oberon’s lover.