A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

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11 ‘Go, Philostrate’ – the play is very neatly constructed. Act Five is the outcome of Philostrate’s preparations for ‘merriments.’

14 ‘funerals’ – first indication of darker concerns in the play.

16 ‘I woo’d thee with my sword’ – although Theseus is a ‘genial duke’ figure in the play, his ‘history’ as a figure in classical mythology is not entirely forgotten by Shakespeare, and this, as here, frequently brings in a darker side to the play. Hippolyta is a spoil of war, forced to marry the victor – though she seems fond enough of her fiancé, an appropriate feeling, perhaps, for an Amazon queen.

22 ‘Full of vexation...’ – Egeus’ speech changes the established harmonious tone of the play, and this is signalled by Shakespeare shifting from mostly end-stopped lines to frequent enjambment. The contrast implies disorder and strong feeling.

23 ‘my child’ – reiterated three times, emphasising Hermia’s youth and Egeus’ attitude to her.

33-34 ‘With bracelets...sweetmeats’ – the fullness of Lysander and Hermia’s romantic love is suggested by elaborate listing.

42 ‘As she is mine, I may dispose of her’ – Egeus makes his request in horrifyingly egotistical terms. The word ‘dispose’ means ‘to make disposition of,’ but there is also a disturbing undercurrent that this could mean to throw away or even kill.

44 ‘her death’ – a tragic note is struck at the beginning of a comedy. This is a technique Shakespeare used as far back as The Comedy of Errors , which some believe to be his first play.

47 ‘To you your father should be as a god’ – naked power invoked against love and freedom. This is rational, legalistic male power – cf. ‘I woo’d thee with my sword.’

49 ‘a form in wax’ – Egeus speaks of Hermia as a possession to be ‘disposed of.’ For Theseus, she is merely an impression or image of her father. Having no rights or independent existence herself, she can be obliterated at will: ‘un-imaged’ or ‘dis-figured.’

67-68 ‘your desires...your youth...your blood’ – passion and potential fruitfulness must ‘wither out’ of her if Hermia becomes a nun.

71 ‘in shady cloister mew’d’ – each word suggests restriction: to be shaded from light; to be cloistered.

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William Shakespeare
the Unkindness of Ravens If you have found our critical notes helpful, why not try the first Tower Notes novel, a historical fantasy set in the time of the Anglo-Saxon invasions.

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The Unkindness of Ravens by Anthony Paul