A Midsummer Night's Dream Essay: The Importance of Setting

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The Importance of Setting in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

The two locations of Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' are essential to the development of the plot, although their presentation relies wholly on the characters we meet there, their adventures and their descriptions of these places. Athens is not an accidental choice of location: although much of the detail of the play is quintessentially English, the classical setting enables Shakespeare to introduce the notable lawgiver, who has had his own problems in love; it makes plausible the reference to the severe law, and it allows Oberon to refer seriously to Cupid and Diana without the play's seeming blasphemous.

Theseus is an enlightened ruler, notable
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In this wood the actions of men are observed by greater powers who give then their deserts. Thus Bottom, encroaching on the bower of the Fairy Queen is the victim of Puck's mischief, though he suffers less from the indignity than his terrified fellows.

The wood is also a place of wild beasts. When Titania sleeps the fairies cast a spell and one stands as sentinel to keep away snakes, hedgehogs, spiders, beetles and other creatures thought harmful or unpleasant. There may even be lions and wolves, described by Puck in 5.1, as he enters Theseus' house, which shall not be disturbed by unwanted creatures; there are ounce, cat, bear, pard and boar, any of which Titania may see on waking, and love. Even when these creatures are absent, Puck (3.2 105 - 110) may imitate them. Lysander, perhaps drawing inspiration from the woodland beasts likens Hermia both to a cat and to a serpent (3.2 260 -261).

Helena has dreamed of a serpent, eating her heart away, while Helena claims to be as "ugly as a bear" since the other woodland beasts run from her ("for fear" she supposes, but we do not have to agree with this judgement).

There is, however, a more pleasant quality of the wood. Titania's bower is described by Oberon as a place of great beauty and delight to the senses. Titania, in love with Bottom, orders her fairies to provide him with delightful pleasures. Though his appetite is
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