Symbols play an important role in William Shakespeare’s ”A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” including the moon, roses, and the love potion. In this lesson, we will look at each of these symbols to see how they contribute to the play.
Shakespeare ; Symbolism
In William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the moon, roses, and love potion operate in the play as symbols. A symbol is an object that’s used to represent larger, deeper meanings and ideas. Shakespeare makes heavy use of symbols in this play. For example, the moon is used to represent time and waiting, while the love potion symbolizes the unpredictability of love. Furthermore, the roses symbolize a woman’s fertility.
In this lesson, we’ll look at each of these symbols and expand on their meanings as they are used in the play.
We’ll start with the moon, which has a few meanings in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The moon represents both time moving forward, and how things change over time.
For example, Theseus, the Duke of Athens is set to marry Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons, whom he won by defeating her people. He’s desperately awaiting their wedding day, and goes so far as to blame the moon for time passing too slowly.Theseus says, ‘Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour/ Draws on apace; four happy days bring in/ Another moon: but, O, methinks, how slow/ This old moon wanes! she lingers my desires./ Like to a stepdame or a dowager/ Long withering out a young man’s revenue.’ Here Theseus is doing two things: he’s complaining that the moon is responsible for time moving slowly, and he’s comparing the moon to an old spinster getting in the way of what he wants.In addition to using the moon to symbolize the passage of time, Shakespeare uses the moon to show that things become stranger at night. How? Many things occur under the light of the moon, rather than the light of the sun.
For example, Lysander and Hermia run away at night into the forest. Moreover, Hermia’s father suggests that his daughter has been mesmerized by Lysander’s love because it began under the night sky. Egeus says, ‘Lysander, thou hast given her rhymes,/ And interchanged love-tokens with my child:/ Thou hast by moonlight at her window sung’ before continuing to say that she has been bewitched by this love that developed under the moonlight.
Roses and rosebushes are used to symbolize a woman’s sexuality and fertility. This occurs when Theseus is talking to Hermia about her refusal to marry Demetrius, the man her father has arranged for her to marry. Theseus gives her two options if she disobeys her father: be put to death or ‘live a barren sister all your life’ as a nun. Great choices. . .Theseus sees these choices as a shame because it would mean that she would never experience her sexuality, nor would she have children.
He thinks that is terrible and compares those choices to a rose ‘that which withering on the virgin thorn/ Grows, lives and dies in single blessedness.’ In other words, a woman who doesn’t have children or get married will waste her life. The woman is a lonely rose left to wither away and die.
However, if she were to marry Demetrius, despite her feelings, she would be happier because she would become a ‘rose distill’d,’ meaning that she would be a beautiful rose turned into a lovely perfume.
The love potion is the source of chaos in the play as it causes lovers to do crazy things against their true desires. When Oberon talks about using the love potion, he reveals how it can cause people to do erratic things.
He says, ‘The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid/ Will make or man or woman madly dote/ Upon the next live creature that it sees.’ Wow! This love potion makes folks fall in love like lovesick teens.The crazy behavior caused by the love potion symbolizes the unpredictable nature of love.
Love can change in an instant, and the potion suggests that it can be voluntary or involuntary. For example, Lysander, who is desperately in love with Hermia, is drugged with the potion and falls in love with Helena. Likewise, Oberon drugs his wife Titania with the potion, and she becomes infatuated with Nick Bottom, a man whose head has been turned into the head of a donkey.
To recap, in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the main symbols are the moon, roses, and the love potion. Remember, a symbol is an object that represents a deeper, more important idea often explored through a piece of literature. In this play, the moon symbolizes many aspects of time, including its passage and how things change over time.
The roses stand in for a woman’s sexuality and fertility. Lastly, the love potion symbolizes how love can incite erratic and unpredictable behavior.