Shakespeare: "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Shakespearean plays have often been studied and analyzed for their treatment of social issues and themes, and his famous plays are regarded as a true mirror to the social life of England during the closing years of the sixteenth century and the opening years of the 17th century…
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A Midsummer Night’s Dream (written between 1590 and 1596) by William Shakespeare is one such play which deals with the negative treatment of women during the 1500s and 1600s. In this celebrated comedy Shakespeare deals with the various events connected with the marriage of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons. One of the essential themes of the play is the negative treatment of women in Shakespeare’s contemporary world and it is through the character of Hippolyta that the playwright brings out this theme. “In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a play concerning the choice a woman faces between duty and her personal desires, Shakespeare introduces the theater audience to a young woman of strong belief surrounded by fairy mischief and confusion created by misdirected affections.” (Wright, 89) Significantly, the experience of various female characters in the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream suggests that male dominance is one of the basic thematic elements of the play. In a reflective exploration of the fundamental themes of the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it becomes evident that Shakespeare convincingly demonstrates the negative treatment women received from the English society during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and the female characters are presented as owned by the father and unable to choose their husbands. A careful reading of the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream confirms that the playwright deals in detail with women’s issues, including their lack of choice and freedom in the patriarchal society. It is important to recognize that the playwright was merely replicating the normal experience of the people of the time because Shakespeare’s audience might have been familiar with the traditions of treacherous and abusive treatment of women. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most popular works for the stage in which he incorporated the familiar traditions of his audience. Significantly, the stereotypical images of men as well as women were very much evident in Shakespeare’s society and the oppression of women in the Elizabethan times is a generally recognized reality. In a profound investigation of the character of Helena in the play, it becomes evident that the playwright represents three types of oppression of women in the Elizabethan times in this character and they are social oppression, parental oppression, and conjugal oppression. All these forms of oppression indicate that women in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries received negative treatment from the English society. One of the basic factors emphasizing the negative treatment of women by the English society in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries is that A Midsummer Night’s Dream presents women as owned by the father. Thus, it is the father who determines every choice that the women should make and they were deprived of the freedom of choice even in their marriage. The textual evidences from the play suggest that the father had absolute right to make the choice of the daughter’s husband. For example, Egeus insists that his daughter Hermia should marry Demetrius which the daughter is in love with Lysander and wants to marry him. When the issue was brought to King Theseus to rectify the situation, the statement made by the king is a clear indication of the general negative treatment
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