Modern vs Contemporary perspective on “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
At first glance, none of the characters in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” seem to react out of the ordinary. Although the setting does seem a lot more favorable for men, a modern reader gets used to it quite quickly, since this is often the case in literature. However, when thinking and reading like a contemporary reader, the play appears in a whole new light. There are women in the play, which take the situation in their own hands and are making their own choices. A contemporary reader would have seen this agency that the women do possess much differently than we do today.
Hermia is the prime example for a ...view middle of the document...
If a reader was progressive, he would have grasped how symbolic these actions are and how the society should maybe allow women to have more agency. Those readers, however, were rare. The two readers thus look at her from opposite sides of the spectrum: She’s seen as progressive by the modern reader, and foolish by the average contemporary reader.
Another example of a strong woman in the play is Titania, if she can be called that. Oberon demands the boy from her, but she sees right through him and does not apply to his orders. She is sure about what she wants to do and expresses that very clearly:
“Set your heart at rest.
The fairyland buys not the child of me.”
[2.1, 122 f.]
“But she, being mortal, of that boy did die;
And for her sake do I rear up her boy;
And for her sake I will not part with him.”
[2.1, 135 – 137]
She clearly made this choice for herself. She choses not to give in to make a point against a man which is clearly in a more favorable position. Although the fairy world doesn’t seem to be as divided, he still is the king a she the queen. This clearly upsets Oberon. His wife prefers this boy to him, the fairy king. This is then why he uses the magic of cupid to bring her back on his side. That’s how a contemporary reader sees it. He needs to discipline his disobedient wife by making her fall in love with a stupid creature. As he puts it himself:
“Well, go thy way. Thou shalt not from this grove
Till I torment thee for this injury. —“
[2.1, 146 f.]
He completely robs her of her agency, just to help his cause. A modern reader, again, also thinks about the women’s rights, and thus criticizes this approach. Oberon uses...