SAMPLE EXCERPT:

1) Male domination of the fairy kingdom and the fairy queen's will holds sway, and Oberon uses his greater power to shame the queen into giving up the boy -- by making her fall in love with Bottom. If Oberon had not been using his male authority, he would never have thought to charm Demetrius into falling out of love of Hermia and in love with Helena, "a sweet Athenian lady is in love/With a disdainful youth," as he calls her when he commands Puck's actions with compassion towards Helena, even while his heart is filled with spite for his own lover. (II.1) Also, note that Oberon sees Helena calling herself Demetrius' spaniel and dog, rather than asserting herself -- and she has betrayed her old female friend Hermia, by telling her beloved Demetrius about Hermia's flight.

Another further nuance to any singular reading of the play is offered by the framing of the tale of Theseus and Hippolyta themselves. "Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword, / And won thy love, doing thee injuries," says Theseus. (I.1) The play begins with an affirmation of male kingly dominance through marriage over a female warrior. Also, there is a hint that Oberon was unfaithful to Titania with Hippolyta, a lack of fidelity he is never punished for, even while Titania fumes, "But that, forsooth, the bouncing Amazon, / Your buskin'd mistress and your warrior love, / To Theseus must be wedded, and you come/To give their bed joy and prosperity."(II.1)

But does this mean that "A Midsummer's Night's Dream" is merely, despite Hermia's initial defiance, a linear reaffirmation of fatherly or male authority, either. Hardly -- for the nuptials of Theseus and Hippolyta are commemorated by a play about the dangers of parents over-directing their children's love, in the form of a play about "Primus and Thisbe." Although the play is funny, it presents a message, however unintentionally about the dangers of control: "O wall, full often hast thou heard my moans, / For parting my fair Pyramus and me!" cries the Thisbe of theater. (V.2)

Thus, the play is indeed presented contrapunctually -- there are two triumphant shows of defiance of the patriarchal order, as reflected in the joyous nuptials of the four adolescents and the tragic pair of lovers of the mechanical's play -- and two triumphant affirmations of the patriarchal order in the obedience of the new Athenian/Amazon queen to her king, as well as the dominance of Oberon in fairyland. Yet to inject one, final note of dissonance into a seamless defense of Garber's statement regarding Shakespeare's lack of coherence in his vision, the lack of sensuality and willingness to participate in the rough and tumble of life is one value that finds no defense: "earthlier happy is the rose distill'd," says Theseus, and the need to participate in the rough and tumble of life to enjoy live seems to be affirmed in contrast to them " withering on the virgin thorn," who grows, lives and dies in single blessedness." (I.1)

Works Cited

Garber, Marjorie. Shakespeare After All.

Shakespeare, William. "A Midsummer's Night's Dream." MIT Shakespeare Homepage. Complete text. http://www-tech.mit.edu/Shakespeare/midsummer/. [20 Mar 2005]