Making Amends: The Transformation of Theseus and the Feminization of Marriage in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Charles Campbell


This study of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream asks why Theseus changes his mind about forbidding the marriage of Hermia and Lysander and what this change means for the view of marriage developed in the play and for the experience of art which the play engenders. By emphasizing the love of women for each other, the vows of sisterhood and the cult of Diana, the play prepares the way for Theseus’ change of mind and for the feminization of marriage and the celebration of imagination with which the play ends. We can observe these emphases in patterns of language and imagery (especially the flower motif), in metaphors and allusions and in descriptions of the union of opposites. The interplay of chaste love and desire delineates the art of metaphor and drama which the audience must grasp to fully appreciate the play. In Acts 4 and 5 Theseus’ resistance to romantic love melts away, along with his opposition to the imagination. Thus, during the wedding feast of Act 5, Theseus defends the amateur theatrics of the workmen as being excellent «if imagination amend them» (5.1.209); and he is associated in his language and ideas with Puck, the most fantastic and transformative character in the play. Theseus is himself transformed from the seducer and betrayer of women described in 2.1.77-80 into a worthy husband for Hippolyta, one who meets her halfway in her respect for the visions of lovers and poets.



Amend, Feminine, Motif, Metaphor, Transformation

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Copyright (c) 2017 Charles Campbell

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