An examination of the use of humor in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
Shakespeare uses many ways to portray humor and make his plays a success because of it. He created a careful mix of love with humor to create a success called “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” The focus of this paper is to describe how Shakespeare uses humor in his play. One way that Shakespeare uses humor in this play is by using plain humor that need not be interpreted in any way. He did this by creating the artisans. The artisans, obviously are not intelligent at all, but try to be. They mess up grammar, spelling, and everything that the author of “Pyramus and Thisby” had wanted for his play. For instance, when Bottom says “Thisbe, the flowers of odious savors sweet,”82 he was supposted to say ‘odors’ instead of ‘odious’ in the sentence. Odors means “fragrant smells,” while odious means “repulsive.” A simple mistake by someone that is low in the society, but totally changes the meaning of the sentence. This humor is obvious to everybody watching that Bottom had made a mistake. This type of humor, while obvious, sometimes doesn’t portray the meaning correctly. Inferred humor is sometimes more suited for this. Shakespeare used something like inferred humor to get across some other meanings that added to the play. One good example is the character of Puck. Puck is a hyperactive child that gets into a lot of mischief. His attitude toward his tasks is sort of a light and airy one. He does not take life seriously, he only does what is fun. This type of character is totally different than everyone else in the play; they are in a serious tone, while Puck is just dancing around pulling pranks on everyone. One good example of a prank that Puck created was putting an Ass’ head on Bottom. It was unnecessary, just fun. What made him funny was these sort of pranks, and the contrast of his attitude toward the other ones in the story. For example, Lysander is bound up in love for Hermia and Helena, depending on what part of the play. He is very serious and sad because Hermia is being forced to marry Demetrius. Sort of equivalent to a tragedy. Puck is just creating mischief and having fun. Another way that Shakespeare uses humor is that he uses examples that would never happen in real life. For example, after Lysander and Demetrius had been led around the king’s oak for a long time, they fell down and went to sleep. This contains no logic whatsoever, because they are trying to kill each other, and it is impossible to use defense when a person is sleeping. There is humor in that because everyone took it in stride, so to say. In the play, it is interpreted that that is supposed to happen. Another example is when Titania awakens after being in love with Bottom. She knows that Oberon did it, but she’s not angry at the fact that he did, or the fact that Oberon used the time to capture the Indian boy. It makes no sense, but it is funny. That is what Shakespeare intended. In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” there is a lot of humor in it, which creates an excellent play and a fabulous comedy. He was obviously a master at his work, which is prominent in this play. Humor is the largest reason for the success of this play; the careful mix of all types of humor make this play a nice potpourri of tragedy and comedy.