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YMMV / A Midsummer Night's Dream

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  • Alternate Character Interpretation:
    • Some productions hint that Demetrius really loved Helena the entire time, that he only switched to Hermia for her wealth and status, and the potion just reawakened his real feelings. This is consistent with Lysander's statement in the first scene that Demetrius was wooing Helena before he inexplicably switched to Hermia. And then other productions imply that Demetrius wooed Helena just long enough to take her virginity and then immediately kicked her to the curb, making this a case of Laser-Guided Karma with a smidgen of Rape Portrayed as Redemption on Demetrius's part if you want to be macabre about it.
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    • At least one critic voiced the idea that Oberon is actually bisexual, and his desire for Titania's changeling boy is actually sexual in nature. This interpretation is especially popular in discussions of Benjamin Britten's opera adaptation, since Britten was openly gay himself. Critics who hold this view also tend to detect Ho Yay between Oberon and Puck.
  • Author's Saving Throw: Played with in the epilogue, which coyly "apologizes" to anyone who didn't like the play. This was more or less formula for the period, and shows again in The Tempest, among other places.
  • Awesome Music: Both Felix Mendelssohn and Carl Orff wrote epic soundtracks for the play. Mendelsson`s version taking a romantic tone, while Orff was concentrating on the bizarreness of the turns the plot takes.
  • Designated Hero: Oberon in his subplot with Titania. Titania (rightfully) calls him out for diseases run rampant, seasons dangerously alter and all of humanity suffers from their discord - which as a powerful being he should NOT have done and he retaliates by playing a cruel trick with the explicit intent to humiliate her. The fact that she is to modern audience an incredible Badass (has her own army) and compassionate woman (adopting a child from her handmaiden who is a different species) and that Oberon is a complete Karma Houdini doesn't help painting him in the best light.
    • Also Oberon's attempt to "help" the lovers can come across as very creepy considering he is basically brainwashing people into loving someone they wouldn't usually love.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Puck is the most memorable character in the play. If someone in fiction does a monologue from A Midsummer Night's Dream, 90% of the time you can be sure it's one of Puck's. He's also one of the characters that can very easily be played by either a male or female.
    • Bottom is also quite remembered. If you mention the play, most people will know about the character that gets turned into a donkey.
    • Titania is not the female lead—Hermia is, and Helena would be next in terms of importance. But the fairy queen is one of the most remembered parts. It helps that she's quite the badass, commanding an entire army of her own, and is very much The High Queen.
    • Of the four young lovers, at least for modern audiences, Helena is probably the most popular, both due to the comedy of her Mad Love and because her unrequited love and low self-esteem are all too relatable for young women.
  • Esoteric Happy Ending:
    • The pairing of the human couples when you realize that the only reason Demetrius is with Helena is not because he has genuinely fallen in love with her, but because he has been affected by a Love Potion. Some versions will imply that Demetrius did have feelings for Helena to begin with, lessening this somewhat. The fact that Love Potions could be compared to date rape drugs doesn't help matters. Even if the law was harsh the fact is Demetrius is still being forced into loving someone he did not have feelings for at the time, even if he did at one point.
    • Meanwhile, Helena ends up married to the man who jilted her for another woman, spent much of the play verbally abusing and threatening her, and has only stopped because he's been magically induced to love her.
    • The last we see of Titania and Oberon, they are going off for a happy ending, apparently having reconciled. This becomes much less sweet when one recalls that they only ended up this way after Oberon had his wife brainwashed into loving (and, implicitly, sleeping with) a human with a donkey's head and taking advantage of this condition to get her to give him a child she was looking after (something she was very against when in her right mind), only freeing her of the Love Potion because he pitied her and got what he wanted. And while the play does end with Titania asking how she ended up next to the donkey-headed Bottom like that, nothing suggests that Oberon doesn't get away with everything he did to her.
    • And of course, if you're familiar with classic mythology, you already know that Theseus and Hippolyta's wedding won't end well.
  • Fair for Its Day: Athenian law stated that a daughter would have to be executed if she did not do her father's will. Theseus finds this too extreme and forgives the lovers - despite the other examples of male dominance found throughout the play.
  • Ho Yay:
    • Between Oberon and his 'gentle Puck'.
    • In the 2013 Globe production, when Oberon learns that Puck's ensured that Titania has fallen in love with the donkey-headed Bottom, he swings across the stage, snatches Puck up, dips him so low his legs are off the ground, and kisses him full on the lips. It lasts about half a minute.
      • Puck, for his part, is positively swooning during this exchange.
    • In the same production, Titania displays much physical affection to her mostly female entourage. However, the effect is diminished as the servant fairies are crosscast rather than gender flipped.
    • Helena's jealousy towards Hermia leads her to languish over her rival's beauties in a way that toes the line between envy and desire. Hermia telling Helena where she and Lysander will meet could easily come across as an invitation, given the romantic language she employs.
    Hermia: And in the wood where often you and I upon faint primrose beds were wont to lie, emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet, there my Lysander and myself shall meet.
    • The BBC 2016 version even adds another side to the love dodecahedron, with briefly Demetrius falling for Lysander.
      • This version also switches up some lines, making it so Titania and Hippolyta are in love. They even share a good, long kiss at the end.
    • The 2016 Globe production gender-swaps Helena into Helenus and strongly implies that his reunion with Demetrius is because Demetrius has accepted his own sexuality. (This also means there's a love triangle between the three guys while Lysander is under the influence of the love potion.) Of course, this can be a Broken Aesop as Demetrius ends up with them due to being brainwashed.
  • Moment of Awesome: From the 1999 film adaptation, after Bottom's melodramatic suicide scene as Pyramus ended up as a laughable farce, Francis Flute in the role of Thisbe gets fed up with being the Butt-Monkey. He stops using the comical falsetto voice, pulls off his horribly unconvincing wig, and plays Thisbe's suicide so tragically straight that he silences the laughter and moves the previously mocking audience to the verge of tears.
  • MST3K Mantra: Puck's final soliloquy: "If the story offended you, remind yourself it was nothing but a dream."
  • Newer Than They Think: The fairy queen had no name in folklore. Titania was Shakespeare's name for her, after Ovid's Metamorphoses using that as a general name for daughters of the Titans. Yet people will take Titania as a Canon Name.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: This play is one of the oldest examples of the Fantasy Ghetto. Audiences were scandalized that fairies were depicted on the stage since...well they didn't exist. Some critics felt they had to justify this and The Tempest by saying that they only depicted fantasy creatures that came from popular belief. That's the reason Puck apologises to the audience in his final soliloquy.
  • Values Dissonance:
    • After the potion makes Lysander hate Hermia, he wards off her advances by saying she looks like an "Ethiope." African women were considered horribly ugly at the time in Europe.
    • In Elizabethan times, a man who took a woman's virginity was expected to marry her. Notably this happened to Shakespeare himself, who got married six months before his wife gave birth. Hence, Demetrius returning to Helena, despite being under a brainwashing potion and unable to give any consent worth a darn, would've been seen as the properly moral ending.


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