Contrast between what is expected and what actually happens
1) Dramatic – when readers know more than the characters. 2) Situational – Intention and result differ; outcome is different from what is expected. 3) Verbal – Expression and intention are opposite.
In some situations, the audience, has a lot more information about what's happening on stage than the characters. For example: In the play, we know the fairies use magic to play pranks and to make the characters fall in and out of love, but the lovers have no idea what's happening to them. This is a classic case of "dramatic irony" (when the audience knows more than the characters do so that the characters' words and actions have a different meaning for us than they do for the characters on stage). It's a technique Shakespeare uses for comedic effects throughout A Midsummer Night's Dream.
In Act 3, Scene 1, Bottom's head is transformed into that of an "ass" (a.k.a. donkey). Bottom doesn't know what's happening, so he's really confused when his pals run away in fear. Bottom thinks he's being tricked and, when he's left alone on stage, he complains to us: "I see their knavery. This is to make an (donkey)- of me, to / fright me, if they could" (3.1.16). Of course, when Bottom accuses his friends of trying to "make an (donkey)" of him, it's funny to us because we know something that Bottom doesn't – he literally has been made into an a--. (Also, his name, "Bottom," becomes very fitting.)
Situational irony is when the outcome is different from what is expected. Example: In "A Midsummer Night's Dream" Oberon orders Puck to put the juices from the flower, or the love potion, into Demetrius's eyes so that he will fall in love with Helena. The situational irony here is that Puck accidentally puts the love potion into Lysander's eyes, therefore making Lysander fall in love with Helena, and NOT Demetrius.
Verbal irony is the easiest for students to understand because it is the use of words to express something different and often opposite to their literal meaning. Example: When something bad happens and a person comments, "Oh, great," this is an example of verbal irony.
A symbol is a person, place, or object that stands for something beyond itself. For example: a flag is a colored piece of cloth that stands for country. Symbols in A Midsummer Night’s Dream: Moon, Flowers, Fairies, Mechanicals, Theseus, Hippolyta, etc. Find one symbol in A Midsummer Night’s Dream and explain what it is symbolic of?
There is a definite emphasis on the importance of the Moon in A Midsummer Night's Dream– its image shows up all over the place. This is why three of the planet Uranus’s moons are named for characters in this play – Titania (the largest), Oberon, and Puck. The Moon and Time When we first hear about the moon in the play, it is used to mark the passage of time. In Theseus's opening speech, he complains that time is passing too slowly and he blames the moon because he has to wait four whole days for his wedding night: Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour Draws on apace; four happy days bring in Another moon: but, O, methinks, how slow This old moon wanes! she lingers my desires. (1.1.1)
Allusion – a reference to a well-known person, place, or work of literature. Allusions connect literary works to a larger cultural heritage. They allow the writer to express complex ideas without spelling them out. Understanding what a literary work is saying often depends on recognizing its allusions and themeanings they suggest.
In Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, there is an allusion to Leander and Hero, which is another tragic love story. Hero and Leander met at a festival and fell in love. However, because she was a priestess of Aphrodite, who was the Greek goddess of love and beauty, Hero was forbidden to marry. The two lovers decided to see each other secretly. Each night Hero would leave a lamp burning in a window of the tower in which she lived, and Leander would swim across the Hellespont, using the light to guide his way. One winter night, the wind blew out the flame in the lamp, causing Leander to lose his way and drown. The next morning, when Hero saw his lifeless body washed up on the shore, she killed herself by jumping out of the tower. Pyramus says, “I’m your love, no matter what you think. And I’m still faithful to you, just like the famous Limander. The note in the margin explains that Bottom means the mythical Greek hero Leander, who loved Hero. And I’ll be as faithful to you as Helen of Troy, until the day I die.” The note in the margin explains that this is funny not only because Leander loved Hero rather than Helen of Troy, but also because Helen was famous for being unfaithful to her husband.
During the play within the play… Pyramus and Thisbe Pyramus says, "Not Shafalus to Procrus was so true." Thisbe says, "As Shafalus to Procrus, I to you." The note in the margin on page 163 explains that they mean Cephalus and Procris, two stead-fast lovers in Greek mythology. Read the myth from the handout distributed in class and annotate using the “Annotate Like a Husky” chart. Be prepared to discuss the annotations and allusion to literature.