A Midsummer Nights Dream
Task: Passage-based question, Act 3 Scene 1. Answer the two questions following.
a) Describe the nature and strength of Titanias infatuation.
Comment on the effect of particular words.
b) Shakespeare uses a mixture of prose and blank verse in this scene.
What purpose does it serve?
a) In Act 3 Scene 1, it is seen that Titanias infatuation of Bottom is deep-set. However, it is artificial and not of true love, since it was a result of Pucks trick on them. Titania does not truly feel this way; she only does under the spell of Pucks trick. This infatuation blinds her and causes her to fall in love with Bottom, then, a human with a donkeys head. Despite how ridiculous the situation is, it still causes her to be obsessive such that she makes certain Bottom is with her all the time.
The infatuation was carefully planned by Puck, who made sure that Bottom would be the first creature Titania sees after he dabs the love-juice on her eyes. Bottom, for the sake of the trick, was unfortunately transformed into a human with an ass head. The love-juice had the effect of blinding Titanias judgment and also the effect of making her think that everything about the first creature she sees, in this case, Bottom, is beautiful and perfect.
When Bottom wakes Titania with his singing, he is showered with undeserving praises from Titania as she renders him an angel who wakes me from my flowry bed. Even as she sees him, she implores him to sing again as mine ear is much enamoured of thy note. She ends off her initial praises with a conclusive note, that on the first view, to say, to swear, I love thee. This further shows the power of blind infatuation - Titania is captivated by Bottoms non-existent beauty, perfection, flawlessness and likeness of an angel, a perfect being. This incessant praising and royal treatment continues throughout the scene and at the end of the scene, she calls Bottom my lover, to show her unwavering faith in him and great love for him.
At the same time, the infatuation also causes Titania to be obsessive. Despite Bottom who has no intention of staying in the woods due to the lack of love and infatuation, Titania still regards him as someone dear to her and orders the fairies to be kind and courteous to this gentleman. Even though Bottom wishes to get out of this wood, she does not allow it and gives her fairies detailed instructions to follow just to ensure the happiness of Bottom and that he stays by her side, whether thou wilt or no. Titania becomes selfish: she wants him to be just like her and will purge thy mortal grossness so that thou shalt like an airy spirit go albeit Bottoms agreement or lack thereof.
Titanias infatuation, unlike that of Lysander and Hermia or Theseus and Hippolyta, is not true love despite its being blinding and obsessive. This infatuation is artificial, seen from her speech and treatment towards Bottom. From the moment she sees him, she calls him an angel, without actually knowing him or meeting him before. This illustrates the artificiality of the infatuation.
b) The definition of prose is words in ordinary form of spoken or written language, without metrical structure, as distinguished from poetry or verse while the definition of blank verse is verse written in iambic pentameter, without rhyme. The former is used mainly in novels and in A Midsummer Nights Dream, it is used to portray comical scenes, characters of lower status in society or conversations that do not have large significance in the play while the latter is most frequently used in English dramatic, epic, and reflective verse. In Act Three Scene One, prose is mainly used by the craftsmen while blank verse is mainly used by the fairies. The purpose of this is to juxtapose the characters of different groups and classes, showing great contrast.
The rude mechanicals speak in prose as their speech is plain and does not contain anything beautiful, in topic or language. They are practical people who avoid unnecessary flowery language but this is partly because of their being not well-educated. Occasionally, they commit mistakes in speech and are unable to express themselves properly, resulting in malapropisms. Bottom particularly has the tendency to make these unintentional mistakes. An example is when he says he himself must speak through, saying this, or to the same defect, when he means effect. From this, we can identify that the craftsmen cannot express themselves properly in plain prose, much less the comparatively more elegant structure of blank verse. Shakespeare uses this to portray characters of low social class. The unrefined structure of their speech enhances their portrayal as uneducated people.
In contrast, the fairies speak in blank verse. They are magical, small yet elegant beings with powers that are able to affect humans. Blank verse has a structure and the fairies speech naturally sounds more elegant and refined as compared to the craftsmen. An example is Titania, who makes use of personifications, simile and metaphors in her speech. This provides more depth and adds more colour into her character, at the same time reminding the reader of her class. The vocabulary the fairies use is deeper and more symbolic than that of the craftsmen, and this is also what we expect from beings of such a magical and elegant world.
Shakespeare further augments this juxtaposition by allowing the different groups of characters to speak one after the other. An example is the conversation between Titania and Bottom, where they speak one after the other, in blank verse and prose respectively. The immediate switch in tone, language and structure shows the level of refinement and elegance present in the two characteres speech. The reader can identify the differences in the social standings easily from the juxtaposition.
In conclusion, it can be said that the main purpose in the mixture of prose and blank verse is its juxtaposition which leads to the contrast in their social statuses and roles in their classes. Each group is sharply defined due to this: the craftsmen are characterized to be simple, practical and somewhat uneducated people while the fairies are characterized to be elegant, magical and more intelligent beings. Through this, Shakespeare develops the characters and portrays them better.