, Research Paper
This essay will analyze the differences and the similarities between Shakespeares Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream. First however, the particular characteristics and elements of the tragic and comic genres must be discussed. A Shakespearean tragedy often involves the death of the protagonist. In comparison, in Aristotle’s Poetics, a tragedy requires that the hero must oppose some conflicting internal or external force. A tragedy in the Elizabethan theatre often included the plot theme of good being eroded as it attempts to battle and eliminate some from of evil. A Shakespearean comedy is defined as a play that ends happily for the protagonist. The romantic comedy was usually based on a mix-up of events or the confused identity of characters, particularly by disguise. The plot will usually follow a full circle. It begins with happiness that is followed with dispair but concludes with the reemergence of joy. Frequently, a romantic comedy will seem as though it is progressing towards a climatic tragic event. For instance, it may seem as an important character will be killed or that a frustrating plot mix-up might never be unraveled. What distinguishes a comedy from a tragedy however, is that in a comedy these events are prevented from happening through the actions of someone or something. When discussing a Shakespearean play, it is important to realize that there are usually two plots within the play. One being the main plot and the second being the subplot. Shakespeare, most often, used the subplot to reflect the main plot. This is evident in both A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet. In the first play, Shakespeare used the town workmen (Bottom, Quince, Flute, Snout, Snug and Starveling) as the subplot to reveal the blatant humour within in the play, while he used the four mixed-up lovers (Hermia, Helena, Demetrius and Lysander), as the main plot. Similarly the quarreling servants of the Capulate and Montague families as the subplot to reflect upon the hatred between the two families that is acting as a barrier to the protagonists relationship, and Romeo and Juliet as the main plot in Romeo and Juliet. There are a number of similarities, as well as differences between Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet, that reveal the nature of the tragic and comic genres.As a tragedy, both plays have young couples who are in love with each other who are unable to marry each other. It is the forces of the female protagonist’s father that does not allow these young couples to further their relationships into marriage. Instead, in both plays, the fathers have chosen another man for their daughter s to marry. In both plays, this situation becomes present relatively early into the play, within in the first Act, and acts as a foreshadowing tool to warn the audience of an upcoming tragedy. Further on in both plays there are scenes of confusion. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, this confusion takes place in Act three scene two, when Demetrius and Lysander go off to fight over Helena of whom neither Demetrius nor Lysander loved at the beginning of the play. Like wise, in Romeo and Juliet, this confusion arises when Romeo does not receive the message from Friar Lawrence regarding his and Juliet’s plan, and later ends up in the death of both Romeo and Juliet. This sense of confusion and the events derived from this confusion is evident of a typical tragedy whereby the good is wasted trying to expel the evil.
In comparing the two plays, Romeo and Juliet is more of a romantic tragedy than A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Romeo and Juliet follow the outline of a classic tragedy whereby the protagonists die. Although there was a few comical moments within the play, the few humorous moments that did exist in the story did not take away from the emotional tone that was portrayed in this play. The theme of this tragedy is that of passionate love, the love that will overcome hatred, but not before the young love between the two protagonists is destroyed by old hate, being the hate of each others families. Again, this plot is strong evidence of the tragic genre, in the sense that good is wasted in the process of eliminating the evil. In respect to the comic genre, one may believe that Romeo and Juliet lacked most qualities of a typical romantic comedy. The only acts of humour came from the two families’ servants in the form of puns. This is evident when Mercutio recites a passage using a number of puns, to describe what Romeo may be doing in his melancholy state. Now he will sit under a medlar tree And wish his mistress was that kind of fruitAs maids call medlars when they laugh alone.O, Romeo, that she were, O, that she wereAn open-arse, and thou a poppering pear! (Romeo and Juliet.II.ii.35-39) A Midsummer Night’s Dream, however, has all of the qualities of a romantic comedy described earlier. The play includes an Act were the protagonists are involved in a mix-up. In this Act, Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius are in the woods outside of Athens. Oberon, the King of Fairies spots Helena and Demetrius while they are arguing. Oberon observes that Demetrius is not interested in Helena, who is deeply in love with Demetrius. Oberon sends Puck, a mischievous but very comical elf to place a magic love potion on the eyelids of Demetrius while he is sleeping. The love potion is to make Demetrius fall in love with the first person he sees when he wakes, which is planned to be Helena. Puck goes out to fulfill Oberons orders, and instead of placing the potion on Demetrius, the man with the ” Athenian garments he hath on.”(Romeo and Juliet.I.i.264), Lysander receives the potion on his eyes. When Lysander awakes, the first person he sees is Helena. This mix-up leads to Lysander and Demetrius, whom receives the same potion shortly after Oberon and Puck realize what had happened, falling in love with Helena. This play also involves a state of confused identity, another trait of the comic genre. Bottom, one of the workmen, had his head transform into that of an Asses. In the end, Oberon and Puck fix the mess they created. Helena and Demetrius fall in love, Lysander and Hermia marry, and Bottom gets his human head back. Happiness, dispair, and resurrection, the path of a Romantic comedy.Both Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Nights Dream, share similarities of a comic and tragic romance. But each is the epitome of one of the genres. Romeo and Juliet, having all of the qualities of a tragic genre, and A Midsummer Nights Dream a mirror image of the comic genre.