individual and society

The conflict between the individual and the society surrounding him or her (parents, authority, the state) is one of the most basic and most common in all drama, from ancient Greek tragedy to our time. In A Midsummer Night's Dream the conflict is between Hermia and her father, or in a larger perspective, between the young lovers and the laws of Athens.

The play enacts the resolution of chaos into order. An order where love is fitted into acceptable boundaries, and where individuals are locked into set roles within the society: wife, husband, king, queen. The play begins with chaos and rebellion against society's restrictions of the individual: Hermia disobeys her father and the king and queen of fairies are quarrelling. Both rebellions are causing a barren world: Hermia is told she may choose between death and chastity as a nun (I i 117-121); Titania speaks of failing crops and mixed-up seasons (II i 87-117). The chaos is resolved, however, and the play ends with the celebration of weddings, and the promise of fertility.

Within the world established by A Midsummer Night's Dream, fertility and happiness depend upon order, where individuals are neatly coupled: man with woman. Or perhaps man controlling woman?

See also:

gender
festive theory
Titania and Oberon