A Midsummer Night’s Dream – Metaphors and symbols analysis

There are four distinct groups of characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and they all use language in a distinctive way. Theseus and Hippolyta speak in a dignified blank verse, which is unrhymed verse based on the iambic pentameter line. An iambic pentameter is a line of five feet (a foot is two syllables), in which the emphasis falls on the first syllable of the foot.

For example, see the opening lines of the play:
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,
Like to a step-dame or a dowager
Long withering-out a young man’s revenue.

Note how the heavy punctuation in line 3 slows the line down, in keeping with the sense. Shakespeare often makes changes in the basic iambic rhythm of the line too, to gain a variety in effect and to match the sense. For example, the second foot of line 4 (“moon wanes”) is a spondee, in which both syllables are stressed, rather than an iamb.

Unlike Theseus and Hippolyta, The four lovers often, although not always, speak in rhyming couplets, as when Hermia speaks in Act 1 scene 1, lines 202-07:

Take comfort: he no more shall see my face;
Lysander and myself will fly this place.
Before the time I did Lysander see,
Seem’d Athens as a paradise to me.
O then what graces in my love do dwell,
That he hath turn’d a heaven unto a hell!

In the wood, under pressure of the emotions generated by the confusing situation, the lovers drop their rhyming couplets and speak in blank verse.

The artisans, appropriately enough, speak in prose, except when they try their hand at the rhymed verse of “Pyramus and Thisbe.”

Puck and the fairies, and occasionally Oberon too, often use shorter rhyming couplets. Typically these are trochaic tetrameters. The tetrameter is a shorter line than the pentameter, consisting of four feet rather than five. In a trochaic foot, unlike the iambic, the stress falls on the first syllable rather than on the second. For example, see Oberon’s speech, Act 2, scene 2, lines 26-32, and Puck’s speech later in the same scene (lines 65-82), from which these lines are taken:

Through the forest have I gone;
But Athenian found I none
On whose eyes I might approve
This flower’s force in stirring love.

Like Theseus and Hippolyta, Oberon and Titania often, although not always, speak in blank verse, although their speech is more highly poetic than that of Theseus or Hippolyta. It is full of imagery. If one had to pick out the finest, most delicately expressive poetry in the play, for example, one might choose the speeches of the fairy couple on their first appearance, in Act 2 scene 1. Interestingly, when Titania is in love with Bottom, she speaks mainly, although not exclusively, in rhymed verse rather than blank verse.