At the beginning of the play there is uniformity with Theseus and Hippolyta discussing their wedding, this may foreshadow the foreseen complications facing the lovers. The comedic structure of A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows the structure of genre; at first there is order in the Athenian court but then pandemonium is created in the liminal ‘green world’. There is then a return to order and marriage; ending in harmony. However, in keeping with the comedic structure, the emotional journey of the characters does require some conflict.
One way that we can scrutinize the relationship between tumult and harmony is to look at the play’s setting. In Athens, Shakespeare shows it as a civilized civilisation in some ways a harmonic community, comparing this to the parallel worlds of the Athenian woods of chaos created by the faeries as they perform their tricks which creates disparity to the formality of the Athens.
However Egeus, Hermia’s father, is important to the exposition of the play as he provides proof of turmoil. Hermia, who is in love with Lysander, is refusing to get married to the man of her father’s choice; Demetrius. Egeus is infuriated by her choice “I beg the ancient privilege of Athens, as she is mine, I may dispose of her; which shall be either to this gentleman or to her death, according to our law immediately provided in that.” Egeus uses dramatic pronouns such as ‘Mine’ and ‘I’ which show that he is highly egotistical and he also sees Hermia as an inanimate object, which may seem sexist to a contemporary audience, but reflects the Elizabethan society as very patriarchal. Nevertheless he would also rather Hermia put to death rather than get married to Lysander against his desired. Egeus’s incongruity within the first act could be seen as cruelty which in itself is an aspect of comedy.
Due to Egeus’s rage, the lovers flee to the woods, bringing us into the luminary world of the faeries. Suspense builds and the plot thickens. Lysander and Hermia make decisions in response to the opening conflict, to run to the woods, ‘There my Lysander, and myself shall meet, and thence from Athens turn away our eyes to seek new friends and strange companions. Farewell, sweet playfellow, pray though for us.’ This creates the start of turmoil as their decisions of running off to the woods complicate the action.
Helena presents further complication. ”I will go tell him of fair Hermia's flight”. Helena is deeply in love with Demetrius. Therefore, Helena is jealous of Hermia's beauty and she claims that she is as beautiful. She wonders what Hermia has that she doesn't that makes men follow her everywhere. This foreshadows the inversion of their relationship after pucks mistaken identity, offering further evidence.
Puck is a mischievous sprite who initiates the complications; all the confusion, and chaos and all the mischief begins with him. One of the highlights of the play is Puck's misunderstanding of Lysander for Demetrius. This again brings significant disarray to the play “Did you not tell me that I should know the man. By the Athenian garments he had on?" Puck makes an easy error with the love juice. This is sure to instigate some tension on the audience's part as they realise that something confusing can happen with the application of the love juice to the wrong person. It also incorporates dramatic irony as the audience clearly knows what Puck is up to but the characters are naive to this. As such mistaken identity can be seen to be utilised for Shakespeare for comedic effect further use of dramatic irony and identity for comedic effect can be seen when Bottom’s head is turned in that of a donkey and he doesn’t even realize it or show concern. The irony of this incoherence towards his transformation indicates his uncertain attitude and improperly placed priorities. It also potently marks considerable turmoil…