Essay on Shakespeare's Manipulation of Force

Submitted By MaryJane1234
Words: 1362
Pages: 6

Shakespeare’s Manipulation of Force

Order imbued many aspects of the Elizabethan period. Despite the often chaotic appearances of wars and plagues, order created reassurance so long as man followed its prescribed hierarchy. William Shakespeare capitalizes the idea that mankind does not always follow this hierarchy by creating disorder within his plays. As a result, he artfully illustrates the order of the accepted. Shakespeare accomplishes this task through the concept of force. As defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, force refers to an attribute of physical action. Additionally however, force embodies mental or moral strength or power. It has the ability to become the effect of something else. For example, the force of love, or hate. Shakespeare demonstrates the mobility of the word through careful manipulation. He uses different variants of force to disassemble the power of order. Despite these variants however, conflict ensues, and can only be resolved once the hierarchy is restored. Within A Midsummer Night’s Dream order is bluntly disrupted through the force of the supernatural. The play is remarkable for the many levels of its text. The four main groups of characters include Theseus and Hippolyta, the young lovers, the craftsmen, and the fairies. The contrasts between the groups establishes the play as a picture of society (with top and lower orders). There is certainly a gradation in that social order, from the decision making Duke to the commoners. Through disrupting order Shakespeare is enabled to comment on the mechanicals of a working society. This is initially established through Hermia’s desire to marry against Egeus’ will. It is further disrupted however, through Shakespeare’s manipulation of force. Force is often associated with physics, a subject that is mostly absent from the Elizabethan period. It can be an influence tending to change or produce motion of a body. Instead of physics, Shakespeare concentrates on the supernatural. Having seen Demetrius act cruelly toward Helena, Oberon orders Puck to spread some of the powerful juice on the eyelids of the young Athenian man. Accidentally, Puck afflicts Lysander/ with the love potion. He says, “ I took him sleeping,—that is finish'd too,—/ And the Athenian woman by his side:/ That, when he waked, of force she must be eyed” (III.II). In this moment supernatural force is more influential than the force of love. It is so influential that it is capable of further fragmenting the characters’ ordered and hierarchical society. Manipulated in a similar fashion, Oberon uses force to release Hippolyta’s spell. “But first I will release the fairy queen./ Be as thou wast wont to be;/ See as thou wast wont to see:/ Dian's bud o'er Cupid's flower/ Hath such force and blessed power./ Now, my Titania; wake you, my sweet queen” (IV.I). He is describing the powerful bud which belongs to Diana, the goddess of virginity, and its ability to undo the effects of Cupid’s flower. Shakespeare carefully juxtaposes the word force with the phrase, “blessed power.” One may argue, that by doing so he creates a comparison between the force of supernatural and the power of religion. One may also note that in this example Oberon uses the force of the supernatural to restore order. Similarly religion is expected to do the same. One may claim that Shakespeare develops the comparison between the force of the supernatural and the power of religion to restore order in the play. Order must be restored because the play is a comedy. Without the restoration of natural order, the happiness of the play's ending could not be complete. Therefor, like physics, the force of the supernatural produces a successful and orderly motion. In first reading Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar, one may deem the primary force which disturbs the play’s order as the force of fate. A soothsayer predicts Caesar’s assassination on more than one occasion. Nevertheless, it is Caesar who makes the decision not to…