The Comedies of Shakespeare, which form more than a third part of his dramatic work, belong to every period of his career as a writer, except one. During a few years, soon after the opening of the seventeenth century, he turned away from comedy, or rather he was drawn by some irresistible attraction to explore the tragic depths of … The results of his passionate inquisition of evil entered into the spirit of his latest plays, which we might name “romances” rather than “comedies,” and hence the study of Shakespeare’s lighter and brighter work cannot be wholly dissociated from the study of that in which terror and pity are the presiding powers. (Gayley 637)
A Mid Summer Nights Dream is often portrayed as a “comedy of errors”; however, some might question the characteristics that distinguish it as being utterly comic. A comedy is commonly defined as a play that is suitable to a tragedy employs a plot but then lighten to a happy conclusion. Nonetheless, a comedy generally does not have serious elements throughout it. A Mid Summer Night’s dream has several serious elements throughout it causing one to doubt its categorizations a comedy. Thus, leading to the conclusion that A mid Summer Night’s dream is a tragicomedy, which emphasizes that The problems and conflicts within the play are not trivial or for eliciting laughter as would happen in a comedy, but instead are very serious, involving all different aspects of the play: Humans, Supernatural, and it’s main comic relief, the actors.
Theseus promises Hippolyta that though he wooed her with his sword, he will wed her “with pomp, with triumph, and with reveling”-with a grand celebration to begin at once and last until the wedding (I.i.19). By this he refers to the way they met, which was presumably in combat, when she was the Queen of the Amazons. Such event represents the influence power had on love, and contrasts with the romance in the story. It adds a sense of seriousness to the play in the way that it divulges the unhappy truth that marriage was often not manipulated by affection, but by authority.
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s Athenian Theseus, with a Roman standard of generic purity, compared the rude mechanicals’ description of their play, “very tragical mirth,” to hot ice, and he wondered whether the discordant mixture of the merry and the tragical might be made concordant. Chaff notwithstanding, Shakespeare in other plays was able, in Theseus’s words, to “find the concord of this discord.” (Dukore 1)
Not much after Theseus and Hippolyta’s relationship status is portrayed, another serious element follows, which involves Hermia’s fate. Egeus demands that the law punish Hermia if she fails to comply with his demands, which are to marry someone she does not love, Demetrius, instead of the love of her life, Lysander. This makes contrast with Hippolyta’s situation, however shows the consequences that would have occurred if she hadn’t made this decision. Theseus speaks to Hermia sharply, telling her to expect to be sent to a nunnery or put to death. This also conveys the gravity put upon marriage, and the triviality placed on love. The seriousness in the threat of sending one’s own daughter to get killed based on her disobedience to get marries it very grave and takes away from the comic aspect of the Play. These features of trouble in love belong to a tragicomedy, “Some characteristics (of a tragicomedy) are: … pure love and gross love often being contrasted”. (Thrall, and Hibbard 491)
Shakespeare also places solemn characteristics in the supernatural fractions of the play. Oberon and Titania have an argument, one could say, mainly to prove which has more authority. The conversation turns to a little Indian boy, whom Oberon asks Titania to give him. But Titania responds that the boy’s mother was a follower of hers before she died; in honor of his mother’s memory, she will hold the boy near to her. Oberon declines to be with her, saying that they will be under hostility until she gives him the boy. The conflict between Oberon and Titania imports into the fairy realm the motif of love being out of balance. This fight over an Indian boy has a serious sense to it because of the consequences it has to everyone surrounding them. Their disagreements cause irregularities in weather, thus, disturbing everyone. These factors make this scene a serious one, in which the audience also questions the description of this play as a comedy. Oberon takes his argument with Titania too far when he begins to play with her love affairs by converting Bottom, one of the actors into a donkey and making her fall in love with him. The Love potion had gone too far, this is demonstrated when by trying to fix Helena’s and Demetrius’ relationship, Hermia’s and Lysander’s was destroyed. The damage done to these relationships also stands for a serious element due to the fact that it has arose more imbalance. To the audience, the controlling of affection is not comic, instead, it shows romantic tragedy in the sense that they have gotten so far into this prank, that it might be hard to repair. The conflict is resolve with incredible rapidness, the climatic moment between Titania and Oberon, during which she agrees to give him the Indian boy isn’t even shown onstage, but is only described. Thus, demonstrating the expected ending of a tragicomedy, as turning out to be a happy one. “tragicomedy usually meant a serious action, as in tragedy, with a happy ending, as in comedy;” (Dukore 1)
“Now they’ve worn out their out-of-shape brains to put on this play for your wedding” (V.i.150). Philostrate says this to Theseus when presenting to him the play that the couples would be watching in their wedding. The craftsmen had worked really hard to put together this play, and although they were awful at portraying it as a tragedy, their dreadful acting abilities made the tragedy a type of comedy. The actors are then told that if they don’t do a outstanding performance they will be hanged for not entertaining the grooms and brides. This is a serious element because despite all the hard work and practice, the actors are destined to be hanged due to their lack of talent. This causes the audience to feel pity for the actors, whom they have grown close to by their distinct personalities. “tragicomedy usually meant … a mixture of aristocratic personages, appropriate to tragedy, with humble characters, appropriate to comedy” (Dukore 1). The mixture of humble craftsmen with aristocratic noblemen also conveys the aspect of a tragicomedy that define this play. However, the characters are not hanged due to the comic features in the play, and as Theseus states “For never anything can be amiss, when simpleness and duty tender it.” (V.i.152)
As his career developed Shakespeare tended more and more to bring contrasted genres of tragedy, comedy and history closer together. Tragicomedy can best be described as a passage through unhappiness to happiness. Unlike a comedy, the characters actually suffer significant misfortunes, usually concerning the imbalance of love. However, tragicomedy also differs from tragedy, because the characters can overcome these hardships through self-sacrifice. In a tragedy, the mistakes of the hero are irreversible ones, and nothing he/she can do will alter the decisions that bring about his/her downfall. Within tragicomedy, the protagonist can realize his/her mistakes, and even if the consequences of his actions are severe, the hero can endure and sacrifice enough and eventually he/she will be rewarded with forgiveness and renewal that lead to their happy ending. A Mid Summer Night’s dream embodies a tragicomedy based on the evidence that it is a comedy due to its various aspects of humorous elements, as well as the serious components throughout it. The serious sections throughout the play consist of human imbalance of love, jealousy that angers the fairies and the fear of punishment of the actors.