In both the Midsummer Night’s dream and Into the Woods play the main characters all go into the woods in fulfillment of their needs. In the play into the woods, Baker makes his way into the woods after realizing that he and his wife are unable to bear children because the witch cursed them. He makes his way into the woods in search of the items that the witch has requested to break the curse of childlessness. Cinderella makes her way into the woods to cry at her mother’s grave when she is unable to go to the festival while Jack also makes his way into the forest while traveling to sell his cow. Jack can sell his cow in exchange for magical beans. The characters who enter into the woods get their needs fulfilled by going traveling inside the woods. Little Red riding hood also learned a lesson by moving inside the woods. In the first instance, every person is satisfied by what they discover and learn after going into the forest however the bean that Jack exchanged soon releases a giant that goes on to kill most of the characters introduced in the second act. The woods signify that one’s desires are fulfilled but the fulfillment, later on, has negative consequences (“Reading Stephen Sondheim,” n.d.).
In contrast in the Midsummer Night’s Dream where the characters make their escape into the woods creates adverse situations for the characters and they are unable to fully comprehend whether what is happening is a dream or reality. Both Lysander and Hermia elope into the woods to go into a nearby city where they can get married (Fender,1968). They also make their way into the woods to escape the decree by Lysander’s father that she marry Demetrius. Helena makes her way into the woods to accompany Demetrius in the hope that he will one day realize that she loves him. Demetrius rejects Helena and Puck sees the rejection and uses magic to give her what she desires. Puck also uses magic to accidentally which makes Lysander fall in love with Helena. Puck complicates the situation with the use of magic and Helena feels that the three characters are mocking her because they have all fallen in love with her yet she was scorned before. She sees the situation as a nightmare because they are all mocking her and remarks:
O spite! O hell! I see you all are bent
To set against me for your merriment.
If you were civil and knew courtesy,
You would not do me thus much injury. (III.ii.147-50)
Hermia also makes her way into the woods to marry Lysander and have his wish satisfied but instead, there is havoc, and the situation becomes a nightmare. Both plays also involve the use of magic and show how magic destroys in different cases. The fairy tale aspect in both plays is eminent with the Midsummer Night’s dream delving into the magic of the flowers, and the existence of the flower and Puck uses magic to cause havoc in other people’s lives. Magic is utilized in the wrong way by Puck who meddles in the lives of the other characters. Both books show the conflict between the fairy and human world and magic ultimately cannot be used to solve the problems that humans face. Into the Woods play is premised around fairy tales such as jack and the beanstalk, little red riding hood and Cinderella who upon entering into the woods get to a world where things are not as predictable as their normal lives and where magic is frequently used which is similar to the situation in the play by Shakespeare. In contrast, however, Midsummer’s Night dream is subtly dark compared to the play into the woods, yet the forests are still magical and mysterious.
The play by Shakespeare also focuses on dreams which provide that characters with access to their truths which might otherwise become submerged by their day to day consciousness. In the play into the woods, many characters die because of the giant which is magical. However, they can come out of the woods unscathed. The play contrasts between dreams and reality by the use of fairies and magician scene 1 of act 4 Demetrius upon waking up asks, “are you sure we are awake because it seems to me that we sleep, we dream. The characters’ experience things that are strange yet funny that only the audience gets to witness. Dreams, in my opinion, can deal with one’s personal goals and aspirations and at times their emotions. Another contrast is shown when it comes to natural water and man. In the play, the separation between reality and dream is thinly veiled (Jackobson,2011).
I believe that we live in a thin line between what we dream and the reality on the ground. I think the play also shows the dark and right side of love. When the couples enter into the forest they are filled with problems firstly Lysander and Hermia meet Puck who confounds them in the forest9Kupper,2011). Both plays depict the dangers of using magic which has many negative consequences. In the play into the woods, the Bakers wife dies because of magic where the giant comes into the town and kills some of the characters including the baker. The characters are unable to take responsibility for their actions and instead blame the witch for all the negative thing that has happened. They fail to acknowledge what role they had in all the bad results that have emanated from the use of magic. However, they have all been able to fight the magic by slaying the giant at the end of the play, and they return to continue living their lives, and the witch warns the audience to be careful about the things we say because the children will listen.
Both stories take the audience into the world of magic, and the characters are unable to differentiate between the present and what happened in the woods. In conclusion, I think the stories have many similarities especially when it comes to humans and our desires to want more than we have which leads us to take desperate measures to fulfill our needs and wants. There is a need to find a balance between our needs because they might lead to negative consequences that we might not be able to handle. The fulfillment of our desires is not always the right thing to do because the plays show people in magical places where their wishers are supposed to be fulfilled but end up in adverse situations.
Fender, Stephen. Shakespeare: A midsummer night’s dream.’. Vol. 35. Hodder Arnold, 1968.
Jacobson, K. (2004). CliffsNotes on Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Küpper, Ulrike. William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the History of Music Theater. Peter Lang, 2011.
Reading Stephen Sondheim. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://books.google.co.ke/books?id=SoclV_jyfLAC&pg=PA155&lpg=PA155&dq=contrast+between+Midnight+Summers+Dream+(Shakespeare)+AND+Into+the+Woods+(Sondheim)&source=bl&ots=6XGl6yWesY&sig=ACfU3U00pQsOOwJZ0Ak10s3tYA9BBrJuXA&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwij5qu-qrbhAhXGDGMBHfNIAIUQ6AEwDnoECAoQAQ#v=onepage&q=contrast%20between%20Midnight%20Summer