Humanity has the tendency
Humanity has the tendency to interchange their perception with reality. In his comedic play A Midsummer Night's Dream, William Shakespeare explores the subject of contrast between perception and reality. The play takes place both in the city of Athens and a forest in the outskirts of the city. Two fairies, Titania and Oberon, rule the woodland creatures in the forest. Along the fairies remains a mischievous jester and hobgoblin named Puck, who is always up to no good. Within the play, there is another play itself to be performed by a group referred to as the Mechanicals at a wedding between the main characters of the play. Puck turns one of the mechanical’s, Bottom, head ironically into that of an ass. Throughout the play, the lines between appearance and reality often blur together causing bewilderment. Shakespeare uses dreams as a motif to reveal his message that perception is an individual's reality through the dramatic irony of Bottom’s misinterpreted dream and Puck’s deception of the audience into believing the play is a dream.
Shakespeare explores the function of dreams, and how they alter and affect the human condition. When Bottom’s head is reverted back to normal while he sleeps, after being turned to that of an ass, he states that he has “had a dream past the wit of man,” and that “Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream” (IV.I.200-202). Bottom is explaining that he underwent a dream that no man could comprehend. By saying he “had a dream past the wit of man” he is stating that he had a dream that no one could possibly understand. And by saying “Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this dream” he is saying that it would be foolish to attempt to explain the dream, emphasizing his befuddlement with the dream. Shakespeare also utilizes dramatic irony; Bottom has no idea that his head was turned to that of an ass, and while he was sleeping he has no idea his head was reverted back to normal. The audience is aware of all these occurrences and that Bottom just thinks his dream was that of an ass, while Bottom is entirely unaware. Furthermore, Shakespeare uses the motif of dreams to show dreams ability to alter the human behavior through the character, Puck. Shakespeare uses his mischievous character to culminate the play. At the end of the Mechanical’s performance, Puck speaks to Shakespeare’s audience and states, “If we shadows have offended, / Think but this and all is mended; / That you have slumbered here / while these visions did appear” (V.I.440-443). By saying “If we shadows have offended, think but this and all is mended” Puck is saying that if the audience thinks differently their opinions on the play will be repaired. Then, by stating “That you have slumbered here while these visions did appear” Puck is outlining that if the audience thinks differently by imagining that while the play was performed it was in reality just a nightmare, then their negative opinion will be altered into a positive one. This adds on to the motif of dreams and how if one uses their imagination to envision that the play was a nightmare their opinion would change into a positive one. This establishes dreams ability to change the human condition. Shakespeare uses the motif of dreams to elicit that dreams have the capacity to alter the human function.
Shakespeare shows how dreams alter the human condition to enforce his message that perception is an individual’s reality. For instance, when Bottom thought he had a dream in which he had a donkey’s head, he believes he had a dream “beyond the comprehension of man.” Bottom is under the impression that he experienced a dream that man couldn’t possibly comprehend, while the audience is aware of what actually occurred: Puck turns Bottom’s head was turned into that of an ass and while he was asleep his head was turned back to normal. While, contrastingly the audience’s perspective is that Bottom’s head was transformed into that of an ass as a prank and later reverted back to normal, developing their own reality. What Bottom’s reality is is not the reality of the situation, it’s actually just his perception. Therefore, perception is an individual’s reality. At the end of the play, when Puck breaks the fourth wall and delivers a direct address to the audience, he says if they change their perspective and believe A Midsummer Night’s Dream was a nightmare then their opinion on the play will be altered; this shows that a dream alters the human condition by having the audience change their perspective to alter their opinion, which is apart of the human condition. How the viewer is perceiving the play to be is being altered by believing it was a dream, and in the end altering their reality. An individual’s reality is indicative of how they’re perceiving something to be, establishing Shakespeare’s message that perception is an individual’s reality. Conclusively, Shakespeare uses the motif of dreams and how it changes the human ability to portray the theme that an individual’s reality is their perception.
Ultimately, due to its uniqueness, an individual's perception is their own reality. Since perception is an individual’s reality, there will persist to be idiosyncratic perspectives. People who experience the same thing are always going to view it in a different way. Despite the uniqueness, perception remains as everything.