A Brief Reflection on Fantasy


As a story, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is many things—a fairy tale, a romance, a comedy—but what I appreciate the most is the way the story unfolds along the boundaries between reality and fantasy. In a world where empirical fact trump all else, it's worth asking if the the play is a mere spiritual fantasy, an artifact of Reformation era England. Are the fantastical elements no more than an opportunity for Shakespeare to indulge in wild imaginings? Rather, I think Shakespeare's fairy world is representative of human non-rationality.
          There is a reason Shakespeare chose to set his play in mythical Greece. This is where Dionysus entered into human affairs. Nietzsche recognized that mythology and materialism need not contradict, that reality is not as rational as we like to think. Fortunes and fates govern our behavior. We can call them traumas and instincts, or ideology and material foundations; freedom and providence, or art and science. By embracing fantastical representations Shakespeare portrays the non-rational elements of our reality. Pure realist narrative—literalism—doesn't always satisfy our need for explanation. Literature has always been the field in which metaphor runs free. Fantasy is only an extreme case of metaphor.
          Because of this he personified explanation as the whims and wills of fairies. In doing so he doesn't represent a world apart from ours, but a world within our own. This world is hidden in the shadows of midnight, it’s one we often fail to see or only see through a glass darkly. It’s as real as realism and deeply affects the well reasoned actions of our straightforward, daytime persona. Shakespeare called it fairyland, we know it by other names.
9:13 AM | Unknown