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Shakespeare's Comedy vs. Tragedy
        Certain parallels can be drawn between William Shakespeare's 
plays, "A Midsummer Night's Dream", and "Romeo and Juliet". These 
parallels concern themes and prototypical Shakespearian character 
types. Both plays have a distinct pair of ‘lovers', Hermia and 
Lysander, and Romeo and Juliet, respectively. Both plays could have 
also easily been tragedy or comedy with a few simple changes. A tragic 
play is a play in which one or more characters is has a moral flaw 
that leads to his/her downfall. A comedic play has at least one 
humorous character, and a successful or happy ending. Comparing these 
two plays is useful to find how Shakespeare uses similar character 
types in a variety of plays, and the versatility of the themes which 
he uses.
        In "Romeo and Juliet", Juliet is young, "not yet fourteen", 
and she is beautiful, and Romeo's reaction after he sees her is,

        "O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!
        It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night
        As a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear
        Beauty to rich for use, for the earth too dear!"

Juliet is also prudent, "Although I joy in thee, I have no joy in this 
contract tonight. It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden." She 
feels that because they have just met, they should abstain from sexual 
        Hermia is also young, and prudent. When Lysander suggests that 
"One turf shall serve as a pillow for both of us, One heart, one bed, 
two bosoms, and one troth," Hermia replies "Nay, good Lysander. For my 
sake, my dear, Lie further off yet; do not lie so near."  Although 
this couple has known each other for a while (Romeo and Juliet knew 
each other for one night when the above quote was spoken), Hermia also 
abstains from even sleeping near Lysander even though she believes he 
does not have impure intentions.
        Romeo's and Juliet's families are feuding. Because of these 
feuds, their own parents will not allow the lovers to see each other. 
In the a differnet way Hermia is not allowed to marry Lysander. 
Hermia's father Egeus says to Theseus, Duke of Athens,

        "Full of vexation come I, with complaint
        Against my child, my daughter Hermia.
        Stand fourth, Demetrius. My noble lord,
        This man hath my consent to marry her.
        Stand forth, Lysander. And, my gracious Duke,
        This man hath bewitched the bosom of my child."

Egeus tells the Duke that his daughter can marry Demetrius, not 
Lysander. Hermia replies ". . . If I refuse to wed Demetrius," Egeus 
replies "Either to die the death, or to abjure for ever the society of 
men."  If Hermia does go against her father's wishes, and weds 
Lysander, she will either be put to death, or be forced to become a 
         Both pairs of lovers also seek help from another. Juliet and 
Romeo seek Friar Lawrence, and Lysander and Hermia seek Lysander's 
aunt, who lives in the woods near Athens.
         Both sets of youths have the same character type. They are 
young, their love is prohibited, both women are prudent, and both seek 
the help of an adult. Yet they have their subtle differences. For 
example, Lysander, never mentioned a love before Hermia. Romeo loved 
Rosaline, before he loved Juliet. Hermia's family and Lysander's 
family were not feuding, whereas the Montagues' and Capulets' feude 
was central to the plot of the play.
        The stories of  "Romeo and Juliet" and "A Midsummer Night's 
Dream" are very different however. "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is a 
comedy. Oberon, king of the fairies, sends a mischievous imp named, 
Puck, to play a trick on the queen of the fairies, Titania, and on a 
pair of Athenian youth. Puck turns Nick Bottom's head into that of an 
ass (Nick Bottom is the man in the play production within "A Midsummer 
Night's Dream"; he tried to play every part), and places an herb on 
Titania that causes her to fall in love with him. This is quite 
humorous. However, at the end of the play all the couples are back 
together, with the ones they love. Thus Lysander and Hermia do get 
married. If Egeus had showed up at the wedding, he could have killed 
her. Egeus' dominate nature is his ‘flaw', and if he would have 
attended the wedding, and killed his daughter, this play could have 
been a tragedy. 
        Likewise, "Romeo and Juliet", could have been a comedy. The 
first two acts of this play qualifies it as a comedy. In act I, 
Sampson and Gregory, servants of the Capulets, "talk big about what 
they'll do the Montagues, make racy comments, and insult each other as 
often as they insult the Montagues." ("Barron's, 45). In act II, Romeo 
meets Juliet. All is going well until Tybalt, a Capulet kills Romeo's 
best friend, Mercutio. Things go continue to go wrong from here, until 
at the end of the play Romeo, thinking that Juliet is dead (she is in 
fact alive, she took a drug to fake her death), drinks poison, and 
when Juliet awakens from the spell of the drug, seeing her dead lover, 
stabs herself. If the families' pride had not been so great that they 
would murder one another, or prohibited true love, this play could 
have been a comedy. This play is a tragedy, not because one character 
has a flaw, but both families have a flaw- pride.
        Prohibited love, romance, controlling families, both plays 
have it all. With a few simple modifications, "A Midsummer Night's 
Dream" could have been a tragedy, and "Romeo and Juliet" could have 
been a comedy. Shakespeare however, uses many of the same character 
types, young, prudent, rebellous lovers, and controling family 
members, in both comedies and tragedies. The end results are character 
molds, along with theme molds that can be easily translated into 
almost any plot, in any play. 

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