By Charlotte J.Mark
The University of Texas at Austin Undergraduate Research Journal, Vol.10:1 (2011)
Introduction: We can instinctively say that Shakespeare looked to Chaucer’s “Knight’s Tale” while creating A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as he implements Chaucer’s characters (such as Theseus, Hippolyta, and Philostrate) and setting (Athens) into the play. Rarely, however, do we seem to acknowledge the more complex and sophisticated ways in which Shakespeare responded to Chaucer’s work. Both authors investigate feminine desire, opening their works with Theseus’ triumph over Hippolyta, then rewriting the same conflict throughout their texts. Though both Chaucer and Shakespeare study and explore feminine desire, they confront and represent it differently. Shakespeare implements yet simultaneously revises his source as he satisfies feminine desire where his precursor denied it. To liberate feminine desire, Shakespeare spatially reconfigures the formerly rigid constraints of the “Knight’s Tale” into the natural space of the forest. But even more particularly, Shakespeare inverts the terms of Emily’s garden to create Titania’s bower, thereby transforming a scene of feminine oppression into one of empowerment.