Asides in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Instructor: Jacob Belknap

Jake has taught English in middle and high school, has a degree in Literature, and has a master's degree in teaching.

William Shakespeare expertly uses the literary device of an aside in his magical play ''A Midsummer Night's Dream.'' Read this lesson to explore what makes an aside and how Shakespeare uses them in this play.

What Is an Aside?

Have you ever been in a group but wanted to tell only one person a secret so no one else could hear? It is tough to share that special comment or insight with someone when you know the idea is too private for others. Playwrights have the same problem. Luckily, they get around this problem with help from an aside. An aside is a literary device an author may use which involves a character turning away from other characters to address the audience privately or think aloud. This is done to show the character's motivations, musings, or inner thoughts. Even if other characters are on stage, it is understood that they cannot hear what the character saying the aside says.

Now we will review generally what happens in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream before moving on to our exploration of asides within the text.

Synopsis of A Midsummer Night's Dream

William Shakespeare's tale of magic, love, and games comes to the stage in his play A Midsummer Night's Dream. In what is arguably his most popular comedy, Shakespeare begins his story in the middle of a discussion of love, marriage, and duty. This sets up the play's focus on love and how it affects people. Romantic interests get blurred in the story as warring fairies use their magic to make people fall in and out of love. People who once loved each other are made to fall in love with someone else entirely. A play within a play develops and even those actors of this inner play are drawn into the love games. By the end, the bewitched people wake up as if from a dream and several marriages take place.

William Shakespeare, the author of A Midsummer Night

To better understand the literary device of an aside, we will now look to specific examples from the play.


Through all of these games of magical trickery that the fairies play, this play could have become confusing for the reader. Part of the success of this popular play is owed to the asides which help the reader keep up with what the author intends for his audience to understand. The following are some of those asides:

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