Hyperbole in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

What is a hyperbole, and how does hyperbole come into play in William Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'? If you are curious about this, look no further. In this lesson we will examine three solid examples of hyperbole from the play.


Check out these two sentences. ''This is taking forever.'' ''This is the most annoying movie in the entire universe.'' Can you spot what they have in common? If you noticed that they both sound dramatic and exaggerated, then you are well on your way to writing just like Shakespeare. Okay, maybe that's an exaggeration too, but if you understand exaggerations, then you can understand hyperboles.

A hyperbole is an exaggeration that is not meant to be taken literally. For example, you won't literally die if you get home after curfew. Nevertheless, saying something like that helps convey emotions and feelings. There are plenty of hyperboles in William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Many examples of hyperbole are found in this play by Shakespeare
Midsummer Night Image

The Stolen Heart

One example of hyperbole in A Midsummer Night's Dream is when Egeus is complaining about how Demetrius and his daughter are in love. Egeus proclaims that Demetrius, ''with cunning hast thou filched my daughter's heart.'' In other words, Egeus has stolen his daughter's heart. This is a hyperbole because we know that Demetrius did not literally commit theft of that important organ.

Egeus is being dramatic and using exaggeration to express how he feels about the situation. If he had said that Demetrius won her heart or even that his daughter and Demetrius are in love, the situation would have a much more positive feel. The hyperbole here makes it clear just how Egeus feels.

The Monster

Another example of hyperbole comes when Helena has a pity party for herself. She has a crush on Demetrius, but he is not at all interested in her. She complains: ''No, no, I am as ugly as a bear, / For beasts that meet me run away for fear. / Therefore no marvel though Demetrius / Do, as a monster, fly my presence thus.''

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