A Midsummer Night's Dream

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Theseus' Character and the Imagination


More strange than true. I never may believe
These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact.
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold,
That is the madman. The lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt.
The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.
Such tricks hath strong imagination,
That, if it would be apprehend some joy,
It comprehends some bringer of that joy;
Or in the night, imagining some fear,
How easy is a bush supposed to bear!

How does Theseus's opening speech about imagination provide insight into his character?


It shows that Theseus views the power of imagination as absolute; he knows that if it can be imagined, it can come to pass.


It shows that Theseus does believe that imagination plays a role in creativity, but he personally believes in daylight, practical action, and reason.


It shows how Theseus feels imagination, while powerful, only plays a partial role in reality. It is equal in influence to rational thought and practicality.


It shows how Theseus is a purely rational thinker with absolutely no belief in the power of the imagination. Everything can be explained with facts, and imagination has no place in his world.


It shows that Theseus's creative side is slightly stronger than his rational side. He feels that imagination is necessary for invention, creativity, and life in general.