[A response paper on a writer’s strategy using a single topic; something Shakespeare was an expert at.]
Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
Draws on apace. Four happy days bring in
Another moon; but, O, methinks, how slow
This old moon wanes! She lingers my desires,
Like to a stepdame, or a dowager,
Long withering out a young man’s revenue.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream 1.1.1-6
Skakespeare squeezes numerous definitions out of the moon in the first two acts of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. In the above passage Theseus attributes a personality to the moon, and the alleged personality is blamed for dragging out the time until he and Hippolyta can marry: “She lingers my desires.” Hippolyta responds with her own use of the moon, but she insinuates how it will be a celestial ornament to their marriage celebration: “And then the moon, like to a silver bow new-bent in heaven, shall behold the night of our solemnities” – (1.1.9-10). Later, when Egeus accuses Lysander before Theseus, he claims he serenaded Hermia by moonlight: “Thou hast by moonlight at her window sung, with feigning voice, verses of feigning love” – (1.1.30-31). And when Theseus discusses Egeus’ claim with Hermia, he again mentions the moon. However, he is now using it to represent a period of time: “Take time to pause; and, by the next moon” – (1.1.83). And there are five more times within the first two acts where moon or moonlight are used. Quince tells the actors in the play that they will rehearse “by moonlight” – (1.2.98-104). Fairy claims, “I do wander everywhere, swifter than the moon’s sphere” – (2.1.6-7), a reference to an antiquated belief about the moon’s orbit in a hollow sphere around Earth. Oberon proclaims, “Ill met by moonlight” — (2.1.60), when running into Titania: as if it is a waste of romantic moonlight for them to meet while quarreling. And Titania later mentions “moonlight revels” – (2.1.139-142), in her talk with Oberon, when she suggests a way for them to come together after Theseus’ wedding, or she’ll continue to shun him. And, finally, Oberon tells of seeing Cupid’s arrow “in the chaste beams of the wat’ry moon” – (2.1.161-162), when discussing how the flower known as love-in-idleness was transformed.
I found it interesting to see the various uses Shakespeare found for a singular topic. And the above definitions and uses are merely from the first two acts. And even though the meanings are different the multiple uses add a sense of continuity to the piece. It’s an excellent writer’s strategy to tie the piece together.