Athens, the Moon and You: Diana and the Female Appropriation of Marriage in A Midsummer Night's Dream


  • Francesco Dall'Olio



In the multi-layered set of elements that constitutes the imagery of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Diana, the ancient goddess of hunting, occupies a special place. She is the model for the characters of both Titania and Hippolyta; the frequent recurrence of moon-related imagery can be interpreted as a reprisal of important elements of her iconographic tradition; the plot of the play is built around narrative patterns derived from Ovid’s Metamorphoses in which the goddess is deeply involved. This article investigates the relationship between these structural and dramatic elements and the way the play stages the gender relationships. It suggests that the references to Diana mark the stages of a progressive ‘appropriation’ of marriage by the female characters. On the one hand, quotations and references to the goddess allow characters such as Hermia, Titania and Hippolyta to express their resistance to a male world that would repress them; on the other hand, the rewriting of the myth of Actaeon in the Bottom episode presents and exposes a ‘revision’ of marriage values aimed at integrating women’s experience into the relationship.

Keywords: A Midsummer Night’s Dream; gender relationships; Diana; Greek Gods; Elizabethan ideology; marriage