Masters Thesis

Deep ecology and self-realization in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream

If it is the role of the humanities is to interpret the expressions of human experience over time, what exactly can Shakespeare offer in response to critical environmental concerns? How can an ecological reading of Shakespeare serve to inform humanity’s role in the health of ecological systems? This paper presents an ecological reading of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, bridging allegorical interpretation with the principles of deep ecology, a philosophy founded by mountaineer Arne Naess. Specific to the philosophy are concepts which promote wider identification with nature. Deep ecology is predicated on the idea that non-human living beings have an equal right to live as humans. My discussion elucidates the connection between deep ecology and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, beginning with its fundamental precepts, moving into the ecological history of Elizabethan England, and finally into an allegorical interpretation of Jack Bottom and Puck, the intermediaries between nature and social order.