Who is speaking to who, why, where and when?
Theseus, mythical king of Athens who federated the cities of Attica is addressing his wife to be, Hippolyta, on the topic of their upcoming wedding.
The action is set in Athens, the city which invented the notion of polis, of politics and of democracy, under the patronage of the goddess of reason Athena.The characters are either in the Duke’s palace or gardens. The play is thus anchored in mythology not history.
PLAN: The themes of time and of joy are central to this exposition.
We may wonder what is the function of Theseus’s announcement of the marriage with regards to the whole play?
I—How time is represented
“Now” is the very first word of the play. What seems to be most important is the present, the here and now, which is what lovers care about.
“Nuptial hour”, “four happy days” indicate that Theseus is about to get married in four days time. The perception of time is affected by love, this is universally known. Maybe the play’s focus is to represent and make perceptible this transformation of Time. The moon is immediately evoked as a means to measure time (“another moon”), but it is personified “this old moon… she lingers” and compared to an old woman “step-dame or a dowager”. Therefore the dead planet is no longer a reliable tool to measure the passing of time, but a personification of slowness, which translates Theseus’s impatience at getting married. Theseus’s impatience is calmed by his lover’s answer. Indeed, Hippolyta reassures him by saying that the four days before the wedding will pass quickly.
“ Four days will quickly steep themselves in night; Four nights will quickly dream away the time;”
If we study the meter of these two lines we find out that the iambic pentameter is modified by a spondee at the head of the lines so that the rhythm accelerates. The meaning of the lines where “quickly” is