chapter  9
The Mature Comedies
Pages 19

The last Act opens with the set piece of Theseus on the lunatic, the lover, and the poet. St. Paul speaks of the 'hidden wisdom' 'which none of the princes of this world know', which must be spoken of 'in a mystery'; and which may come out of the learned ignorance of 'base things of the world, . . . which . . . God hath chosen' (I Cor., ii). Theseus cannot understand these matters. In lunatics, lovers and poets, the imagination is out of control; it is the power that makes 'things unknown', as, so this orthodox psychologist implies, these are the disordered creations of the faculty when reason, whether because of love or lunacy or the poetic furor, is not in charge of it. The doubts of Hippolyta (V. i. 23 ff.) encourage us to believe that this 'prince of the world' may be wrong. The love of Bottom's vision complements the rational love of Theseus; Bottom's play, farcical as it is, speaks of the disasters that do not cease to happen but only become for a moment farcically irrelevant, on a marriage day. 'Tragical mirth . . . hot ice and wondrous strange snow' are terms not without their relevance; and the woods have their wisdom as well as the city.