Essay: Illusion in the Works of Great Writers

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[. . .] It is not all that unusual in a father-daughter dynamic to have sharp differences in how the daughter's life should be lived. But in this case, the father actually threatens his daughter with death, or with the punishment of being a virgin for her entire life.

So what does Hermia do in response to her father's demands? She leaves the court (reality) and runs into the woods (the mystical and illusionary, which has magic) where fairies interfere -- again, illusion trumps reality. Even Puck, noted for being a wicked person who deceives people and steals yeast before the beer can ferment, is changed in the woods. In the woods Puck becomes a messenger for Oberon (the fairy lord), doing exactly what the fairy wants, including spreading magic potions. Again, a character drenched in reality becomes involved in things that are illusion-based.

In Much Ado About Nothing Shakespeare creates characters that are involved in illusion of one kind or another. The characters Hero and Claudio are apparently created by Shakespeare to show that true love can be an illusion. The Bard of course knows that love is not always as it seems, and there are honesty issues that come between people who are in love or trying to sustain a love for each other. Benedick and Beatrice are actually in love but in the play they pretend to have animosity towards each other -- their version of illusion. They argue and seem hostile, but it is an illusion.

Benedick and Beatrice are the subject of deceptions presented by Don Pedro, Claudio, Hero, Ursula and Leonato; these deceptions, illusions if you will, are conducted in order to bring Benedick and Beatrice back together -- when in fact they are together, but they use illusion to create the impression that they aren't. Tangled plot lines indeed -- only Shakespeare could create illusion-based dialogue as effective as this - are the meat and potatoes of this play.

Tennessee Williams and Illusion

In A Streetcar Named Desire Blanche is a character that does not have a good grasp on reality but rather she is steeped in illusionary thoughts. At the beginning of the play she is clearly a little off, but by the conclusion of the play Blanche is totally engulfed in a world of fantasy (male callers are surely on their way, but they aren't).

And in one of the most famous of Williams' plays, The Glass Menagerie, the character Laura is fascinated with her glass menagerie to the point of living in a cloud of fantasy. When one of the little glass items (a unicorn) is broken, Laura says it "doesn't matter" because she will just "…imagine he had an operation" and the horn was "removed to make him feel less freakish!" (Williams).

Laura isn't the only one in this family to live in a fantasy world, a world of illusion. Tom, Laura's brother and the family's breadwinner, escapes nightly to the movie houses. He finds an escape there from his family and from the boring job he has. The juxtaposition between the family's friend Jim is Williams' way of contrasting reality with illusion. Jim is realistic and objectively sees the family as a group that is living in an unreal world. He sees Laura for what she really is -- a shy, frail personality totally out of touch with reality. He tries to help pull Laura out of her illusionary lifestyle but it isn't very effective.

In conclusion, playwrights' Tennessee Williams, Sophocles, and Shakespeare, are known for wildly different genres, and it is understandable given their different lives in different periods of history. But all three capitalized on the use of illusion; all three found this literary style to be effective, and readers and play-goers through the years have benefitted greatly from the reality-versus-illusion themes in their plays.

Works Cited

Bloom, Harold. Oedipus Rex -- Sophocles. New York: Infobase Publishing, 2009.

Poe, Joe Park. Heroism and Divine Justice in Sophocles' Philoctetes. Leiden, Holland:

BRILL Publishers. 1974.

Ringer, Mark. Electra and the Empty Urn: Metatheater and Role Playing… [END OF PREVIEW]

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"Illusion in the Works of Great Writers."  Essaytown.com.  June 26, 2014.  Accessed June 26, 2019.
https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/illusion-works-great-writers/418947.