This text attempts to detail the functions and effects of some of Shakespeare's aesthetic strategies, and to determine their relationship to ideology. While this is critical territory that cultural materialists and new historicists have extensively mapped, the current text avoids the preferred methods of enquiry that these lines take. Rather than giving focus to the containment strategies of a dominant ideology, my investigation proceeds via a close reading of certain elements from Act 5 of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. I attempt to demonstrate that meaning in the play is determined and encompassed within the self-reflective and dissimulating structures of Shakespeare's art. I suggest that such an aesthetic premise offers a set of conditions that allows the play to operate in a manner which distinguishes it from its immediate cultural circumstances. This also means that when the ideological world beyond the stage is given re-presentation within the performance's illusory structures, it necessarily undergoes something like a disfiguration. I end by briefly remarking how even if the aesthetic structures of Shakespeare's plays realise themselves as distinct from, and as disfiguring of, ideology, they may still nonetheless be subject to it.
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