1995 marks the 400th anniversary of the probable first production of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night's Dream. Though the similarities between these two plays have long been recognized, surprisingly little has been written on what they have in common. As Mark Stavig points out, not only do these plays share a self-consciously poetic approach to drama and a common topic -- the troubles of young lovers living in a hostile familial and societal context -- but they also share a framework of Renaissance metaphor built on gender oppositions and unities. In the primarily public and rational world of late sixteenth century England, interest in the more poetic and subjective dimensions of human experience was growing. Elizabethan writers, including Shakespeare, were searching for ways to communicate what Theseus somewhat skeptically calls the forms of things unknown' -- that realm of experience that can be expressed best (or perhaps only) through the language of metaphor. While recent Shakespeare criticism has tended to oversimplify Shakespeare's handling of gender by seeing him either as a supporter or an opponent of patricarchy, Stavig finds a more complex conception of gender in Shakespeare's psychology of love and in his depiction of society, nature and the cosmos. To appreciate these patterns of metaphor, we must understand the Petrarchism and neo-Platonism that were undergoing a resurgence in the 1590s. What emerges in Stavig's exploration is neither a scientific system nor a set of beliefs, but rather a flexible structure of metaphors that provides the context for a fresh and rewarding approach to these plays.