“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by W. Shakespeare
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare brings out the theme of love basing it on two different and contrasting ideas. The first assumption is the idea that love is something very strong and it is beyond human control. Love is seen to be controlled by a divine power such as an angel who shoots people’s hearts with arrows and makes them fall in love.
From the point of view that Shakespeare puts forth, it is clear that there no reasoning when it comes to love and it becomes a case of mare circumstantial occurrence. In fact, it is the theme of love that is dominant in most parts of the play. People appear to fall in love with other people whom they consider beautiful but the physical attraction is misleading. Demetrius who falls in love with Helena demonstrates superficial love that can be termed as mare attraction. Their love lacks a proper basis because it has been triggered by a love potion.
It is, therefore, not strange to find people who we loved and once thought of as beautiful, suddenly unattractive lacking the pull that previously drew us so strongly to them. This idea is further clarified by the story of the four young Athenians which teaches us that though the path of true love may not be as smooth, true love will always concur at the end. We, however, notice that love, especially among the young people, can seem foolish and fanciful.
The second assumption of love is that the people who are experiencing love cannot control it; it is simply beyond their control. Some good examples are romantic love, friendship, and parental love. There is a true bond, a sense of commitment and genuine concern in these kinds of love. On the contrary, forced love exists due to certain circumstances that are seen to be unavoidable. It is, therefore, not genuine and only lasts as long as the circumstances exist.
Shakespeare brings out the theme of love using four separate tales that interact through the story. The love between Theseus and Hippolyta is an excellent example of forced love. Hyppolyta has been conquered by Theseus and is thus duty-bound to become his wife. Theseus talks of how he wooed Hyppolyta with his sword. He uses the word “wooed” to perhaps imply that he truly loves Hippolyta.
The love portrayed by the four lovers seems immature compared to that of Theseus and Hyppolyta. In fact, when Hyppolyta refers to Theseus as “my Theseus” in act 5 scene 1, it implies that she is ready to marry him. The maturity of their love is further demonstrated by the words they use when speaking to each other as opposed to the ones used by the four lovers. Theseus and Hyppolyta use rational words but the four lovers use irrational and uncontrolled words.
Another assumption of love Shakespeare portrays is parental love which is demonstrated by Egeus and Hermia. Egeus is keen to make choices for his daughter and to keep a keen eye on her probably because Egeus cannot show affection openly to his daughter but must be firm as demanded by society. He wants his daughter to be married by a nobleman to secure her a comfortable future though Hermia may not be very comfortable with her father’s idea. His love is overprotective to his daughter although it can be understood that he wants the very best for his daughter.
Shakespeare uses Hermia and Lysander to demonstrate true love. Lysander is keen to note that “the course of true love never did run smooth” (Shakespeare).
Their love is seen to endure difficulties because it is strong. It does not run smoothly because what Hermia’s father wants for her is totally different from what she wants. Her father demonstrates parental love but he becomes overprotective and he wants her to get married to another man and not Lysander. Lysander, on the other hand, is determined to marry Hermia, and they finally succeed. Hermia’s father and the laws of Athens both serve as obstacles that the two lovebirds face but they overcome it and, as a result, prove that true love is strong.
Another trait of true love that is clear is that true love has mutual feelings. They both agree to elope but foolishly reveal their plan to Helena showing that their love was still young. They, however, triumph at the end. Unreciprocated love is demonstrated by Helena and Demetrius. Helena puts it clear that “the more I love, the more he hates me”.
She loves him but Demetrious cannot see this as he is in love with Hermia. Helena becomes a victim of unreciprocated love and is ignored by Demetrious in an attempt to dissuade her. This is a perfect example of the vindictive nature of love. Demetrious’ plans however fail. The cruel nature of love is further clarified by Demetrious when he tells Helena “I love thee not, therefore pursue me not”. It is also clear that this type of love is abusive because Demetrious tells Helena it after she has revealed to him Hermia and Lysander’s plan to elope (Shakespeare).
Friendship love is clearly portrayed by Hermia and Helena. They share many things and even confide secrets to each other. This clearly shows they love and trust each other being the reason for a strong friendship between them. Love can also be assumed to be inconsistent which is shown by the relationship between Lysander Hermia and the passion that erupts between him and Helena. This indicates that love can be very capricious and can easily be distorted. On the other hand, love is seen to be varied and not perfect. Shakespeare demonstrates all the types of love as being full of tribulations and imperfections.
Another assumption of love in the play is jealous love. This kind of love is shown by the friendship between Titania and Oberon. Love and jealousy mingle to produce something venomous. It is for this very reason that Titania says “What, jealous Oberon”. Their relationship is not young and though their speech is mature, there is little or no humor as they speak. As the play comes to its end, Oberon and Titania’s love glows again as they visit the newly married couple.
The play also communicates mutual love as portrayed by the example of Lysander and Hermia. The author shows how love can influence a person’s ability to make a decision, how love is seen differently by different people depending on their character and the way different people portray love depending on what the society expects of them. He further shows that there exists love for the young and the old and that though we may laugh at the young couples in the play, we cannot scorn their emotions.
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1997.