A Midsummer Nights Dream, one of Shakespeare's best known and widely read comedies, delivers an enchanting, humorous comedy with a number of interesting plotlines. In the play, he reveals his countless views on life and its themes. One such theme is love. Love is a very complex subject that has been explored by many people in our world because of its mysterious nature. There are certain characteristics of love that are entirely unpredictable and even outside our own control. William Shakespeare puts these general concepts together and incorporates them into the reputable comedy. In the play, Shakespeare accurately shows that love isn't always what it seems to be. His superior use of dialogue between characters and imaginative fiction give the reader an understanding of the hardships, difficulties and different “forms” of love. Throughout the play, he emphasizes these different forms of love; he shows that love is blind, inconstant, and cruel to anybody unto which its mysterious power touches.
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Love is a part of life that can be ever-changing. Shakespeare demonstrates that love is not always constant, and can change in very unpredictable patterns. This theme is most evident among the various couples within the play. At the beginning of the play, Lysander and Demetrius created a “love triangle” with Hermia at the apex and Helena being almost non-existent. Both men worshiped Hermia, begging for her acceptance, and trying to gain her father's trust. As the comedy progresses, the triangle shifts magically in an abrupt manner. Lysander, who in one instant is madly in love with Hermia, suddenly awakens to find himself obsessed with Helena. Demetrius also fell in love with Helena, experiencing the same desire as Lysander. Both men went from loving Hermia to loving Helena very quickly. After loving Helena for a short while, Lysander quickly went back to loving Hermia after being cured of the fairy magic. True love and life-giving vows aren't easily broken, but are still malleable. The switching of couples shows that love doesn't last and is capable of changing in an instant despite anyone's best efforts.
Love doesn't always have a happy ending; in fact, it can be very cruel by instigating confusion, fights, and carrying sorrowful emotion. Lysander originally swore his life to Hermia in the beginning of the play. He was willing to do anything to attain her love and to make her happy. However, love-in-idleness caused him to fall in love with Helena instead. He then swore to Helena, and practically dumped Hermia after calling her an Ethiope, tawny tartar, vile thing, and other horrible insults. Hermia was very upset and had no idea of why Lysander would say those types of things to her after swearing to her. In her devastation, she even went as far as saying that she was going to kill herself. Love's cruel nature caused her to gain a different mindset even about her own well-being.
Love also had an impact on Helena and Hermia's childhood friendship as well. The arguing between Demetrius and Lysander upset both of the women. Hermia feels cheated, lost, and confused, and Helena is the first person she can find to blame. Helena, however, thinks everything is some kind of cruel trick against her, and in turn blames Hermia for joining the men in her mockery. They continue fighting, shouting insults, and venting anger on each other. Because of the effect of love relating to Lysander and Demetrius, Helena and Hermia's relationship changed completely. The friendship they had before the argument contrasts greatly to their hostility afterwards. This change results in the destruction of the women's trust in each other.
Another example of cruel love can be found in Demetrius and Helena's relationship in the beginning of the play. Helena was begging for Demetrius's love, offering to be his spaniel, and openly allowing him to use her. This passionate love, however, is not returned by Demetrius, for he is blinded by his love for Hermia. He completely ignores her, despite Helena being madly in love with him. Demetrius's ignorance of Helena is a cruel act of rejection, and causes Helena suffer even more.
A final place where Shakespeare makes this theme evident is in the plotline of the “play within a play”. The play was supposed to be a “comedy”, but was more of a tragedy then anything else. The two lovers, Thisby and Pyramus, loved each other so much that they were willing to do anything. Stricken with grief, each of them tragically ended up committing suicide after thinking that their partner was dead. This demonstrates that love's cruelty can cause immense pain, sorrow, and can even put lives at stake.
Love can also cause anybody to act upon impulse without any rational thought. This blind love starts complications and is difficult to control because of the lack of logical thought. Both Lysander and Demetrius happened to fall in love with Helena due to love-in-idleness. They praised her, swore vows to her, and even fought over her. Despite Helena wanting them both away, both of these men senselessly persisted. Puck makes note of these behaviors and blatantly states his opinion: “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” Their persistence is an example of lack of logical thought and openly shows Shakespeare's interpretation of blind love as he incorporates it into the comedy.
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Blind love is also evident in the two lovers, Lysander and Hermia. They made a rash decision to run away despite knowing that punishment could be very severe if they were caught. They feel strengthened by the mere thought of “togetherness” and are willing to take risks that they would not normally think of taking. The natural excitement of love causes them to be artificially confident and eliminates their reasoning. This sort of impulsive behavior demonstrates Shakespeare's theme of blind love.
Perhaps the greatest example of this type of love deals with Titania and her strange affinity to Bottom. She madly fell in love with Bottom (due to love-in-idleness) regardless of the fact that he had the head of an ass. Towards the end of the play, she is seen caressing his ears, winding him in her arms, and putting flowers in his head. Her love for the ass shows that she unconsciously decided to look with the mind rather than the eye. Titania's lacking ability to do this shows that her reason has disappeared, and has blindly fallen under the intoxication of love.
Shakespeare skillfully develops each of these themes regarding the difficulties of love within the play. Love can be very powerful, cruel, and on occasion intoxicating to the point of stupidity. The shifting love triangle, fighting, breaking of friendships, and irrational thinking all illustrate these themes of love. Through all these examples, Shakespeare subtly makes it known to the reader that true love is hard to come by and should be cherished when given the opportunity. Even though true love is still very much a human ideal, the reader is continually reminded that love isn't always what it seems. It places an immense burden of responsibility and dedication onto anyone's shoulders. Shakespeare even makes this connection himself as it is directly stated in the play by Lysander: “The course of true love never did run smooth.”
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