Cupid Metaphors

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In Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream, metaphors concerning the moon, flowers, and Cupid are prevalent and have a significant impact on the play. The play focuses on a romantic situation between four Athenians: Hermia, Lysander, Helena, and Demetrius. As the story unravels, many comparisons are made to enhance the language and the messages that the characters try to convey. The moon is personified as a chaste woman who can be both gentle and fiery. Flowers are used as romantic symbols with the power to influence love. Cupid is personified as an armed child who strikes people's hearts even if that love was not meant to be.

Various events in the play are compared to the moon, which is constantly being personified as a woman. In the beginning of the play, Hippolyta and Theseus are discussing how they are to get married in four days. Theseus complains about how slowly the moon wanes. He compares the moon to a stepmother and a widow who keeps her stepson waiting for his inheritance because it takes so long for her to die (1:1, 1-6). Theseus is saying that the days are passing by too slowly and he wants to get married already.

As the play progresses, Theseus tells Hermia that her life will consist solely of "chanting faint hymns to the cold fruitless moon" (1:1, 73). Once again, the moon is personified as a cold and barren woman. Theseus warns Hermia that if she chooses not to comply with her father's wishes, she will stay a virgin priestess forever, living her entire life without a husband or children, just like the moon.

The moon is compared to things much more destructive and emotional later on in the play. Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of fairies, have been in a disagreement for a long period of time. Their constant fighting has affected nature adversely, causing spring, summer, fertile autumn, and angry winter to change places. Titania vividly describes their arguments as having caused the moon, the "governess of floods," to be pale in anger, filling the air with rheumatic diseases (2:1, 103-104). The moon is personified as a female ruler who controls the tides of the ocean. It is also given the human emotion of anger when it turns pale.

When Bottom and Titania are together, Bottom speaks about crying for mustardseeds being eaten by oxen. Titania states "the moon methinks looks with a watery eye; and when she weeps, weeps every little flower, lamenting some enforcèd chastity" (3:1, 193-195). Titania says that the moon is "misty-eyed, and when she weeps, so does every little flower in grief for violated chastity." The moon is again personified as a woman and she is crying because the mustardseeds have been wronged.

When it is time for Bottom to sleep, Titania orders her fairies "to fan the moonbeams from his sleeping eyes" (3:1, 168). The first metaphor "to fan the moonbeams" is comparing moonlight to a solid substance that can be fanned away. The second metaphor is the sleeping eyes of Bottom. Bottom's eyes are not literally sleeping. It is Bottom who is doing the sleeping, not his eyes.

Flowers are associated with love and emotions throughout the play. Theseus attempts to convince Hermia to marry Demetrius so that she would not have to spend the rest of her life living as a virgin priestess of the moon goddess. He tells her that it is better to live a life with love in it even if it is not the love she originally desired rather than to live without love at all. Theseus says "thrice-blessèd they that master so their blood to undergo such maiden pilgrimage; but earthlier happy is the rose distilled than that which, withering on the virgin thorn, grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness" (1:1, 74-78). He compares women who are chaste to unplucked roses who wither up and die. Married women are compared to roses that have been plucked and made into a sweet perfume (1:1, 76-78).

Oberon desires an Indian prince that was given to Titania by the prince's mother. In order to obtain the Indian...
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