How does Shakespeare use the theme of love in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’?
Shakespeare uses the theme of love to show how complicated love can be; Hermia falling in love with Lysander and Egeus not allowing her to get married to Lysander. Lysander and Hermia try to figure things out between themselves and their forbidden love, “The course of true love never did run smooth”. On the other hand Shakespeare uses comical love with Helena’s unrequited love for Demetrius. Helena is so sad she calls herself his spaniel, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” Another example of comical love is Titania falling in love with Bottom, with the ass’s head on. Love can blind our eyes in some situations and we can fall head over heels, which makes us look quite foolish. The ‘play within a play’ characters, Pyramus and Thisbe, have comical but also tragic love as Shakespeare makes the young man who plays Thisbe to be really embarrassed to have to play the part of a girl. Their love is also very tragic as Pyramus thinks Thisbe is dead and kills himself and later on Thisbe sees him dead and kills herself. (A parallel story to Romeo and Juliet). Shakespeare uses tragic love in many ways including love causing pain and unrequited love. Hermia is suffering from love causing pain as she is under pressure for who she’s marrying. Lysander and Hermia are true lovers but her father, Egeus, wants Demetrius to be her husband, or she will face consequences:
“As she is mine, I may dispose of her;
Which shall be either to this gentlemen Or to her death, according to our law.”
At the time this play was written, the law in Athens was that the father would choose who their daughter would marry and the daughter would not disobey her father. If Hermia disobeyed, she would be sentenced to die a heartbreaking death. These lines show the reader that Egeus is not a kind of father to mess with and what he says goes. Shakespeare reveals that Hermia runs off to the wood to weep about her marriage. Later Hermia finds herself escaping with Lysander to his aunt’s house just out of Athens, where the Athenian law does not apply.
At night they meet in the woods where Helena, another fair lady, is suffering from unrequited love to Demetrius, which happens quite tragically in real life, in some cases, as Shakespeare has shown. Harsh and bitter, like a sour lemon; Demetrius treats Helena like a piece of dirt and poor sensitive Helena lives like Demetrius’s spaniel: the life of a dog with Demetrius as the master:
“I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius,
The more you beat me I will fawn on you.”
Helena is so determined to be loved that she would grovel day and night to get Demetrius to love her. The more times Demetrius wiped the floor with Helena, the more she kept coming back to him with more love and each time Demetrius just gives more hatred. Being his spaniel she gets whipped and beaten with spiteful words drooling from Demetrius mouth. The unrequited love of Helena and Demetrius carries on right through the play until almost the end.
Shakespeare makes ‘The Midsummer Night’s Dream’ humorous by using comical love between Titania and Bottom; Oberon had been angered by Titania and the servant-boy issues, so ordered Puck to pour a magic potion from a flower into Titania’s eyes:
“Fetch me that flower, the herb I showed thee once;
The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid.”
Puck scampered off to get the juice of the flower, ‘love in idleness’; because the antagonism of Oberon was so vast that he immaturely makes Titania fall in love with an ass. Bottom is very confused with the Queen of fairies falling for him and later on in the play we find out that Oberon takes pity on Titania after seeing Helena and Demetrius in the woods fighting so Puck pours the juice again, this time, supposedly, into the eyes of Demetrius but he gets confused between Demetrius and Lysander, and actually pours the juice into...
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