Society today encourages rationality in nearly every situation. That being said, irrational behavior is tolerated today as much as it was in the time of Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. One does not have to go far to realize this fact – consider the reality television shows today (ex. Jersey Shore, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, The Bachelor, etc.) The reason behind the popularity of these ridiculous shows is quite simple: people find entertainment in watching others make fools out of themselves! Shakespeare was quite aware of this in his writing of Midsummer, with the characterization of Helena, the absurd quarreling between Oberon and Titania, and the foolish love of Hermia and Lysander.
Before going any further, perhaps it is necessary to explain what it means to be “rational.” Merriam-Webster’s defines rational as “relating to, based on, or agreeable to reason.” Therefore, a rational person is a reasonable or logical thinker. Understanding rationality also gives a person a basic understanding of its opposite, irrationality. In theory, the cultures of yesterday and today both call for people to be rational if they want to succeed. However, in reality, society has continued to tolerate, and even support, at times, the idea that life is not always rational, therefore acting in a logical manner is not necessary.
One example of the use of the theme “rationality vs. irrationality” in Midsummer is the behavior of the character Helena. Helena can best be described as Demetrius’s stalker. In her mind, there is no better way to spend her time than to follow Demetrius, and satisfaction. In fact, Helena is so obsessed with Demetrius that she reveals her best friend’s secret plan to run away with Lysander, in hopes that this will cause Demetrius to appreciate Helena more. Of course, Demetrius never does appreciate Helena, but she still ardently pursues Demetrius. As Helena trails Demetrius in the woods, she says, “I am your spaniel. And Demetrius, the more...
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