A Mid Summer Night's Dream "Eyes" Motif Analysis

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How the vision/ eyes motif shows the powers and limitations of human vision.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream brings to literary life the inherent qualities of the “eyes” in human nature. As its title suggests, this play is about dreams, and their often illogical, magical, and sensual character. William Shakespeare, the author, puts major emphasis on the overall idea of vision and indirectly expands this motif to express his personal opinion. He believes human vision is a dynamical force with transformative abilities; yet, Shakespeare does not fail to outline the limitative power of the “eyes”.

Shakespeare begins scene one of A Midsummer Night’s Dream by introducing the characters that eventually help him convey the power of vision in its qualities of bringing about change. One of these personalities is Helena, a young woman of Athens who is in love with a nobleman named Demetrius. Frequently depicted in frustration, Helena’s character often comments about “eyes” and their relation to the reason why Demetrius does not return her love. It is at these instances where Shakespeare begins to link the vision motif to the ability of “eyes” to alter the perceptions of people. For example, when Helena is distressed about Demetrius’s newfound love for her best friend, Hermia, she claims that “Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind/ And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind” (Shakespeare.I.i.234-235). Through these lines, Shakespeare hints a broader significance: love depends not on an objective assessment of appearance but rather on a perception created in the mind. In other words, Shakespeare claims that Demetrius’s sudden change in heart is because of a change in his mental perception of Helena and Hermia. Therefore, Helena thinks Demetrius has built up a fantastic notion of Hermia’s beauty that prevents him from recognizing Helena’s own beauty. Based on this idea, it is evident that such visions, engendered in the mind, can force one to think the complete...
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