The Embodiment of Humanism in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Living in the Renaissance period in Europe, William Shakespeare’s works are inevitably colored with Humanism, which was prevalent during the time and emphasized men being the one controlling his own fate instead of religion or feudalism, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream is no exception. In Renaissance approximately back to 14th to 15th century, Humanism was a philosophy emerging due to the rise of middle class. It proposed that “people of tremendous self-knowledge and wit” being “capable of self-expression and the practice of individual freedom.”1 Characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream written by Shakespeare remarkably demonstrate these traits of Humanism people.
The behaviors of and attitudes toward pursuing love of the three main lovers, Hermia, Lysander, and Helena, all embody the spirits of Renaissance Humanism. Take Hermia as the first example. Although being under the threat of her father that if she does not obey the command of marrying to Demetrius, she is to face the death penalty based on the law, she still insists on pursuing her love toward Lysander bravely, agreeing to elope with him. By saying “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind”2, Hermia undoubtedly shows the spirit of Humanism, being the one in charge of her own fate and following not the law but her heart. Lysander is the same in the situation. Although he knows that the road of pursuing happiness is tough, saying “The course of true love never did run smooth”3, still, he is determined to be together with his lover, offering the plan to run away from the restriction and start a new life. Besides the first couple, Helena is also one of the characters with strong feature of sticking to one’s own will. Despite all the humiliation her beloved one, Demetrius, gives her, she still hangs on following him. Even though her love toward Demetrius makes her blind and foolish, marking that she is willing to be like a dog loyally following...
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