What does "love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind" mean and could you give me examples of that quote in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

This is actually a crucial quote for the entire play, as Helena here in Act I scene 1 explains the complete irrational nature of love that had already been displayed by the central lovers and will continue to be displayed by the lovers themselves in the woods. The entire quote runs as follows:

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,

And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.

Nor hath Love's mind of any judgement taste;

Wings, and no eyes, figure unheedy haste.

This quote means that love does not look with reason (with the "eyes") but with the imagination ("the mind"). This is why Cupid, the god of love, is painted blind, because he does not use reason. Aslo, love is not affected or impacted by any kind of judgement or reason, as the wings of Cupid and his blindness indicate that love is incredibly hasty in terms of its impact on us and our actions.

We need look no further than just a few scenes away, when Puck administers the magic lotion and puts the lovers into a riot as first Lysander starts to love Helena and then Demetrius loves her too. Likewise, when Titania falls in love with Bottom we see little reason or judgement. The whole play explores how love overpowers our judgement and reason and makes us do stupid things when we are dominated by it.

teachersage's profile pic

teachersage | (Level 2) Educator

Posted on

The context of this passage is Helena's recognition that love is irrational, including Demetrius's sudden rejection of her in favor of Hermia. Helena, who has determined she will try to regain Demetrius's heart, states:

Things base and vile, holding no quantity,
Love can transpose to form and dignity.
Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind.
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
Nor hath Love’s mind of any judgment taste—
Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste.
And therefore is Love said to be a child,
Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.
The idea that love is irrational--that it "looks not with the eyes but with the mind"--underscores the play's theme that to be in love is to be in a state similar to a dream, where normalcy is displaced by the fanciful and the bizarre, that love, in fact, may be a form of madness. When a love potion causes Titania, queen of the fairies, to fall in love with Bottom, a lower-class man who, under a spell, has an ass's head, Shakespeare comically illustrates that love is blind. There's a similar comical irrationality to Demetrius and Lysander suddenly fighting over Helena when both had moments before been in love with Hermia. While these particular love contretemps take place in a fairy forest, love in daytime Athens is depicted as equally irrational: why does Theseus fall in love with Hippolyta or Hermia with Lysander? We must simply accept that it happens. 
In A Theater of Envy, Rene Girard devotes multiple chapters to the idea that this play illustrates a basic tenet of his thought: that people fall in love not as an originative act but because someone else loves the beloved. This supports the idea that love is tainted with the emotional and irrational, based on envy rather the merits of the love object. 


jpjaypatel11's profile picture

jpjaypatel11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted on

really good answer

great work


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