What are some love and madness' characteristics that Shakespeare explores and their impact on Helena and Demetrius?
Are these same characteristics seen in the other couples?
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A recurrent theme in “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” is love, and we may say that the magic potion used to anoint the eyes of the characters, may symbolize it. We see that Puck squeezing the love potion into the wrong characters provokes confusion or even madness. As a result, everything goes wrong. Lysander stops loving Hermia and becomes in love with Helena. Titania falls in love with Bottom, who has been transformed into an ass.
However, the characters in the play see love differently. For Lysander, “the course of true love never did run smooth” Act1.1 34, meaning that love is too complicated. In fact we easily understand this, as the woman he loves is forbidden to marry him. Similarly, Helena’s infatuation for Demetrius just causes unhappiness to her.
Conversely, if we look at the kingdom of the fairies Oberon, the king, and Titania, the queen, seem to be rather unfaithful, as it shows in the following lines:
“Then I must be thy lady; but I know
When thou hast stol’n away from fairy land
And in the shape of Corin sat all day,
Playing on pipes of corn, and versius love
To amorous Phillida.” Act 2.1 65-68
“How canst thou thus for shame, Titania,
Glance at my credit with Hippolyta,
Knowing I know thy love to Theseus?” Act 2.1 74-75
On the other hand, the artisans have a tragic vision of love, since they rehearse a play about unhappy and unfortunate love, which reminds us of Romeo and Juliet. As for Theseus, the Duke of Athens, love turns out to be a rational matter-he has battled the Amazons and captured their queen. Logically, she has to become his wife.
Hence, we may associate love with madness in that the transformations that induce the characters to love the wrong person, provoke disorder. In fact, the idea of this play reminds us of the so-called “Midsummer madness”, in which madness would invade earth during the longest day and the shortest night. On the other hand, we may consider that the wood in which the "Dream" and madness take place, functions as a world of folly, chaos and fantasy, which contrasts to the world of reason, law and hierarchy of the court.
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