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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare
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Analyze how Shakespeare presents love in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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LYSANDER. The course of true love never did run smooth... (A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1.1.136)

With this line, Shakespeare succinctly summarizes the course of true love for nearly all the lovers and would-be lovers in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The only lovers whose course of love runs...

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LYSANDER. The course of true love never did run smooth... (A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1.1.136)

With this line, Shakespeare succinctly summarizes the course of true love for nearly all the lovers and would-be lovers in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The only lovers whose course of love runs smoothly in A Midsummer Night's Dream are Theseus and Hippolyta. In the Greek myth of Theseus and Hippolyta, Theseus, the Duke of Athens, travels to the land of the Amazons and kidnaps their queen, Hippolyta, and takes her back to Athens to force her to marry him.

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Theseus makes only passing reference to how he "woo'd thee with my sword, / And won thy love doing thee injuries" (1.1.17-18), but all seems to be forgiven now, and Hippolyta is looking forward to the marriage.

HIPPOLYTA. Four days will quickly steep themselves in night;
Four nights will quickly dream away the time;
And then the moon, like to a silver bow
New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night
Of our solemnities. (1.1.7-11)

The course of their love might not have run all that smoothly up to that point, but nothing other than smooth running is represented in the play for Theseus and Hippolyta's love.

Hermia is in love with Lysander, but Hermia's father, Egeus, has other ideas and wants Hermia to marry Demetrius, who used to be in love with Helena, who's still in love with Demetrius; but Demetrius is now infatuated with Hermia, who has no interest whatsoever in marrying Demetrius, which is exactly what Hermia told her father.

Egeus appeals to Theseus to force Hermia to marry Demetrius. Theseus agrees with Egeus and decrees that Hermia (1) marry Demetrius, (2) be executed, or (3) spend the rest of her life in a convent—her choice.

Clearly, nothing is running smoothly for Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, or Helena, whose feelings in the matter nobody seems to care much about.

In the meantime, somewhere in the forest outside Athens, Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies, are claiming that the other is unfaithful. They're also having a custody squabble over an Indian prince. Titania wants the boy to stay with her and be her attendant, and Oberon wants the boy to come with him so he can make him a knight.

In time, and after with some merry mix-ups with love potions and a local weaver whose head is turned into the head of an ass, all the courses of true love are smoothed out.

Lysander's famous line about the course of love never running smooth applies equally well to any and all of Shakespeare's plays that involve a course of true love.

This applies to comedies, tragedies, and histories alike. Even Henry V and Richard III must overcome obstacles to their true loves or, in Richard's case, to what passes for true love for Anne (whom he likely poisoned after she married him), then for young Elizabeth, whom he hoped to marry to secure his claim to the throne, but who marries the future Henry VII instead. Then Richard was killed at Bosworth Field, which turned out to be a good thing for everybody involved with him.

Lysander's observation about the course of true love also raises questions about what Shakespeare's marriage to Anne Hathaway must have been like.

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