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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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In A Midsummer Night's Dream, by the end of act 2, what is similar about the three major couples in the play?

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What is highly interesting and amusing about this Act is that it features the complete reversal in affections of all the people involved: at this stage, Titania is in love with Bottom (with an ass's head at this stage thanks to Puck), and both Lysander and Demetrius are in love with Helena, and Hermia is left alone with nobody to love her. The magic of the flower and Oberon's wishes have therefore completely transformed the situation - all of the couples are not "together" in that at least one of them loves someone else. Of course, this is a major complication in the play that gives rise to great hilarity and amusement on behalf of the audience, but we would be superficial readers and watchers if we were not aware of the fun that Shakespeare is actually poking at us through this. Especially with the Athenian lovers, we are shown that proclaimed steadfast love dissolves very rapidly, and ardent affections are just as soon bestowed on someone else's bosom. Shakespeare's point? Well, he seems to be making a comment about the strength of love as an emotion and how it impacts on us - making us the laughingstock of others, just as surely as we laugh at the Athenian lovers and their antics. Laugh with caution, Shakespeare seems to be saying, because tomorrow it may be you enraptured by love and exactly in the same situation.

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