In A Midsummer Night's Dream, does Shakespeare present love as being a positive or negative force?

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durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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Although love is not the main theme in A Midsummer Night's Dream, it is obvioulsy a topic that causes and creates tension, family discord, strained friendships and confusion. Ultimately, this is a story of happiness, agreement and contentment and love is triumphant as the marriages take place at the end according to what the characters desired.

Some critics, notably Jan Kott,focus on the more sinister - as he sees it- side to love and the debasement of feelings and basic instincts.

undercurrents of this seemingly charming and gentle love story. 

Kott dismisses the romantic view of Shakespeare's work but his criticism is not universal and most view the lyrical side, the confusion between the 'real' and the 'fairy' world and the fantasy that takes place in the woods as a typical versionof life andhow people deal with it.

Thus a traditional reading of the play tends to emphasize the joyful outcome, regarding the supernatural elements as the natural background for a story which celebrates life.

Theseus and Hippolyta remain constant throughout and

arguably represent(s) stability, consistency, in direct contrast to the somewhat capricious relationships of the young lovers.

Love can therefore constant and enduring even whilst others are more impulsive and unpredictable.

 Even the somewhat fickle nature of love characterised by Helena and Demetrius and to a lesser extent hermia and Lysander,after their escapades inthe woods,are considered admirable by Hippolyta, as she sees their relationships as something :

 of great constancy; 

But howsoever, strange and admirable

Therefore, Shakespeare does show love as a positive force but not one without its share of drama. He definitely shows that love does require effort and , although erratic it does have an enduring quality.