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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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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...

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 from A Midsummer Night's Dream means that love does not look with reason (with the "eyes") but with the imagination ("the mind"). What do you mean by "does not look with reason" and looks by imagination?

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These lines are spoken by Helena at the end of the first scene of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

At the beginning of the play, Helena is in love with Demetrius—who once wooed her—but he is now in love with Hermia. Hermia is in love with Lysander, but Theseus (Duke of Athens) agrees with Hermia's father, Egeus, that Hermia should be married to Demetrius, the man Egeus has chosen for her.

Hermia protests to the Duke that her father should not consider her feelings in the matter or her feelings for Lysander:

HERMIA: I would my father look'd but with my eyes. (1.1.58)

The Duke responds that no matter what Hermia's feelings toward Lysander are, she should respect her father's wishes and marry Demetrius:

THESEUS: Rather your eyes must with his judgment look. (1.1.58–59)

This exchange of lines sets up a motif that Shakespeare explores throughout the play to reinforce the theme that "love is blind." When a person is in love, that person becomes irrational and unreasonable, and they see what they want to see, either in another person or in a particular situation.

Talking with Lysander later in the scene, Hermia rebels against the idea that she must conform to her father's wishes and reinforces this motif:

HERMIA: O hell! to choose love by another's eyes. (1.1.142)

Lysander and Hermia confide to Helena that they have decided to run off together to Lysander's aunt's house, which is beyond the Duke's' authority. Helena decides to use this information to show Demetrius that Hermia doesn't love him—that he can never marry her—and to win Demetrius back for herself.

Helena is left alone at the end of the scene, and in her monologue, she confesses that she's envious of Lysander and Hermia, jealous of Demetrius's love for Hermia (what does he see in Hermia that he doesn't see in her?), and feels that Demetrius made a mistake in preferring Hermia to her—but that she loves him anyway and wants him back.

She muses about the nature of love, and the effect that love can have on people in general, and on her in particular:

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind.Nor hath Love's mind of any judgment taste;Wings and no eyes, figure unheedy haste. (1.1.239–242)

With this language, Helena explains that, when people fall in love—which they sometimes do at first sight (with "unheedy haste")—it affects their reasoning ability and their judgment. Love blinds them to everything except what they want to see in the other person, and their imagination runs away with them.

Later in the play, Shakespeare illustrates this "love is blind" theme very clearly. Titania has fallen hopelessly in love with Bottom. Bottom, who is not blinded by love and can see the situation as it is, wonders why Titania has fallen in love with him:

TITANIA: I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again.Mine ear is much enamored of thy note; So is...

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mine eye enthralled to thy shape;And thy fair virtue's force perforce doth move me,On the first view to say, to swear, I love thee.

BOTTOM: Methinks, mistress, you should have little reasonfor that. And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keeplittle company together now-a-days. (3.1.129–136)

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What this quote from A Midsummer's Night Dream means is that when a person falls in love, they will see the beloved as beautiful whether or not that person is beautiful to the rest of the world. If one's "eyes" are objective organs that take in light and therefore know what things look like, then they should be able to see things as the rest of the world sees them. Thus, if the rest of the world sees a hideous person with an ass's head, a person's "eyes" should be objectively capable of easily seeing that the person in question is a hideous creature. That would be reasonable or show the person was judging using their reason or logic. However, people in love do not behave reasonably or perceive the beloved with objective eyes. Instead, when we say they LOOK at the beloved with their imagination, we mean the lover has created an idea in his or her mind of what the person they love looks like that may bear no relationship to reality. To the lover, the beloved is always beautiful. So they are seeing not with their eyes--which would show them that perhaps the person is ugly--but subjectively, with a picture their imagination has provided. The perfect example of this is Titania. When under the spell of the love potion, in other words, when in love with Bottom, her imagination shows him to be beautiful even though in reality he looks like an ass. In short, Shakespeare communicates that love is not objective or rational but a form of lunacy.

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What does "Love looks not with thy eyes, but with thy mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind" mean in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

Helena says that love can trick you into seeing beauty where it does not exist.

Helena is upset about the circumstances surrounding her relationship with Demetrius, and the fact that Hermia’s father Egeus wants her to marry him.  Hermia is not interested in Demetrius.  When her father doesn’t relent and Thesues tells her that she has to listen to him, Hermia decides to run away with Lysander.

Hermia makes the mistake of telling Helena about her plans.  They have been friends for a long time, and she thinks she can trust her because she really has no plans for Demetrius.  Helena doesn’t believe her.  In a soliloquy, she says that things would be much easier if she wasn’t in love, because love messes with our heads.

Things base and vile, folding no quantity,Love can transpose to form and dignity:Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind:Nor hath Love's mind of any judgement 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. (Act 1, Scene 1)

Cupid supposedly brings love to unsuspecting people by shooting his arrow.  When Helena says that Cupid is blind, it is because our judgement is altered when we are in love.  Love turns everything around and inside out, so we see things that aren’t there or things seem better than they are.  She says that when you are in love, you are easily tricked or fooled, because love makes you childlike.

The concept of loving someone who may not love you back is one continued throughout the play.  When the four lovers go into the forest, they enter the world of the fairies.  They get manipulated by Puck, who has a potion that makes you fall in love with the first person you see when you wake up.  Eventually, the rightful pairs end up together.

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