Is Shakespearean love merely a kind of madness, or does it contain hints of guiding wisdom beyond the awareness of lovers themselves?A midsummer Night's Dream

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amymc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is an interesting question.

Shakespeare's works are focused on the human condition and the situations of people that he witnessed.  That is why they are considered to be timeless works. Therefore, to answer that question, we should ask whether love in general is madness or guided by a higher level of wisdom.

If the higher level of wisdom is fate, or some kind of divine intervention, then, yes, Shakespeare's conception of love is guided by this higher level.  References to Romeo and Juliet as star-crossed lovers or Hamlet and Ophelia as haples victims caught in the trap of their parents would lend themselves to this analysis.  Both pairs of lovers entered into a relationship of unequals - Romeo and Juliet from feuding families and Hamlet and Ophelia from different levels of social class. Thus, the tragedies do seem to place love into the realm of a higher power which can ultimately cause a tragic end that the lovers could not foresee.

However, if the comedies seem to suggest otherwise.  Midsummer Night's Dream and The Twelfth Night both unite pairs of lovers from what can only be called crazy, or mad, situations.  Mistaken identities and disguises abound, yet the lovers find one another and end up living happily.

Clearly this question may be simply ever-disputable, but within the tragic and comic structures, we can perhaps claim that the tragedies do seem to place more emphasis on the guiding of fate while the comedies play to the idea that love is mere madness.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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