Sight and JudgmentWhat is the relationship between sight and judgment in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A key quote made with respect to this theme is by Helena in Act I Scene 1: "Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind", therefore capturing a central theme within the play - the capacity of love to "transpose" things that are everyday, or even (as is the case with Bottom) ugly or hideous, into objects of love and desire. When referring to judgement there is a large discussion in the play about the relationship of dreams to reality. Theseus makes a famous speech in Act V Scene 1 where he expresses severe scepticism about the lovers' tales of what has happened in the woods. However, perhaps Bottom's final soliloquy in Act III Scene 1 represents a more middle ground between the lovers' half-remembered experiences and Theseus' critical scepticism: Bottom remembers his experience but at the same time reflects that it was so incredible that human senses are not able to report it accurately. He turns to art as a form that can express his experience.

Throughout this entire discussion in the play, however, there is a central irony in that Shakespeare himself is manipulating our imagination and our perceptions of dreams and reality by what we see in the play - thus we have Puck's "apology" at the end of the play, which really represents a smug playwrite's satisfaction at his ability to dupe his audience and blur the boundaries between dreams and reality in our enjoyment and appreciation of the play. 

amy-lepore eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What you see in this play isn't always what the reality is...remember that there is much "magic" and foul play.  Puck puts the flower juice on the human's eyes, Titania's eyes are anointed by Oberon.  While under the influence of the magic flower juice, the victim loves whomever he/she sees first.  Therefore, no judgement at all is used...they are under influence other than their own mental and emotional steam.  Hermia and Helena think they know which of the boys loves each of them, but at different times in the play, what they "see" doesn't mesh with what they "know." 

thedarklady | Student

The play illustrates the way in which people can view the same this but judge in quite differently. Egeus, for instance, views Lysander as a bad influence to Hermia; cunning ; diabolical person who has stolen his daughter's heart and defied his authority, whereas Hermia sees Lysander in a completely different light. Hermia says that " [she] would [her] father looked but with [her] eyes" and Theseus parallels it by replying "rather [her] eyes must be with [her father's] judgement looked". This two texual evidence is very crucial in Act 1 as they bring the idea of seeing and judging to the forefront of 'A midsummer Night's Dream". There are many other exanples you can think of. :)

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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