What are examples of forced love in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream ?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We see several examples of forced love all throughout the play, especially because enchantment plays a major role in the play's plot. However, some characters are given the opportunity to reject the love that is being forced upon them, while others are not. A couple of such examples are listed below.

Hermia is one example of a character who is given the opportunity to reject the love that is being forced upon her. Her father, Egeus, is commanding her to marry Demetrius even though she is in love with Lysander. Egeus is even petitioning Duke Theseus to have her punished, either by execution or by sending her to a convent, if she continues to refuse to marry Demetrius. However, despite the threat of punishment, Hermia continues to refuse the love being forced upon her and agrees to run away with Lysander to his aunt's home outside of Athens.

Another example of forced love can be seen in Oberon's enchantment of Demetrius. Oberon witnesses Demetrius being hateful and cruel to Helena in the woods and tells Puck to use the magical flower on Demetrius's eyes, so that the first thing Demetrius sees when he awakes is Helena, which will mend her broken heart. Since Demetrius's love for Helena at the end of the play is due to enchantment, we can say that his love for her was forced upon him, however, only to a point. The reality is that Demetrius was in love with Helena, even engaged to her, before he began pursuing Hermia. Hence, Puck and Oberon merely help Demetrius return to his natural state. We see Demetrius declaring that he has returned to his natural, healthful state of fully loving Helena in his lines:

The object and the pleasure of mine eye,
Is only Helena. To her, my lord,
Was I betroth'd ere I saw Hermia.
But, like a sickness, did I loathe this food;
But, as in health, come to my natural taste,
Now I do wish it, love it, long for it. (IV.i.171-176)

Therefore, while we can still say that Demetrius's enchantment is an example of forced love, it is absolutely not false love. Demetrius rightly belongs with Helena.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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