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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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What examples of committed love and artificial or temporary love do we see in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream?

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The best example of committed love that we see in the play is Theseus and Hippolyta's relationship. While the two characters express opposing points of view at times, they never quarrel and always remain a respectful, loving couple. One example of the two characters expressing a difference of opinion can be found in the final scene of the final act. When Hippolyta comments on the strangeness of the two Athenian couples' story about their night in the woods, Theseus responds by saying that they imagined the entire story. He even goes on further to say that only lovers, poets, and lunatics have such imaginative brains, as we see in his lines:

Lovers and madmen have such seething brains
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet,
Are of imagination all compact. (V.i.5, 8-9)

While Theseus is very quick to discount the couples' story and call them insane, Hippolyta, being more rational than Theseus, expresses her contrary opinion that the fact that the lovers are all telling the same story bears witness to the truth of the story, as we see in her lines:

But all the story of the night told over,
And all their minds transfigured so together,
More witnesseth than fancy's images. (25-26)

Even though Hipplotya has expressed her own mind, she and her husband do not get into a quarrel in this scene but instead welcome the lovers who appear next. Since Theseus and Hippolyta do not quarrel, it shows us that they are a strong and committed couple.

The rest of the couples in the play give us examples of couples who are in artificial or temporary relationships. One example can be seen with respect to Demetrius and Helena. Demetrius was actually engaged to Helena before he started pursuing Hermia, as Demetrius explains to Theseus when the young couples are discovered in the woods:

The object and the pleasure of mine eye,
Is only Helena. To her, my lord,
Was I betroth'd ere I saw Hermia. (IV.i.171-173)

Hence, we see that because Demetrius has a fickle nature and very little sense of the importance of promises and moral obligations, he dumped Helena for Hermia. Even though Demetrius falls back in love with Helena by the end of the play, he only does so due to magical persuasion. Hence, we see that because of his fickle nature, his relationship with Helena is an example of artificial love that can only last if influenced by fairy magic.

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