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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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What does Shakespeare convey about love in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

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Shakespeare's plays feature a wide variety of romantic relationships, as well as a parody of the form in his comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream. We see love uniting couples, such as Romeo and Juliet, Demetrius and Hermia, and Helena and Lysander. We see it breaking them up, such as Petruchio and Katharina in The Taming of the Shrew. And we see it changing hearts at first sight, such as between Oberon and Titania in A Midsummer Night's Dream. The major theme of Shakespeare'

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Shakespeare illustrates in A Midsummer's Night Dream that love is a form of lunacy or insanity. It defies all logic. It can be cruel and can invite abuse. It can change quickly. It quarrels. Yet in the end, it makes the world a joyful place.

Titania's love for Bottom is an example of seemingly crazy love. Titania falls in love with him under the influence of a love potion meant to make her look foolish, but love potion or no, the love she feels for a seemingly unlovable person happens often enough in real life that it seems relatable. Bottom is not of this ruler's social class and has even had his head turned into an ass's head, but Titania nevertheless dotes on him.

Hermia's love defies the logic of Athens, which says she must dutifully fall in love with the acceptable man, Demetrius, who her father has chosen for her. Nevertheless, Hermia persists in loving Lysander.

Helena is so in love with Demetrius she says she is willing to put up with abuse from him just to be near him. Her fawning and chasing invites him to be mean to her to try to get her to go away. Here we see the dark side of love.

Again, love potions are the culprit, but as happens in real life, Demetrius's and Lysander's hearts quickly change to fall in love with Helena and abandon Hermia.

Shakespeare shows love in its many varieties, then ends his play with the joyful wedding celebrations as the lovers pair up. We see that love, crazy and foolish as it is, can make the world a happy place.

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Shakespeare tells us many things about love in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Among those many things is the idea that love is actually a foolish emotion. However, regardless of the foolishness of love, since he gives the play a happy ending, he also depicts love as beneficial rather than harmful.

The foolishness of love is portrayed in several places. It is especially portrayed in the very first scene in which we learn that Demetrius really does not have a known, rational reason for suddenly preferring Hermia over Helena when he was engaged to Helena before he saw Hermia. As Helena points out herself, she is recognized all over Athens as being just as fair is Hermia. Helena further points out that love is really a figment of the imagination, rather than any concrete, rational reality, as we see in her lines:

Things base and vile, holding 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. (I.i.237-240)

In saying that "[l]ove looks not with the eyes, but with the mind," she is saying that love is not based on any objective reality, such as beauty; rather, love is guided by the "mind," or the imagination.

A second place in which the foolishness of love is portrayed is in Act 3, Scene 2, after both men have been enchanted to be in love with Helena rather than Hermia. Puck's mix-up has caused a great deal of strife among all four lovers, leading to accusations and insults. Helena especially accuses both men and her best friend of joining forces to mock her. Puck rightly sees the four lovers' behavior as foolish, especially Helena's. Helena should be rejoicing because she is now loved by two when before she was loved by none. Likewise, both men should have enough sense to know that it is useless to fight over one woman. Puck rightly characterizes the foolishness of the Athenians' behavior and the foolishness of love in his lines, "Shall we their fond pageant see? / Lord, what fools these mortals be!" (III.ii.115-116).

However, while Shakespeare depicts mortals as foolish and love as a foolish emotion, he pairs all the lovers in happy unity, creating an emotionally satisfying ending. Therefore, while Shakespeare seems to be saying that love is foolish, he also says that it can be as equally satisfying as it can be foolish.

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In Act Four of A Midsummer Night's Dream, when several characters look back at at prior infatuations with disbelief, what is Shakespeare saying about love and infatuation?

Shakespeare is telling us that infatuation is not the same thing as love, and it is more like a trick such as the flower potion.

Oberon wanted to get back at Titania by making her fall in love with a beast.  Puck put a donkey’s head on Bottom, and it was the first thing the anointed Titania saw when she woke up, so she fell in love with Bottom.  When she wakes up, she cannot believe her eyes.

How came these things to pass?

O, how mine eyes do loathe his visage now! (Act 4, Scene 1)

She cannot believe her eyes, when not long before she was deeply infatuated with the ass-headed bottom.  Like the flower potion, infatuation makes us see things that are soon forgotten.

Likewise, Demetrius wakes up and realizes that he does not love Hermia.  He loves Helena, and professes as much to Egeus and Theseus.

But by some power it is,—my love to Hermia,

Melted as the snow, seems to me now

As the remembrance of an idle gaud

Which in my childhood I did dote upon; (Act 4, Scene 1)

So now Lysander and Hermia are together, and Demetrius and Helena are together, and they all have the Duke’s permission to marry.  He likewise is confused, but just laughs it away as the folly of young people.

None of these attractions were real attractions.  They were temporary, and wore off when they were reversed.  When the lovers awoke, they all realized who they should be with.

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What do you think Shakespeare is saying about love and infatuation in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

These things seem small and undistinguishable,
Like far-off mountains turned into clouds.

Methinks I see these things with parted eye,
When every thing seems double.

So methinks;
And I have found Demetrius like a jewel,
Mine own, and not mine own.

Are you sure
That we are awake? It seems to me
That yet we sleep, we dream. Do not you think
The Duke was here, and bid us follow him?

The lovers, left alone, standing there in the morning light, start to consider what has happened to them. There have, of course, been some weird changes. Hermia and Lysander went into the forest in love: and then Lysander fell in love with Helena. He's now back in love with Hermia. Demetrius went into the forest hating Helena, and has come out in love with her. He now doesn't love Hermia anymore.

Everything has changed.

And that's what they say, in short. Demetrius can't tell whether everything is real or not: like a far off mountain that touches the sky, he can't tell whether it's actually a physically-real mountain, or a wispy, unreal cloud.

Hermia thinks that everything seems doubled. Helena muses that she has found Demetrius, but not found him. She's not sure whether his feelings are real (and she might well, as he's still under the potion of the flower).

What is Shakespeare saying about love and infatuation? That in a way, it's like a dream; vivid and real and scary while it lasts, but then quickly over and gone. And when it has gone, you can't believe how you used to feel - you look back in absolute disbelief.

Hope it helps!

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How does Shakespeare portray love in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

As the other answer to this question discusses the play's examination of the complicated but empowering nature of love in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, I'd like to take a different approach (the other answer is entirely correct, of course; I just want to avoid repeating the same information). For my pat, I believe that the fantastical, magical, and bucolic backdrop of the play suggests that human love is in tune with the mysterious and magical qualities of the natural world.

Most of the play's main action takes place in the woods outside Athens, an ethereal realm haunted by fairies. Following the tangled relationships of the four main characters, we're introduced to the whimsical and magical world of Robin "Puck" Goodfellow, King Oberon, and Queen Titania, a fantastical place of love potions, fairies, spells, and dreams. Set against this backdrop, the relationships in the play take on a magical, dreamlike quality, and that fits perfectly with the setting. By setting his tale of love in such a magical place, Shakespeare suggests that the emotion of love is itself akin to the dreamlike beauty of the natural world, and so, just as we cannot fully understand the fairy world, love remains mysterious and fantastical. This quality is one of the aspects of the play that makes its depiction of love so enchanting.   

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How does Shakespeare portray love in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

As Lysander says, "The course of true love never did run smooth."  Love in A Midsummer Night's Dream is portrayed as complicated and difficult, yet Shakespeare does it in a way that is humorous and lighthearted.  In this play love often brings out the worst in people, yet in the end it's what brings everyone back together.  Love has the ability to spellbind people as Shakespeare represents symbolically through Puck's actions, and we see how intensely complicated it can be when it nearly tears apart Hermia's family and causes argument between the four main human characters.  Love permeates all aspects of life in this play and we see the awesome power it has over human emotion, psychology, and behavior.  Of course, no matter what happens, love prevails in the end validating Lysander's quotation at the beginning of the play.

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How does Shakespeare portray love in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream deals a lot with people falling in and out of love with each other. Some are manipulated by love potion, but others make a conscious choice about whom to love. For example, Helena learns a lot about love when she is duped by Demetrius. He chooses to fall in love with Helena by showering her with gifts and vows of love, but when he sees an opportunity to marry Hermia, he quickly drops her. Is love so easily tossed aside? Helena proclaims the following about love as follows:

"And therefore is Love said to be a child,

Because in choice he is so oft beguil'd.

As waggish boys in game themselves forswear,

So the boy Love is perjur'd everywhere" (I.i.242-245).

From this passage, it's as though love is a child who makes his choice to love someone based on lies. Men, therefore, are boys who play with love like it is a game, but in the process, they become liars. Through Helena, then, Shakespeare suggests that love is a choice, fickle, and easily manipulated to pursue one's own purposes.

Another example of love being manipulated in order for someone to get gain is when Oberon and Puck make Titania fall in love with a donkey. Actually, they turn Nick Bottom's head into that of a donkey's and drug Titania with a love potion to distract her so Oberon can take the Indian boy. It's interesting what Bottom says after Titania professes her love for him in the following passage: 

"And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays" (III.i.124-125).

Through Bottom's line, there seems to be wisdom in acknowledging that people who are in love do not seem to use reason when making choices about love. Again, back to Helena, she would rather be treated like a dog by Demetrius rather than be ignored. Her reasoning is muddy because she sacrifices too much for her love only to receive nothing in return. To help Helena, Oberon decides to place the love potion on Demetrius's eyes to change his mind from loving Hermia back to loving Helena. It is possible, therefore, that Shakespeare is saying that love is a choice that can be easily manipulated with just a little persuasion. And if love is easily manipulated, then it is also fickle and fragile.

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In A Midsummer Night's Dream, what is Shakespeare suggesting about the nature and effects of love by the end of the play?

This is a huge question, one that underlies how we interpret this play. In the end, everything comes out all right, the correct lovers are reunited, and we enjoy a festive wedding celebration. If "the course of true love never did run smooth," love, in its many varieties, seems to triumph all the way around. 

Yet the body of the play presents more complexity, for it exposes love's cruelties: Hermia and Helena, though old friends, end up fighting bitterly when both Demetrius and Lysander begin to pursue Helena under the influence of the love potion, and Lysander and Demetrius almost come to blows that could have been fatal did not the magical forces of the forest set everything to right. Helena feels cruelly ridiculed, thinking both men are making fun of her. Titania falls in love with an ass. Hermia runs away from Athens because she faces an arranged marriage she doesn't want. The path of love, Shakespeare implies, is fraught with threats and perils. 

In the end, Puck gives a speech in which he says that if the play doesn't please you, assume it was all just a dream. This points to the idea that love itself, in all its permutations, is just an illusion, a dream we wake up from into reality. That may well be Shakespeare's final point. 


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