In A Midsummer Night's Dream, comment on the similarities between the two sets of Athenian lovers.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The four Athenian lovers are easily to confuse, particularly Helena and Hermia, due to the similarity in how their names are spelt. It seems as if Shakespeare deliberately present them as characters who are not easily distinguished from each other. From their presentation at the very beginning of the play, they are all characters who are defined by their love for another, and therefore it could be argued that Shakespeare uses them as an example of the vagaries of love in the human body. Once in the forest after all, they all quickly shift in their feelings and emotions towards each other, with even Hermia showing her true colours when both Lysander and Demetrius turn away from her and fall in love with Helena. Note what Hermia says to her rival in love in Act III scene 2:

I am not yet so low

But that my nails can reach unto thine eyes!

Hermia here shows herself to be one of the more extreme and violent characters now that her position as being the object of both men's affection has shifted.

In short, the four Athenian lovers are meant by Shakespeare to be confused. They are not meant to be distinguished easily, because they are used in this comedy to represent the ease with which human love is changed and how fickle it actually is. The characters have few distinguishing features apart from their changing emotions as a result.

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