Why is the quote "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind" so important? This quote is found in Act 1, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's A Midsummer...

Why is the quote "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind" so important?

This quote is found in Act 1, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Expert Answers
sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare writes about love a lot.  This quote is about that theme, but what I like about this quote is that it doesn't support the "love at first sight" notion.  In fact, the heroic couplet takes sight completely out of the love equation.  Shakespeare is telling his audience, through Helena, that love is a matter of the heart.  It is more dependent on an emotional bond rather than a physical attraction.  The idea is nothing new to Shakespeare.  He writes about the same thing in a couple of his sonnets.  Sonnet 130 explains how his mistress is definitely not attractive, but he still loves her deeply.  

And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare

As any she belied with false compare.

Sonnet 141 is along the same lines; however, it specifically mentions the eyes just like Helena does in the play. 

In faith, I do not love thee with mine eyes,
For they in thee a thousand errors note; 
But 'tis my heart that loves what they despise,
Who in despite of view is pleased to dote....

As a general rule of love, I feel that the quote is teaching an important lesson.  In terms of the play, the line foreshadows events to come.  Most notably, the line foreshadows Titania falling in love with Bottom despite the fact that he has a donkey's head.  

Another example of how this quote shows true love being blind can be found through the character of Demetrius. When the play begins, he's in love with Hermia, and Helena indicates that the main reason is because Hermia is prettier.  By the end of the play, Demetrius has found his true love in Helena.  He was looking for love with his eyes; however, he wasn't finding true love.  As soon as he stopped relying on his eyes, he was able to discover the love that he and Helena share.  

mrsbundy eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This quote is important for a couple of reasons.  First, it is an example of a heroic (or rhyming) couplet--two lines of poetry that have end rhyme. 

As for the meaning, the quote is important because it represents one of Shakespeare's many ideas about love, and Shakespeare is often considered to be an expert at getting to the heart of human emotions.  This quote is basically the adage, "Love is blind."  What he means is that if you love someone, you generally love them not for what they look like, but for who they are inside.  Out of context, the quote is quite romantic.  In the context of the play however, the quote is quite ironic; later Titania will fall in love with Bottom after he's been given a donkey head.  Bottom's character is not admirable, so there is really no reason--heart or mind--for her to love him, and that's where irony enters the situation.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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