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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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The meaning and significance of the quote "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind" in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Summary:

The quote "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind" from A Midsummer Night's Dream signifies that true love transcends physical appearances and is rooted in emotional and intellectual connection. It highlights the idea that love is subjective and influenced by one's perceptions and thoughts rather than merely external beauty.

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Why is the quote "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, / and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind" from A Midsummer Night's Dream important?

"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, / and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind" (Act 1, Scene 1).

This quotation from act 1, scene 1 of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream ironically sets the tone for the entire play. It is spoken by Helena, who is in love with Demetrius (although Demetrius is in love with Hermia). Helena means that true love doesn't care all that much about what the beloved looks like. This is why Cupid, the god of love, is portrayed as blind. Lovers decide whom to love based on all the qualities of the beloved and not on appearance alone.

Of course, in this play, the exact opposite is true, and that's what makes this quotation both ironic and hilarious. When fairy king Oberon wants to play a trick on his wife, Titania, he sends his servant Puck to find a magical flower. If anyone spreads the juice from this flower on the eyelids of a sleeping person, he or she will fall madly in love with the first person he or she sees upon awakening.

Oberon notices how badly Demetrius treats Helena and how much Helena loves Demetrius, so he decides to help the young lady out. He tells Puck to put some of the flower's juice on the eyelids of a young Athenian man so that he will fall in love with the young woman with him. Puck, however, gets mixed up and puts the love potion on Lysander's eyelids instead. Lysander sees Helena upon awakening and falls in love with her, leaving his true beloved (and fiancée) Hermia confused and upset when he goes off to chase Helena. Puck then tries to fix his mistake and puts some of the potion on Demetrius' eyelids as well, making Demetrius also fall in love with Helena.

Thus in this play, love is far from blind. It appears as the direct result of seeing another person (at least if the seer has love potion on his eyelids). What's more, love has nothing at all to do with the mind, but rather with Puck's magical flower and clumsy ways. Helena's words about love not looking with the eyes but with the mind turn out to be hilariously ironic indeed. In the end, though, Puck finally sorts everything out, and both couples, Demetrius and Helena and Lysander and Hermia, marry and presumably live happily ever after.

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Why is the quote "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, / and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind" from A Midsummer Night's Dream important?

"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, / and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind" (Act 1, Scene 1).

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.  

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Why is the quote "Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, / and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind" from A Midsummer Night's Dream important?

"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, / and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind" (Act 1, Scene 1).

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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What does "love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind" mean in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

The context of this passage is Helena's recognition that love is irrational, including Demetrius's sudden rejection of her in favor of Hermia. Helena, who has determined she will try to regain Demetrius's heart, states:

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 winged Cupid painted blind.
Nor hath Love’s mind of any judgment taste—
Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste.
And therefore is Love said to be a child,
Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.
The idea that love is irrational--that it "looks not with the eyes but with the mind"--underscores the play's theme that to be in love is to be in a state similar to a dream, where normalcy is displaced by the fanciful and the bizarre, that love, in fact, may be a form of madness. When a love potion causes Titania, queen of the fairies, to fall in love with Bottom, a lower-class man who, under a spell, has an ass's head, Shakespeare comically illustrates that love is blind. There's a similar comical irrationality to Demetrius and Lysander suddenly fighting over Helena when both had moments before been in love with Hermia. While these particular love contretemps take place in a fairy forest, love in daytime Athens is depicted as equally irrational: why does Theseus fall in love with Hippolyta or Hermia with Lysander? We must simply accept that it happens. 
In A Theater of Envy, Rene Girard devotes multiple chapters to the idea that this play illustrates a basic tenet of his thought: that people fall in love not as an originative act but because someone else loves the beloved. This supports the idea that love is tainted with the emotional and irrational, based on envy rather the merits of the love object. 
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What does "love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind" mean in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

This is actually a crucial quote for the entire play, as Helena here in Act I scene 1 explains the complete irrational nature of love that had already been displayed by the central lovers and will continue to be displayed by the lovers themselves in the woods. The entire quote runs as follows:

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,

And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.

Nor hath Love's mind of any judgement taste;

Wings, and no eyes, figure unheedy haste.

This quote means that love does not look with reason (with the "eyes") but with the imagination ("the mind"). This is why Cupid, the god of love, is painted blind, because he does not use reason. Aslo, love is not affected or impacted by any kind of judgement or reason, as the wings of Cupid and his blindness indicate that love is incredibly hasty in terms of its impact on us and our actions.

We need look no further than just a few scenes away, when Puck administers the magic lotion and puts the lovers into a riot as first Lysander starts to love Helena and then Demetrius loves her too. Likewise, when Titania falls in love with Bottom we see little reason or judgement. The whole play explores how love overpowers our judgement and reason and makes us do stupid things when we are dominated by it.

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What does it mean in A Midsummer Night's Dream that love "does not look with reason" but with imagination?

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
Nor hath Love's mind of any judgement taste;
Wings, and no eyes, figure unheedy haste.

These lines are spoken by Helena at the end of the first scene of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

At the beginning of the play, Helena is in love with Demetrius—who once wooed her—but he is now in love with Hermia. Hermia is in love with Lysander, but Theseus (Duke of Athens) agrees with Hermia's father, Egeus, that Hermia should be married to Demetrius, the man Egeus has chosen for her.

Hermia protests to the Duke that her father should not consider her feelings in the matter or her feelings for Lysander:

HERMIA: I would my father look'd but with my eyes. (1.1.58)

The Duke responds that no matter what Hermia's feelings toward Lysander are, she should respect her father's wishes and marry Demetrius:

THESEUS: Rather your eyes must with his judgment look. (1.1.58–59)

This exchange of lines sets up a motif that Shakespeare explores throughout the play to reinforce the theme that "love is blind." When a person is in love, that person becomes irrational and unreasonable, and they see what they want to see, either in another person or in a particular situation.

Talking with Lysander later in the scene, Hermia rebels against the idea that she must conform to her father's wishes and reinforces this motif:

HERMIA: O hell! to choose love by another's eyes. (1.1.142)

Lysander and Hermia confide to Helena that they have decided to run off together to Lysander's aunt's house, which is beyond the Duke's' authority. Helena decides to use this information to show Demetrius that Hermia doesn't love him—that he can never marry her—and to win Demetrius back for herself.

Helena is left alone at the end of the scene, and in her monologue, she confesses that she's envious of Lysander and Hermia, jealous of Demetrius's love for Hermia (what does he see in Hermia that he doesn't see in her?), and feels that Demetrius made a mistake in preferring Hermia to her—but that she loves him anyway and wants him back.

She muses about the nature of love, and the effect that love can have on people in general, and on her in particular:

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind.
Nor hath Love's mind of any judgment taste;
Wings and no eyes, figure unheedy haste. (1.1.239–242)

With this language, Helena explains that, when people fall in love—which they sometimes do at first sight (with "unheedy haste")—it affects their reasoning ability and their judgment. Love blinds them to everything except what they want to see in the other person, and their imagination runs away with them.

Later in the play, Shakespeare illustrates this "love is blind" theme very clearly. Titania has fallen hopelessly in love with Bottom. Bottom, who is not blinded by love and can see the situation as it is, wonders why Titania has fallen in love with him:

TITANIA: I pray thee, gentle mortal, sing again.
Mine ear is much enamored of thy note;
So is mine eye enthralled to thy shape;
And thy fair virtue's force perforce doth move me,
On the first view to say, to swear, I love thee.

BOTTOM: Methinks, mistress, you should have little reason
for that. And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep
little company together now-a-days. (3.1.129–136)

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What does it mean in A Midsummer Night's Dream that love "does not look with reason" but with imagination?

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
Nor hath Love's mind of any judgement taste;
Wings, and no eyes, figure unheedy haste.

What this quote from A Midsummer's Night Dream means is that when a person falls in love, they will see the beloved as beautiful whether or not that person is beautiful to the rest of the world. If one's "eyes" are objective organs that take in light and therefore know what things look like, then they should be able to see things as the rest of the world sees them. Thus, if the rest of the world sees a hideous person with an ass's head, a person's "eyes" should be objectively capable of easily seeing that the person in question is a hideous creature. That would be reasonable or show the person was judging using their reason or logic. However, people in love do not behave reasonably or perceive the beloved with objective eyes. Instead, when we say they LOOK at the beloved with their imagination, we mean the lover has created an idea in his or her mind of what the person they love looks like that may bear no relationship to reality. To the lover, the beloved is always beautiful. So they are seeing not with their eyes--which would show them that perhaps the person is ugly--but subjectively, with a picture their imagination has provided. The perfect example of this is Titania. When under the spell of the love potion, in other words, when in love with Bottom, her imagination shows him to be beautiful even though in reality he looks like an ass. In short, Shakespeare communicates that love is not objective or rational but a form of lunacy.

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What does it mean in A Midsummer Night's Dream that love "does not look with reason" but with imagination?

Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
Nor hath Love's mind of any judgement taste;
Wings, and no eyes, figure unheedy haste.

Helena says that love can trick you into seeing beauty where it does not exist.

Helena is upset about the circumstances surrounding her relationship with Demetrius, and the fact that Hermia’s father Egeus wants her to marry him.  Hermia is not interested in Demetrius.  When her father doesn’t relent and Thesues tells her that she has to listen to him, Hermia decides to run away with Lysander.

Hermia makes the mistake of telling Helena about her plans.  They have been friends for a long time, and she thinks she can trust her because she really has no plans for Demetrius.  Helena doesn’t believe her.  In a soliloquy, she says that things would be much easier if she wasn’t in love, because love messes with our heads.

Things base and vile, folding 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:
Nor hath Love's mind of any judgement taste;
Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste:
And therefore is Love said to be a child,
Because in choice he is so oft beguiled. (Act 1, Scene 1)

Cupid supposedly brings love to unsuspecting people by shooting his arrow.  When Helena says that Cupid is blind, it is because our judgement is altered when we are in love.  Love turns everything around and inside out, so we see things that aren’t there or things seem better than they are.  She says that when you are in love, you are easily tricked or fooled, because love makes you childlike.

The concept of loving someone who may not love you back is one continued throughout the play.  When the four lovers go into the forest, they enter the world of the fairies.  They get manipulated by Puck, who has a potion that makes you fall in love with the first person you see when you wake up.  Eventually, the rightful pairs end up together.

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