‘A opens with the court scene and
‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ is a comedy play written by William Shakespeare in the 16th Century. As well as exploring various themes throughout the play, it is inevitable that the theme of love (and the problems that come with it) is the dominant one.
In this play, all types of love are included: parental love, passionate love, forced love, friendly love, sisterly love, unrequited love, foolish love and argumentative love. These are conveyed by three very different worlds; the lovers, the mechanicals and the fairies. The play opens with the court scene and the dialogue between Theseus and Hippolyta. Theseus expresses how desperate he is to marry Hippolyta: ‘O, methinks, how slow…she lingers my desires.’ We are also told that Theseus: ‘wooed thee with his sword.
‘ The word ‘wooed’ suggests that Theseus truly loves Hippolyta. ‘And won thy love doing thee knee injuries,’ this shows the contrast in love between different age groups. Theseus ‘won’ Hippolyta’s love through battle and bloodshed whereas the young lovers have passionate, true feelings towards each other. ‘With pomp, with triumph and with revelling’ implies that Theseus is proud of himself for winning Hippolyta’s heart. This relationship is quite mysterious because we do not know if Theseus and Hippolyta are marrying because they love each other or because Theseus won a battle.
However, the maturity of the characters (contrasting to the irresponsible nature of the young lovers) shows that this is an example of mature love. Their maturity is also reflected in their speech- their words are more controlled and thoughtful, compared to the rash words used by the lovers.Another character, Egeus (Hermia’s father), is introduced.
He appears to be a very strict, stubborn, demanding Athenian father. His character represents that the father’s way is the only way. Egeus wants Hermia to marry Demetrius but Hermia loves another man, Lysander. Her father seems quite possessive over his daughter as he refers to her as: ‘my child,’ ‘my daughter’ and ‘she is mine.’ Male dominance is hinted when Egeus states, ‘as she is mine, I may dispose of her.’ The word ‘dispose’ is normally used when referring to commodities, not humans.
Shakespeare has not made it obvious whether Egeus is merely being responsible or totally unreasonable, which means that this character is based on the audience’s perspective. Throughout the play, it is not stated that Hermia has a mother, so the reader can infer that Hermia only has a father. If she does not have a mother, it could explain why Egeus is so concerned about his daughter.
Maybe her mother may have passed away, so Egeus is rather protective of his only child and wants her to have the best future possible. Therefore, this is an example of parental love. ‘The course of true love never did run smooth.’ This is a meaningful quote delivered by Lysander.
True love is perceived as strong and able to endure any hardships, however, the harsh Athenian law and Egeus are presented as obstacles to their relationship. Lysander explains how fleeting love can be. He describes it as being: ‘swift as a shadow and short as any dream.
‘ This quote captures the fragility of love. Due to their deep desire and passion to marry each other, they decide to elope. This proves how naïve and illogical Lysander and Hermia are. However, their decision to tell their plan to Helena was a foolish idea, considering that she was overcome with jealousy. This also implies how much Hermia trusts Helena, not only as a friend, but as a sister. Helena seems envious of her friend for winning Demetrius’ love. She feels inferior to Hermia and is desperate to know her ‘secret.
‘ Hermia, however, feels that her beauty is her fault but Helena wishes that Hermia’s fault was hers. She praises Hermia’s looks and asks her to teach her to be like her: ‘O teach me how you look, and with what art you sway the motion of Demetrius’ heart.’ This shows how much Helena wants Demetrius. ‘The more I love, the more he hateth me,’ is an example of unrequited love. So far we have seen true love and passion, but now we are shown the crueller, unjust nature of love. Demetrius deliberately ignores Helena without knowing the burning, deep passion she has for him. Despite of Hermia not doing anything wrong, Helena feels strong emotions of envy and anger towards her friend.
‘Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet.’ This is an example of sisterly love. However, Helena is ready to give up this friendship for a short affair with Demetrius, which shows how love can be like a trance that can make people forget their surroundings and go mad for love. Hermia told Helena of their plain to run away, thinking that she would be happy. Helena’s speech has some meaningful quotes on love.
‘Love looks not with the eyes, but the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid is painted blind.’ This means that love is not only based on appearance, but also, someone’s mind. She also states that ‘love is said to be a child because in choice he is so beguiled.’In act one, scene two, we are introduced to the mechanicals, a quirky group of friends. They may seem as just a break for the audience, after all the serious problems between the lovers, to lighten the atmosphere. However, they play a crucial part in Shakespeare’s exploration of love. The bond between them is an example of friendly love.
The play ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ also has a relevance to the play as a whole. This short play may seem as to foreshadow what may happen to the lovers. It explores many of the themes covered in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ including: love; dreams, hopes and plans and mistaken identity.
It also shows Pyramus and Thisbe running away against their parents’ will, similar to Hermia and Lysander. This play may show what would have happened to the couple if it was not for that night in the woods. The story of Pyramus and Thisbe is very similar to ‘Romeo and Juliet,’ another Shakespeare play.In act two, scene one, we are introduced to the fairies. It is a free, jolly world, contrasting to the serious world of the court characters who are controlled by law and logic. The two main characters are Oberon and Titania, the argumentative rulers of the fairy world.
In this scene, they quarrel over an Indian boy. Titania displays parental love to him saying that she will ‘not part with the boy.’ This argument is also rather ironic because we would normally expect a king and queen to be mature and sophisticated and not to squabble over something as simple as a changeling boy. But Titania perceives this in a much deeper way, thinking that she is fighting to keep up to her promises. Helena’s conversation with Demetrius proves how much love can affect one’s self-respect. She says that she is ready to be Demetrius’ spaniel, just so that she can be in his presence. The audience feels sympathy for Helena because the man she truly loves despises her and does not understand her sincere feelings.
Helena ends with a powerful statement: ‘I’ll follow thee and make a heaven of hell to die upon the hand I love so well,’ meaning that she would die for Demetrius, in spite of knowing that he would never do the same. Upon hearing this argument Oberon orders Puck to sprinkle love juice in their eyes. However, this goes terribly wrong when Puck accidentally pours the juice in Lysander’s eyes as well. So when Lysander awakes to see Helena he immediately falls in love with her and so does Demetrius.
Helena thinks they are merely mocking her and feels insulted. Lysander states: ‘content with Hermia? No, I do repent.’ This shows how fickle love can be, one moment you can love someone, the next, you can love another. Hermia, on the other hand, wakes to find that Lysander is gone: ‘either death or you I’ll find immediately.’In act 3, scene one, Titania awakes to see Bottom (wearing an ass’ head) and falls in love with him.
She praises his ‘angelic’ singing ‘mine ear is much enamoured of thy note.’ Bottom is baffled because this regal, beautiful woman says she loves him. He also makes a thoughtful comment about love: ‘reason and love keep little company these days,’ this contrasts to how Bottom would normally react to a situation.
This relationship may seem rather comedic but it actually mocks love.