In the romantic comedy A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare, one of the most reoccurring themes throughout the play is love. In the play, Shakespeare expresses the difficulty, and instability of love, whether it is passionate, sensible, or reasonable using a comical twist. Throughout the play, the theme of love is illustrated often and basically everything that is said and done is related to the concept of love. Although the ideal of true love seems to be held by most people, false love is revealed within the writings of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
A Midsummer Night's Dream, as Shakespeare intended, shows that the nature of love can be blindly followed which leads to actions that are regretted, or it preservers leading to the true love being searched. Underneath his frantic comedy, Shakespeare seems to be asking questions to his audiences who at one time or another in the midst of their own confusion concerning love have asked themselves: What is true love? How do we know when love is real? How can we trust ourselves to know love is real when we are so easily swayed by passion and impulsiveness? As the story progresses, the characters are faced with many conflicts surrounding the person they love. The words spoken by Lysandar to Hermia, "The course of true love never did run smooth" means love is not a perfectly smooth path, but one filled with many twists and bumps that it must tread over (Act I Scene I Line 34). In reality, this rings true about love.
It illustrates that everyone has to live through difficult times in his or her life and love happens to be a very common difficulty that faces each person who has ever thought he or she may be in love, whether it be false or true love. Throughout Act III Scene II, the characters are encountered with many challenges affecting their passions for one another. However, the most significant challenge found within this scene is the confusion the lovers must contend with when their perceptions of each other are altered by Puck's practical jokes. He initially begins all the chaos and confusion by intervening in the lives of the characters. Puck's mischievous ways of meddling in the affairs of the lovers is initiated with the administering of Cupid's love juice into "One whose eye I might approve" (Act II Scene II Line 68).
Altering Bottom's character into a figure with a donkey's head, causing the lovers to fall magically in love with the wrong person is another comical trick used by Puck to cause disorder among the lovers. "When I did him at this advantage take/ An ass's note I fixed on his head" (Act III Scene II Line 16-17). Although his trickery is slightly more dangerous and makes people feel more uncomfortable than Oberon's magic and the Fairies pranks, it does not seem to cause any permanent harm to the lovers. He is only trying to bring laughter through his magic fairy powers by using his quickness, ventriloquism, and shape changing abilities. Puck thinks of mortals as being fools and gains enjoyment by making fools of them. He expresses this idea when he states, "What fools these mortals be!" (Act III Scene II Line 115) As Puck and Oberon discuss the results of Puck's antics, Oberon realizes a mistake has been made and admonishes him for his actions.
Puck replies, "Then fate o'er-rules, that, one man holding troth/ A million fail, confounding oath on oath," which suggests only one man in a million is actually able to be true to love (ACT III Scene II Line 92-93). Clearly, this meddling in the love lives of the couples discloses Shakespeare's views about the nature of love. As a result of Puck's mischief, a true love is turned inside out. With his magic spells placed on Helena and Demetrius, their union as lovers is identified under a cloud of false love. This is evidence that false love can be just as strong as true love which is one of Shakespeare's ideas concerning the nature of love. Shakespeare's other viewpoint about the nature of love is that true love is triumphant.
This is proven by the love Lysander and Hermia have for one another. While under Puck's spell, Lysandar falsely loves Helena making him blind to his true feelings for Hermia. Lashing out at Hermia, he calls her "dwarf, minimus, bead, and acorn" (Act III Scene II Line 329-331). At one point, he even says, "Although I hate her, I will not harm her so" (Act III Scene II Line 270). Hermia quickly responds, "What? Can you do me greater harm than hate?" (Act III Scene II Line 271) This is expressing Shakespeare's idea that love is a long hard road and cannot be reached by taking a straight clear path. Even though Hermia and Lysander quarrel, they remain in love proving that true love can prevail even through difficulties.
Writing about love that is either passionate and impulsive or sensible and reasonable, Shakespeare helps his audience discover that sensible marriages are more likely to be embraced than those that are united by passion. Shakespeare's example of a sensible and reasonable marriage in A Midsummer Night's Dream is the real love Hermia and Lysander feel for one another which are pure and simple. They have no reason to be in love, but yet have hopelessly fallen in love with each other. Hermia does not love Demetrius and her refusal to marry him leads her father to Theseus, the voice of reason and law. Speaking to Theseus, her father explains, "This man hath bewitched the bosom of my child/ Thou, thou, Lysander, thou has given her rhymes/ And interchanged love tokens with my child" (Act I Scene I Line 27-29). Demetrius's love for Hermia is passionate, impulsive, and businesslike.
Reflecting his thoughts to Lysander concerning Demetrius, Ege us, her father, makes the statement to him, "True, he (Demetrius) hath my love/ And what is mine, my love shall render him/ And she is mine, all my right to her/ I do estate unto Demetrius" (Act I Scene I Line 95-98). It is apparent that Hermia's relationship with Demetirus is contrasting in comparison to her relationship with Lysander. Hermia's and Lysander's relationship is both practical and sensible; therefore, if Hermia had a relationship with Demetrius, it would be the opposite reflection of true love. Showing the differences between these two separate and opposite relationships, Shakespeare illustrates that true love is valued and closely limited to reason and sensibility rather than being valued for its passion and impulsiveness which often occurs when couples believe they sense a true love for one another. The instability of love's power is found throughout the play when the characters' love and affections directed toward one another begins to change. C.
L. Barber claims that the "woods are a region of passionate excitement and concludes that the way love is felt is shaped by the things that are done in encountering it." (b) During the time the four lovers spent in the forest, their passionate love prompts changes for one another many times. In the forest, the lovers are manipulated by the love potion, get mixed up, and redefine their relationships with each other. Upon entering the forest, both Lysandar and Demetrius are in love with Hermia, but no one loves her. By the end of the night, the Fairies, Oberon, and Puck have played their tricks on the young lovers and when they are awakened in the morning Lysander loves Hermia, Hermia loves Lysander, Helena loves Demetrius, and Demetrius loves Helena instead of Helena.
The mishaps the young lovers experience in their lives and the use of the love potion show the fickleness of love and its power. Hermia becomes jealous of Helena because Helena now loves Lysander and she challenges Helena to a dual. Although Hermia is much shorter than Helena, she still wishes to fight, because the jealousy that love has consumed her with is so motivating. Love also takes control of Lysandar and Hermia at the beginning of the play and that is why they decided there were no other options except for running away in order for them to be happy the rest of their lives. Shakespeare is showing that love has instabilities and imbalances caused by the passionate behaviors of those encountering love. As a result, disparities and inequalities interfere in the harmony of a true romantic relationship.
A Midsummer Night's Dream focuses on the common man, common woman, and the predicaments of love which can occur as one finds love. Shakespeare finds love to be instable and difficult at times. He cleverly exaggerates common emotions and actions produced by love and he crafts this work into a very comical play that reveals the true aspects of love. But while Shakespeare makes it relatively easy for his audience to find humor in the four young lovers' emotional behaviors, sight must not be lost of the fact that these characters are experiencing true distress. Although their conduct seems preposterous, Shakespeare clearly takes the position that no matter how frivolous love may seem, it cannot be dismissed as invalid or false. Both false love and true love prevail in the end, leading the audience to come to the conclusion that all types of love can be triumphant, love is unpredictable, love causes great confusion, and love is something that cannot be explained but only experienced.
Wickham states, "Love is a wood through which in adolescence everyone is obliged to pass. On the far side of the wood is marriage." (w) "Shakespeare managed to portray love in all of its forms throughout this play with humor found in Hernia and the others springing not from the comedy, but from the true manner in which a person can identify the different facets of his or her own behavior in that of the lovers." (w) The irrationality of human love is only conspicuous to those who do not currently happen to find themselves within it. As Shakespeare points out in this romantic comical play, one can clearly tell the characteristics of love are reflections of passion, sensibility, and reasonableness which make its nature very controlling and complicated for those who believe they are experiencing love. The final resolution in A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare challenges everyone to develop their own idea of what true love is and it proves that no matter what happens love conquers all, whether it is false love or true love.