A Midsummer Night's Dream Essay

945 words - 4 pages

Exciting and new, or even tedious and worn-out, love in all its variations is presented in A Midsummer Night's Dream. But what is love? What causes us to fall in love? How does love relate to the world of law and reason? These questions are broached in all their complexity in Shakespeare's midsummer dream. Love is the primary concern of the play, which begins as Theseus and Hippolyta prepare for their upcoming wedding, but the picture painted of love is not necessarily romantic. Instead, the play shows the arbitrariness of desire, along with its depth, the sighs and tears that often make lovers miserable.

As Lysander tells Hermia, the course of true love never did run smooth. Often swift, ...view middle of the document...

The poet, meanwhile, creates entire worlds from the "airy nothing" of imagination. In Theseus' opinion, all of these fantasies lack the stamp of truth; does this mean Theseus' love for Hippolyta is equally specious? The Duke would probably say no — without reasons or evidence to back up his claim — but his comments lead us deeper into the question of what constitutes love. If his love for Hippolyta is based on seemingly clear vision, what has caused him to fall in love with her rather than with someone else? A deep understanding of her personality? A reverence for her compassion or her kindness? The play doesn't tell us, but its overall logic suggests a loud "no" to both questions. In this drama, love is based entirely upon looks, upon attractiveness, or upon the love-potion that charms the eyes. Thus, for example, Hermia accounts for Lysander's surprising loss of affection by assessing her height; she is shorter and, therefore, less appealing than Helena. Like too many teenage girls in contemporary society, Hermia is plagued by doubts about her desirability. It's not surprising that body image is such a vexing issue in Western society when love is so often based on appearance, rather than essence.

Even when love is mutual and seemingly based in clear vision, it is often hampered by family disapproval. For Lysander and Hermia, love is marred by her father's desire for her to marry Demetrius. The law is on Egeus' side. All of the relationships in the play, but this one in particular, emphasize the conflict of love and law. The "ancient privilege of Athens" allows Egeus to "dispose" of his daughter as he wishes; she is his property, so he can "estate" her to anyone. His words show the violence that...

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