Love is one of the most immense feelings a human can experience. Love is a deep tender feeling of affection and attachment and devotion to another person. Countless people experience love, both, as non-romantic with their families and romantic love with a special person who comes into their life. When people are on the expedition for love, people may become blindsided by infatuation or what is commonly referred to as lust. Infatuation is being completely carried away by a foolish or shallow affection. Individuals can accept infatuation instead of love, or they cannot tell the difference between the two. One of the many themes in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is love vs. infatuation. Love is stronger, no matter what the circumstance may be. The play A Midsummer Night’s Dream investigates and portrays the intricate relationships among three couples. The relationships become jumbled up and turn into a love triangle.
The first couple introduced in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Lysander and Hermia. Lysander and Hermia truly symbolize the wholesome meaning of romantic love. Their love is exceedingly strong, which makes the lovers inseparable. The play does a wonderful job of showing the concrete stages of their relationship. One example is why Hermia’s love is strong, is that she listens to her father, Egeus, but then makes her own decision, based on her own feelings and not those of her family or society, to commit to Lysander.
In the play, Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius and not Lysander. Hermia also went against Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and defied the ancient law of Athens, by choosing to continue her bond with Lysander even though it might mean her death or lifelong chastity. Love is stronger than infatuation, because it means two people making a long term commitment to each other, which does not happen in infatuation. An example of this is when Hermia and Lysander run away together to the forest where they do not know what awaits them. They are putting their trust and faith into each other:
Love is also stronger than infatuation, because it means respecting a person, whereas infatuation is only pleasing yourself. Lysander showed his love and respect of Hermia by not sleeping near her at the river bank, at the edge of the forest even though he wanted to. While love can also have some elements of infatuation such as physical attraction, love is a deeper emotion where a person cares about the reputation of their loved one, and would not harm it. However, with infatuation, a person only wants instant pleasure and does not care about the long term harm it may cause.
While love is a very strong bond, there can be cracks in love’s foundation, which may temporarily cause a breach. We see this when Lysander receives the magic potion from Puck, and becomes temporarily infatuated with Helena, and carried away by an unreasonable desire for another woman other than the one he truly loves, if he were not under the spell of infatuation. When the infatuation is lifted, Lysander understands his foolishness, and immediately goes back to Hermia. At the end of the play, Egeus and Theseus realize that Lysander and Hermia are truly in love, strongly committed to each other, and not just infatuated, and give their blessings for the marriage.
The second couple is Helena and Demetrius. Demetrius had Egeus’ blessing for Hermia’s hand in marriage, but Hermia rejected Demetrius because of her love for Lysander. As can be seen in Demetrius actions, infatuation can often be just one sided, where the stronger bond of love must be two sided. While Demetrius believed he loved Hermia, he was willing to stalk her in the forest, and try to take her away from Lysander, even though she did not return Demetrius’ love. This is only infatuation on Demetrius’ part, and not a mature love.
Demetrius is only concerned about getting what he wants, and pleasing himself, and does not take into account the feelings, hopes or desires of Hermia. Helena, who was Hermia’s best friend, betrays her friend because of Helena’s one-sided and obsessive infatuation for Demetrius. Infatuation can make a person do terrible things both to themselves and to their friends. An example of this is when Hermia asks Helena not to tell of Hermia’s plan to escape to the forest with Lysander, but Helena goes against her longtime friend simply so she can look better in the eyes of Demetrius:
I will go tell him of fair Hermia’s flight:
Then to the wood will he to-morrow night
Pursue her; and for this intelligence
If I have thanks, it is a dear expense:
But herein mean I to enrich my pain,
To have his sight thither and back again.
Even though Demetrius makes cruel insults to Helena, she does not listen to him, and misguidedly continues to have an unreasonable belief that Demetrius will come to love her, and follows him into the forest. This feeling that Helena has is not true faithful love, but an obsessive infatuation which causes her to lie and betray her lifelong friend and herself, all over a man who is a womanizer and has no feelings for Helena. In Helena’s case she only sees Demetrius as what she wants him to be like, and not his real self. Therefore, in that sense, infatuation can be stronger than love because it can make a person not see the reality about another, but only what that person wants to see.
It can temporarily destroy common sense. By a trick, and not Demetrius’ own true feelings, a potion causes him to love Helena, and they eventually marry. However, this is not true love because there is no selflessness by either, and no solid partnership, their feelings are all due to sorcerery. Infatuation is usually never very long lasting, and we know that if the love potion does finally wear off it is doubtful that Helena and Demetrius will continue to be happy with each other. However, on the other hand infatuation can lead to love over time, as each person really gets to know the other and accept each other for the person they really are, flaws and all. For Helena and Demetrius, the long term future of their relationship is left to the reader’s imagination, and is never answered.
The last couple is Titania, the fairy queen, and Bottom. Titania is already married to Oberon, the king of the fairies. Oberon wants Titania’s ward, who is a changeling Indian boy, and Titania does not want to give the boy to Oberon. Oberon uses his assistant to apply a magic flower juice to Titania as both a joke and punishment for her failure to do what Oberon wants. This causes Titania to fall in love with the first thing she sees, which is Bottom, a craftsman, who has been changed into an ass by a mischievous fairy named Puck. Titania shows unrestrained passion for Bottom, and therefore he goes with her to the fairy land without even knowing who she is.
This is infatuation because it causes both Titania and Bottom to be carried away by intense emotion, and do something they would not normally do. This illustrates that in the short term, infatuation seems to be stronger than love, because a person does things in the heat of the moment to gratify their own pleasure without consideration to the long term effects, to either themselves or to others. However, when the spell of infatuation wears off, the intense feelings of what a person thought was love is totally gone, and feelings of embarrassment and regret usually take their place. Therefore, infatuation is not really stronger than love.
We see this illustrated when Oberon tells Titania she is under the spell of the love-in-idleness flower. Titania realizes the love is phony and accepts to Oberon’s offer that if she gives up the Indian boy, Oberon will liberate the magic flowers enchantment:
When I had at my pleasure taunted her
And she in mild terms begg’d my patience,
I then did ask of her her changeling child;
Which straight she gave me, and her fairy sent
To bear him to my bower in fairy land.
And now I have the boy, I will undo
Also as to the relationship between Oberon and Titania, it is questionable that Oberon really loves Titania. Oberon was willing to harm her and their relationship, by using her to get a possession that he wanted. Love is a strong faith in your partner, and a willingness to make sacrifices for the good of the relationship. Oberon did not have faith in Titania, and felt justified in imposing his own will over hers. However, love is not always smooth, and it means accepting a person for their flaws. Both Oberon and Titania are aware of the flaws of each other, but stay together as a couple, showing that love is a stronger emotion than infatuation.
Love, and not infatuation, is the strongest emotion in A Midsummer Night’s Dream because it enriches several of the couple’s lives and has the potential to make them happy on a long term basis. Love is a connection to another person that is made up of friendship and respect and is nourishing to both. This is shown by Hermia and Lysander’s relationship. However, love must be worked at, and it is a promise that can be broken. We see that even with a strong love, Lysander could fall under the spell of infatuation and temporarily turn away from Hermia, or that Oberon could play a mean trick on Titania. While infatuation is not bad, it is usually not enduring like love.
It is based on idealizing someone, rather than seeing the real person, flaws and all. In Titania’s case, under the spell of infatuation she was blind to reality, and she was passionate for Bottom, even though he looked like a donkey. Infatuation makes one physically happy but not emotionally happy; therefore it is a lesser emotion than love. We see with all the couples that they have fun with their sexuality and passion, when they are under the spell of infatuation, but except for Helena and Demetrius, they all finally wake from it, and see that it was only shallow and temporary and made them act foolishly. Therefore, while infatuation is very strong and can make a sensible person put aside their common sense, infatuation will lose its grip on a person given time. Love on the other hand, has the potential to last forever if it is worked at, and simply makes a couple both emotionally and physical happy.