In Shakespeare’s “a Midsummer Nights Dream” love is shown in many different ways. During the play there are many different sub-stories and extra plots that it is easy for Shakespeare to add many different ideas, these sub-stories in the play are the story of Pyrimus & Thisbee and also the story of the Fairy King and Queen Oberon and Titania. With these added plots in place Shakespeare adds the themes of deceit, magic and confusion.
In Act 1 Scene 1 parental love is shown when Hermia’s father Egeus tries to get his daughter to marry Demetrius who he believes is much better for Hermia than her true love Lysander. Egeus believes he is protecting his daughter by attempting to force her to marry Demetrius but is actually going against his daughters wishes as she wants to marry Lysander, Egeus then presents her with an ultimatum which makes her choose to marry Demetrius of live a Celibate life in the church and it is at this point in the play that Hermia and Lysander choose to runaway. This is a good example of parental love going terribly wrong as Egeus loses control over his daughter when she deceives him by running away with the man her father disapproves of her marrying, this also starts of the plot of the confused lovers.
Shakespeare portrays the confusion between Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius by using the fairies and the ideas of dreams and magic so the reader cannot tell what is reality and what is fantasy. It is at this point in the play when the fairies are brought into the play as the mischievous ‘Puck’ causes mayhem between the four Athenians. The confusion is caused when Oberon sees Helena constantly doting over Demetrius despite Demetrius’s love for Hermia, he then sends Puck to fetch a magical flower to put on the eyes of Demetrius so that he would wake and set eyes on Helena and fall in love with her, but this all goes wrong when he places the flower on Lysander’s eyes and he is woken by Helena, consequently falling in love with Helena and snubbing Hermia. The confusion thickens further as Puck then also applies the magical flower to Demetrius and he also falls in love with Helena and results in Lysander and Demetrius fighting over Helena. This keeps the readers interest because of the sudden role reversal between Hermia and Helena. The Confused Lovers is written into the play well into the play very well and effectively and by portraying it using fantasy and magic Shakespeare is able to add another dimension to the play.
By bringing magic into the play Shakespeare introduces the deceitful element to the love and also a higher level magical degree. The story of Oberon and Titania is one of Male Dominance, Jealousy and Conflict. Titania and Oberon are king and queen of the fairies and there relationship affects the goings on of nature. Titania’s part in the play is highly unpredictable as she shows love for 3 different characters; these characters are Oberon, Nick Bottom, and The changeling child. These are three different types of love, her love for Oberon seems forced and full of conflict, her love for Nick Bottom is due to the same magic as used on the confused lovers and her love for the Changeling Child is out of care and consideration as she has rescued it.
The changeling child sparks the argument between Oberon and Titania and this leads to Titania’s abrupt love for Nick Bottom. This is planned by Oberon as revenge for Titania not giving him the changeling child as a servant. Titania’s love for Bottom is only due to magic and many other aspects, one of these aspects is Titania’s love of being in love and the love for bottom is very wrong. It is wrong as he is an innocent victim of Oberon and Puck’s trouble making and cannot do anything to stop what has happened and Titania takes advantage of this using her beauty and the luxurious treatment he gives him to get what she wants while he believes it is a dream, we realise this as he isn’t sure where he is or what happened to him.
There is love between Hermia and Lysander and also Demetrius and Helena either side of the confusion when the four venture into the forest. The love between Lysander and Hermia is very true and exists from Lysander to Hermia and vice versa. This is displayed very early on in the play when Lysander refuses to give up on Hermia when her father demands she marry Demetrius and also when Hermia is willing to run away from a life of spoils and riches just to be with Lysander. This love is still the same at the end as neither Hermia nor Lysander have any memory of what happened due to magic yet again.
On the other hand the love between Demetrius & Helena is forever changing up until the end of the play, at the start Helena’s love for Demetrius is doting and obsessive but Demetrius returns none of this love. This is well shown when they are in the forest and Helena says “the more thy object me the more I dote on you” she continues to make comments like this even when Demetrius continually rejects her, it is obvious he dislikes Helena as he makes comments such as “I love thee not, therefore pursue me not” this makes it obvious to Helena that Demetrius dislikes her but she still pursues him right up until the end of the play when he finally falls in love with her. Although once more this love is only due to the magical works of Puck.
The problems between Hermia and her father are resolved when the four now unconfused lovers are found by Theseus and Egeus in the forest, Theseus then heard of there love for each other and declared “fair lovers you are fortunately met” and all happiness is achieved. The four lovers have no memory of the events that have happened and think it is all a dream but it is actually reality.
Shakespeare uses a variation of techniques and themes to portray love in “A Midsummer Nights Dream”. Many are successful but the sub plot of Pyramus and Thisbee is unsuccessful as it does not play a major part in the play and the reader knows that the happenings of the play are not reality but with the other themes the reader does not know whether the happenings were reality or not. The other themes are successful because of the fact that there is no differentiating between reality and dreams, I think Shakespeare is successful in portraying love in the play and I also believe that his extensive use of various themes is a key to this success.
Courtney from Study Moose
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