A Midsummer Night’s Dream Essay

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Compare and contrast the writers’ presentation of love and hate in The End of the Affair, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the poems of Robert Browning The recurring themes of love and hate are prominent in Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the poems of Robert Browning, and are in many cases evidently the inspiration for the stories and characters that are created within these texts.

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare explores the contrasting emotions of love and hate by involving such impossibilities as magic and fairies in his tale, primarily as a device to bring out in his characters every feeling that is experienced whilst one is in Love or tormented by Hate, including jealousy, control and despair. It is an analysis, rather than just a story, of love and hate. The poems of Robert Browning – namely The Laboratory, My Last Duchess and The Light Woman – on the other hand, present scenarios in which the contrast of love and hate is present.

These poems are not so much an analysis of love and hate as they are a presentation of the effect that these emotions can have on an individual. The End of the Affair is a comparatively more comprehensive examination of the effects of love on a man, and how love is able to create jealousy and insecurity, which can potentially transform into hate, obsession and a lust for control. This is a sentiment expressed by Maurice Bendrix whilst writing about the snowball effect that insecurity can create in a relationship: “Insecurity twists meanings and poisons trust”.

From the very beginning of Act One of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we see that love causes and fuels a need for control and hateful emotions – a motif which runs throughout the entire play. Egeus’s parental love for Hermia is too strong for him to allow his daughter to marry a man about whom he knows very little, therefore Hermia’s love for Lysander causes Egeus to hate him, to the extent that he accuses Lysander of stealing his daughter: “With cunning hast thou filched my daughter’s heart/Turned her obedience, which is due to me/To stubborn harshness”.

Similarly, Robert Browning’s The Laboratory includes a female main character who is so consumed by jealousy after her husband becomes enamoured with her rivals, Elise and Pauline, that she has visited an alchemist in order to create a poison that would kill both of them without sparing any of the pain of death. This character, too, accuses her rivals of stealing her love: “”She’s not little, no minion like me! /That’s why she ensnared him”.

Interestingly, both Egeus and The Laboratory’s main character speak of their loved ones as if they are possessions that are being taken away from them. Egeus’s use of the word “filch” implies that his daughter’s heart is something of quite superficial value that has literally been stolen, whilst the Laboratory woman’s inclusion of the word “ensnare” in her description portrays the image of an animal being unwittingly trapped and taken from her.

This shows how one’s love for an individual can inspire a need for control over them. If control is not attainable, possessive love can convert into hatred towards potential rivals for control. Maurice Bendrix is a man obsessed with control. He admits that, in order to feel sexual desire towards a woman, he must feel that they are inferior to him: “I have always found it hard to feel sexual desire without some sense of superiority, mental or physical”.

However, when he falls in love with the woman who is the exception to this rule – Sarah – his lack of control over their relationship inspires hatred within him. Unlike the protagonists of The Laboratory or A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Bendrix is the oppressive character who is consciously attempting to take Sarah away from her husband Henry, yet it seems that Henry does not hate Bendrix at all – in fact, things are quite the opposite.

In parts of the novel, Bendrix hates Henry because, even though Henry and Sarah haven’t even consummated their marriage, his mere existence prevents Bendrix from having as much control over Sarah as he desires – for example, when Henry is ill and Sarah stays at home to look after him, out of a sense of duty more than anything, Bendrix immediately feels inferior to Henry, and he writes “I had felt friendship and sympathy for Henry, but already he had become an enemy, to be mocked and resented and covertly run down”. Interestingly, Bendrix describes Henry here as his “enemy” – a declaration which is made at various points throughout the novel.

It’s as though a battle for control over Sarah is being waged between two or three separate parties: Bendrix, the physical lover; Henry, the lawful husband, and, in the time before Sarah’s death, even God, who Bendrix describes as “a jealous God”. On the other hand, Bendrix also hates the fact that Henry doesn’t try to have more control over Sarah, which means that she could be having affairs with any number of other men: “I hated his blinkers even when I had benefited from them, knowing that others could benefit too”.

There are also times when Bendrix is disturbed by how easily Sarah can so nonchalantly cope with their secret relationship when she is in front of Henry: “We kissed and heard the squeak of the stair, and I watched sadly the calmness of her face when Henry came in”. In these cases, it is love which once again fuels hatred towards Henry and suspicion towards Sarah when it is distorted by the emotion of jealousy. Furthermore, all three authors portray the ways in which relationships are affected by the passing of time.

Robert Browning’s My Last Duchess is a dramatic monologue about a Duke who once loved his wife, otherwise he would not have married her, but eventually began to loathe her recalcitrant ways, proclaiming things like “She liked whate’er/She looked on, and her looks went everywhere”. When the Duke’s love for his Duchess was young, his infatuation with her would have compelled him to ignore her imperfections, much like how the main character in The Laboratory places the blame of her husband’s infidelity on her rivals rather than him because of her blind love for him.

However, as time passed, the Duke began to realise that his wife was far less subservient than he had first thought, which twisted his love for her into frustration and jealousy. Throughout the monologue, the Duke lists a number of incidents in which the Duchess makes him feel jealous, and he expresses his belief that “She had/A heart how shall I say? Too soon made glad”. It is as though he is using the Duchess’s alleged infidelity to justify her murder.

The Duke’s frustration is reflected in the structure of the poem – it’s not separated into stanzas and there are fluctuations in line length, even though there is a steady rhyme scheme. The chaos within the Duke’s mind is also shown via Browning’s use of caesura throughout the text; the Duke interjects his own sentences with sudden remarks of disgust and loathing whenever an opportunity arises to once again belittle his wife, for example: “She thanked men, – good!

But thanked/Somehow – I know not how – as if she ranked/My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old-name/With anybody’s gift”. The fact that he believes that his own family name is a better gift than any other is also evidence of what a selfish, inadequate husband he was, and the hate that he shows towards his wife is unjustified, and is a result of his own personality flaws. Conversely, there are some who believe that the Duke’s loathing is caused by the Duchess’s own lack of commitment to the marriage; the Duke only wants feel secure in her love, but she treats him like anybody else.

Similarly to the Duke’s relationship with the Duchess, Oberon’s relationship with Titania is also one which varies greatly over time. It is a shallow relationship, considering that its stability seems to rest entirely on the shoulders of a magical changeling boy who is under the guardianship of Titania, but is desired by Oberon. He directly makes his need for the changeling boy known to Titania in Act Two, Scene One: “I do but beg a little changeling boy/To be my henchman”.

Much like Browning’s My Last Duchess, a lot of the conflict between the two parties is caused by the wife not giving the husband what he wants. Because of this, Oberon’s jealousy towards Titania early on in the play is so strong that it causes a series of events which Titania calls “the forgeries of jealousy” – crops are ruined, frogs rain from the sky and livestock has been killed. These are the physical embodiments of Oberon’s hatred towards his wife.

The hatred that stems from her defiance of his request later comes to a climax when he wishes death upon her with his love in idleness juice: “The next thing when she, waking, looks upon -/Be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull/On meddling monkey, or on busy ape -/She shall pursue it with the soul of love”. However, once Oberon has stolen Titania’s changeling boy whilst she is distracted by Bottom’s artificial love, thus gaining control of the relationship, his attitude towards Titania changes and his love for her is no longer blinded by jealousy, calling the love in idleness a “hateful imperfection of her eyes” and Titania “my sweet Queen”.

The contrast between the hate and jealousy that Oberon feels for Titania at the beginning of the play and the love that he feels for her towards the end shows that love can be a fickle emotion; if one of the many fine balances that a relationship relies on is knocked out of its equilibrium, then love can be blinded by emotions such as jealousy and possibly hatred. In The End of the Affair, there are three characters whose feelings of both love and hate towards one another change over time: Sarah, Bendrix and Henry.

Book Three, which is almost entirely comprised of Sarah’s diary entries, is far more coherently structured than the rest of the novel, which is unreliably narrated by Bendrix. This is because Sarah’s diary was intended to be read by nobody else, therefore it is a truthful account of thoughts and feelings, whereas Bendrix’s accounts are often over-thought to the tiniest detail, which often leads to recollections of the past or even contradictions, such as referring to Henry as his enemy on one page, and then as “Poor Henry” on the next.

Henry is also the source of the only inconsistency in Sarah’s writings – on one page, she writes “I love Henry: I want him to be happy” and then on the next page she writes “To hell with Henry. I want somebody who’ll accept the truth about me and doesn’t need protection”. Furthermore, Book Three is also a plot device used by Greene in order to fill in the gaps of Bendrix’s unreliable narrative and to provide the reader with Sarah’s perspective of the affair and her feelings of love over time. We discover in Book Three that Sarah’s decision to devote herself to God was the ultimate expression of everlasting love.

In Sarah’s mind, the only way to save Bendrix’s life after the bomb explosion was to stop seeing Bendrix and start believing in God, but we know that this was a last resort because she writes “So I said, I love him and I’ll do anything if You make him alive”. This prayer also served as a vow to love Bendrix forever, even if it meant not seeing him; she used God as an example of how this is possible: “People can love without seeing each other, can’t they, they love You all their lives without seeing You”.

Unlike the Duke in My Last Duchess, Sarah’s love for Bendrix doesn’t deteriorate over time, it just gets stronger. Sarah is more like Titania in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, because even though she constantly fears the end of the affair, and even though she has the occasional argument with Bendrix, which may for a short time provide an illusion of hate, she will always love him in the long run, just like Titania and Oberon.

All three authors create characters within their texts that exist solely to create conflict or perform acts of hate, sometimes out of some whimsical impulse and sometimes because of misguided love. In The End of the Affair, Bendrix makes several references to a demon that tells him to do or say hateful things – for example, after Bendrix tells Henry about how he hired Mr. Parkis (who is also highly skilled in, as Bendrix calls it, “the devil’s game) to follow Sarah, with the intention of hurting him, he writes “The demon had done its work.

I felt drained of venom”. Although Bendrix writes about the demon as though it is an entirely independent entity, there are some who believe that, as a man who insists on being in control, Bendrix quietly thinks that he is the demon’s creator, because he is not the kind of man who would listen to such things from anybody else. I believe that Bendrix’s demon is his sense of jealousy that compels him to hurt whoever puts doubt into his mind.

He doesn’t hurt Henry simply because he feels like it, he hurts him because his existence means that there’s always a possibility that he could take Sarah from him – he is the “enemy”, after all; the one who, according to Bendrix, sometimes has the upper-hand in the battle of love: “Didn’t he in the end possess the winning cards – the cards of gentleness, humility and trust? “. The protagonist of Robert Browning’s A Light Woman is similar to Maurice Bendrix in that he is assured in the knowledge that he is always right, even though what he thinks is right can cause emotional pain to other people.

The poem portrays the fickleness of love through the light woman, who wishes to add the protagonist’s friend “To her nine-and-ninety other spoils/The hundredth for a whim! ” – she thinks of love as a shallow thing to be briefly sampled, rather than savoured. When the protagonist diverts the light woman’s poisonous attention away from his friend, however, he views it as a hateful act: “One should master one’s passions, (love, in chief)/And be loyal to one’s friends! “.

Although the protagonist had the best intentions, his act of love towards his friend was misguided. He is also an arrogant person, similar to the Duke, because he compares himself to an eagle and his friend to a wren: “The eagle am I, with my fame in the world/The wren is he, with his maiden face”. This narcissism leads him to toy with the emotions of the light woman once he has gained her attention, comparing her to a ripened pear: “Just a touch and off it came;/’Tis mine,- can I let it fall?

” – he doesn’t show any concern for the emotions of the woman, he simply doesn’t know whether to physically have his way with her or not, having “no mind to eat it, that’s the worst! “, using the pear analogy again. He decides not to respond to the woman’s advances, thus hurting her feelings as well – his original act of love has resulted in a perceived act of hate towards two different people. Despite this, however, he still insists that he did the right thing: “Yet think of my friend, and the burning coals/He played with for bits of stone!

” – even though he has inadvertently hurt his friend’s feelings, he believes that he has saved him from suffering heartbreak as the result of being misguided by the light woman. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s use of Puck to spread the love that Oberon wishes to happen is a device used to create conflict between the characters of the play, thus allowing Shakespeare to present different aspects of love and hate.

Like Bendrix’s “demon”, Oberon tells Puck to carry out his act of malevolence out for him when he orders the love in idleness juice to be dropped into Titania’s eyes in order to “make her full of hateful fantasies”. However, similarly to the protagonist of A Light Woman, Oberon’s good intentions when he tells Puck to douse an Athenian man’s eyes with the same juice fall awry when Puck mistakenly places the wrong drops into the wrong eyes.

This attempt to create love instead creates a hatred which culminates in Lysander and Demetrius fighting and Hermia wanting to kill Helena, who decides to flee the conflict: “Your hands than mine are quicker for a fray;/My legs are longer, though, to run away! “. Similarly to the protagonist of The Laboratory, who accuses women of “ensnaring” her husband, Hermia calls Helena a “thief of love”, which again shows the need for control in a relationship by referring to lovers as possessions.

In conclusion, the recurring themes of love and hate are prominent in Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the poems of Robert Browning. The texts explore the need for control in a relationship, and how, if the balance of control is uneven then love can create hateful feelings such as jealousy. The effects of time on love and hate are portrayed in a number of different ways – it sometimes causes fear and paranoia, love can be fickle and superficial over time, and sometimes love fades away, only to be replaced by loathing.

All three authors use devices in order to create conflict and sabotage love; these are Bendrix’s demonic sense of jealousy, a meddling friend and a mischievous fairy. Love is so closely linked to hate that it is capable of causing both joy and pain. Love and hate are complicated, fickle, difficult, blind, chaotic and ultimately quite inexplicable. As Lysander announces in line 134 of Act One, Scene One: “The course of true love never did run smooth”.

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  • University/College: University of Arkansas System

  • Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter

  • Date: 7 July 2017

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