Many plays could be written on the theme of love, but ‘A midsummer nights dream’ by William Shakespeare gives a twist to the traditional notion of love. A mid summer nights dream is a museum portraying the various types of love. Parental love, Romantic young love, arranged love, and also ‘forced love’ are amongst the many types of love Shakespeare demonstrates.
In the opening act of the play, Egeus, Hermia’s father, has gone to the Duke of Athens to force his daughter to marry Demetrius whom she refuses to marry due to the fact that she is in love with Lysander. In this act Shakespeare cunningly portrays Parental love of that era that unlike today’s, was a love of possession and power. A Father had the right to dispose of his daughter as he wished without her having any say in it. She was his property and he loved her as he would love an asset, not with the unconditional love of sacrifice.
One of the most prevailing themes of love is that of romantic, young love. It is portrayed as an emotion that lacks logical sense, one that is spontaneous, tragic, and disregards consequences. Hermia is madly in love with Lysander whom her father does not approve of. Because of this Hermia tragically declares that she will give up her life either to the nuns or death rather that marry Demetrious who her father consents to her marrying. So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord, Ere I will my virgin patent up Unto his lordship, whose unwished yoke
My soul consents not to give sovereigntyHermia and Lysander spontaneously decide to run away from Athens to get married, leaving behind their life and families to live out their young love. Similar is the attitude in Helena’s love for Demetrious. Helena is portrayed as a comical-tragic figure that is desperately in love with the wrong man, for Demetrious is in love with Hermia. She is so devoted to dedicate her life in making Demetrious fall in love with her, so much she compares herself to a loyal ‘dog:’ And even for that do I love you the more.
The above quote shows to what extent young romantic love erases logic and self dignity. Shakespeare demonstrates this through the exaggerated expressions between the four young lovers and their disputes. The love portrayed between Theseus and Hippolyta shows yet another aspect of ‘love. ’ Theseus demanded Hippolyta’s love initially without them actually having fallen in love. Hippolyta was a warrior bride; she was clamed by Theseus as his bride, without any mutual feelings on his part. During the course of their relationship though, the love between them grew to be mutual.
Hippolyta started to respect and love Theseus so much that the myth says that she could not bear getting over him once she was replaced with Phaedra. Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword, And won thy love, doing thee injuries; But I will wed thee in another key, With pomp, with triumph and with revelling. (act1 sceen1 lines 16-19) This gives a more realistic and serious tone to the word ‘love’ one of mature love, that includes common sense as a priority, and mutual understanding.
Their relationship can be compared to many modern day marriages that are held more by logic and mutual respect rather than the infatuation of young love. Theseus and Hippolytas relationship closely resembles that of an arranged marriage where the emotion of love is initially absent, but eventually one grows on to the other, creating strong bonding feelings between them. With the magical touch of a flower, forced love is yet another variety in the ingredients of Shakespeare delicatessen. Oberon, king of the fairies, uses a rare flower to impose forced love on more than one person.
Initially he uses it on Titania, Queen of the fairies, to make her fall in love with a ‘beast’ despite her fair looks and then, he decides to take Demetriose’s fate in his hands by ordering the magic on to him to fall in love with Helena and forget of Hermia. Unfortunately Puck, whom Oberon had sent out, places the magic on Lysander to fall in love with Helena. Realising the mistake he then places the love-juice on Demetrious to fall in love with Helena turning both tables at ones. At this point both men have forcefully fallen in love with Helena and not with Hermia, and Titania has fallen in love with Bottom that has been turned into an ass.
In this relationship between Titania and Bottom Shakespeare satires the blind eye of love, when a woman as fair as Titania falls ‘blindly’ in love with a ‘grotesque’ figure like Bottom in all its exaggeration it screams that one loves with the inner eye (seeing what one wants to see,) and not with true optical vision. The love potion that the fairies use is from a flower that was hit by cupid’s arrow causing its juice to create magical love. When the love-juice is used by Oberon and Puck it is carelessly placed on the eyelids of their ‘victims.
Almost in a childish and playful way this magic causes chaotic circumstances, and most of the comical compounds in Shakespeare play. «The love potion thus becomes a symbol of the unreasoning, fickle, erratic, and undeniably powerful nature of love, which can lead to inexplicable and bizarre behaviour and cannot be resisted. » Differently said, the love potion represents the parade of endorphins in our body when falling in love that cause unreasonable and irrational behaviour. William Shakespeare laughs with the Irony of love and bluntly stages it for the audience to see.
Demetrious falling madly in love with the woman he was so desperately trying to avoid, Titania falling in love with an ass despite her fair looks, Thisby and Pyramus two young lovers dying needlessly during the night in the forest, while the four young lovers viewing this play lived similar circumstances yet with a different ending. Shakespeare uses the love potion to show us a truth that no one wishes to believe or see; that falling in love is a process that is completely random, and undergoes metamorphosis just like its characters.
The four young lovers fall in and out of love with each other all within one night, and so does Titania with Bottom. Oberon was Hippolyta lover before Theseus as was Titania with Theseus before Hippolyta. Anybody can love anybody when their «sight» is ready to see them. Titania opened her eyes to an ass, and Lycander to Helena simply because they happen to be there. The shape and feeling of love in all these cases undergoes constant change without particular reason. Conclusion of these incidents is the fact that love is blind and strikes at random.
In the Midsummer Nights Dream by William Shakespeare, the theme of love is at the turn of every page. Shakespeare manages to travel us back to an era of old fashion parental love and warrior brides, and ties us to the present with the young love that has resisted the change of time. He shows that love could be blind, won, conquered, and imposed. The only thing in common that all forms of love have, like Lysander said, is that the course of love never does run smooth.