Love in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Overall, I have found that A Midsummer Night’s Dream shows how ridiculous love can cause people to act. Although heartbreak and pain over loved ones are prominent aspects of the play, Shakespeare tends to focus on the humorous and absurd situations that come out of loving someone.

 Throughout the play, different kinds of love are displayed–Hermia and Lysander share a mutual love that cannot be fulfilled because of the demands of Hermia’s father, while Demetrius and Helena both experience unreciprocated love. We see how love can drive a person to make desperate decisions when Hermia decides to go against her father’s wishes and Helena decides to keep chasing after Demetrius, who clearly does not feel the same way as she does. While Helena is following Demetrius through the woods, she says, “Stay, though thou kill me, sweet Demetrius” (2.2.90). Clearly Helena knows that Demetrius does not love her and it hurts her, but she would rather be with him than without him.

The idea of love causing irrational behavior is exaggerated when certain characters are given the “love-in-idleness” potion. When given the potion, people only focus on pleasing their loved one. When Titania claims to have fallen in love with Bottom, he tells her there is no reason for her to feel that way. Then he said something that really stood out to me: “…to say the truth, reason and love keep little company together nowadays” (3.1.127-8). Bottom realizes how love can cause such irrational behavior, and I think this line is one of the most important lines in the play. The potion, a more extreme form of love, causes a sort of blindness to whoever drinks it. I think Shakespeare is trying to get across that love is so powerful that when a person feels it, nothing in the world matters besides the one they love.

Although this is such a funny and ridiculous play, it had me asking the same question the whole time–What is it about the uncontrollable and unexplainable feelings of love that cause people to act in such irrational and foolish ways?

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7 thoughts on “Love in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

  1. sielittrell

    The irrational and foolish behavior the love creates is unexplainable, and maybe Shakespeare says that in the play. Love causes strange things to happen and falls on people all of a sudden. It creates such strong desires, like Helena wanting to die if she could not have Demetrius. It goes to show how universal, unchanging, and powerful the force of love really is. Yes, it is absurd but it is real at the same time.

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  2. ethansmestad

    I think the idea of irrational love and its relationship to the supernatural fairy world is very interesting. Oberon and Titania’s falling out creates cosmic consequences for the planet, and a general state of disorder, all over the conflicting influences on a little boy. To reconcile this divide and bring them back together, it is necessary to put Titania under a love spell that makes her woo Bottom the Ass, until the point the spell is broken. The lover men are equally put under this spell, which turns the love formation on it head–it’s all pretty inexplicable, and the closest reasoning people can come up with for these irrational panderings of love is fairies drugging them while they sleep. Some crazy dream.

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  3. sabrinabyrne

    As I was reading your post, I realized that Shakespeare was actually using a play within a play within a play. Yes, we find out right in the beginning of the play that Hermia and Lysander are in love and want to be together. But, we don’t find out until a little later that they plan to run away. At about the same time, we are introduced to Bottom and his gang, and find out which play they will being going to act for the King and Queen. The play they preform is, in a sense, the same situation Hermia and Lysander are in. They plan to run away to be together just like Pyramus and Thisbe plan to do in their love story. Shakespeare uses this play within his play as two functions, as entertainment for the royals and as foreshadow with Hermia and Lysander. Shakespeare uses his intelligence in more ways than we can even begin to fathom. The more I think about this play, the more layers I seem to pull away and understand more what he was trying to create for his audience.

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  4. gerouc1

    The love in this play admittedly runs rampant, but the form of love I adore in this play was the love between Helena and Hermia. Granted, the love kind of falls apart at the seams when Oberon’s plan goes straight to the pot, but even now, many girls and women can relate to their relationship in one form or another. For example, when Helena in Act 3, scene 2, where she talks about her and Hermia’s bond from a young age, I recall my childhood best friend. Then when talking about how they are like family, I think of my current best friend, where we consider each others families as extensions of our own now and she and I are sisters.

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  5. Alex Verso

    Love is prevalent not only in A Midsummer Nights Dream, but in all of Shakespeare’s work. Whether it be a tragedy like Romeo and Juliet, or a Comedy such as A Midsummer Nights Dream, love is a powerful human emotion that stands out. The word love seems meaningless, or “idle” in this particular play because it is tainted, or untrue. This made me wonder what Shakespeare’s personal opinion about love is. Is he a hopeless romantic? Or does he feel that love is disposable, and can be thrown around from person to person. A lot of characters from his play fall in love at the drop of a hat, and it leads us to believe either it was true love at first sight, or just a fling of youth. Maybe he feels that it is better to just have “flings” because, as written in many of his plays, love can make us do crazy things, or literally torture us until death. Even if it what we truly want, it most often comes at a heavy price.

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  6. melissav92

    I think that is a really good question and one I find myself also asking. I don’t know why love makes people act in this way but I think it is a part of what makes “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”/Shakespeare so universal. Even today love makes us think and act irrationally and some might even be dealing with unrequited love just as Helena was. Shakespeare examines love in different relationships such as romantic love and friendship love. However, he is not so much telling about the actual love the characters have for one another but instead the suffering they deal with because of this love which I think is really interesting.

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  7. chaska44

    I agree that this play shows the absurdity of romantic love. In this play, Love is only conceptualized as existing between a subject and an object, for example, Hermia and Lysander, or any of the other lovers. I question whether it is “love” that drives Lysander and Hermia. You write, “Hermia and Lysander share a mutual love that cannot be fulfilled because of the demands of Hermia’s father,” and while this is true because that’s what happening in the play, doesn’t love flow freely? Why must they have to “solidify” their relationship–if it is “true” love, won’t the love exist no matter what external societal labels are enforced? I think what causes us to act in foolish ways is the fact that the feeling of love is felt and it gets interpreted by a part of ourselves that wants to hold onto this Love, to contain it, to chase it, so that it can be “mine.”

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