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?