A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The Irrational Nature of Love

“Love is blind and lovers cannot see the pretty follies that themselves commit,this quote from the Merchant of Venice describes the four lovers’ dilemmas in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Nevertheless, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream this statement not only applies to the true love between original couples Lysander and Hermia, Demetrius and Helena, but also the 揻alse love between Titania and Bottom and Lysander and Helena. As the story progresses in the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it becomes increasingly obvious that not only is love irrational, it is a catalyst for disorder, and in the end, love may turn out to be only a fanciful illusion.

There is a fine line between love and mania. Though many of the characters’ actions indicate that they lean toward mania, the play ultimately ends with a happy ending for the characters, as well as a presumably happy marriage. Nevertheless, if what those characters felt was love, then love is an unhealthy obsession. Helena’s obsession with Demetrius might be the most obvious example. In Act II scene i lines 203-10 Helena reveals her feelings towards Demetrius with this soliloquy: I am your spaniel; and Demetrius

The more you beat me, I will fawn on you:
Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me strike me,
Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,
Unworthy as I am, to follow you.
What worser place can I beg in your love, —
And yet a place of high respect with me, —
Than to be used as you use your dog?(2.1.203-10)

Rather than a confession of love, this speech seems more like the pleading from a frequent victim of domestic abuse who is begging her partner to come back to her. Demoting oneself to a dog, welcoming abuse and neglect and enjoying every moment of this treatment is definitely not what is considered to be the norm, even when it’s love.

After Helena’s madness there is Titania, the Fairy Queen, who falls in love with a commoner named Nick Bottom who has the head of an ass. Forgetting her social status, reputation and pride, Titania becomes completely smitten with Bottom and orders her servants to attend on him. However Bottom, though he does enjoy the various benefits that comes with being the lover of the Fairy Queen, never has any choice in the matter.

After Titania first met Bottom she says: ?ut of this wood do not desire to go: Thou shalt remain here whether thou wilt or no. 3. 1. 152-53) In most cases, when attempting to win the affections of another person, one would usually refrain from abusing one’s position of power and force the other person into staying with them for presumably the rest of their lives. However, Titania is so in love with Bottom that she cannot be concerned with sentiments of common sense and her partner’s wellbeing, which inadvertently makes her love irrational.

Finally there is Demetrius whose obsession with Hermia caused him to abandon his current relationship, which caused his former lover, Helena, to become an emotional wreck, and subsequently sour the relationship between Hermia and Lysander. One can notice from the examples from above that of all the crazy self-destructive and/or selfish acts committed in the name of love, non of them have started with the purpose of making either recipient or benefactor of that act happy.

Instead it was only done for love and that alone is its purpose and cause. As love is the motivation behind most, if not all, of the characters’ actions it is more than likely that love is the direct or indirect cause of all of the chaos and bedlam in the play. First there is Demetrius who broke off a presumably happy and stable relationship with Helena to pursue Hermia, as proven by the quote spoken by Helena: or ere Demetrius look’d upon Hermia’s eyne, he hail’d down oaths that he was only mine1. 1.242-43)

Not only did Demetrius ruin his own relationship with Helena, he also used his connection with Egeus, Hermia’s father, to separate Lysander and Hermia, putting their love in danger of falling apart as well. In an attempt to preserve their love, Lysander and Hermia decide to elope and escape ?he peril of the Athenian law4. 1. 153) Before leaving, they reveal their plans to the lonely and unloved Helena, who desperately craves Demetrius’ love and approval and betrays her friends’ trust and tells Demetrius of the lovers flight.

In order to be with or to pursue their beloveds all four lovers left behind the order of Athens and escaped into the magical forest. After falling prey to Puck’s antics the lover’s relationships with each other are tore apart. Though it was ?rue lovethat had caused the lover’s to go against order it was also the only thing that is keeping the lovers’ from descending into chaos and disorder themselves. However, when that ?rue loveis replaced with the ?alse loveproduced by magical flower, whatever fragile bond that is holding the lovers together falls apart immediately.

Ironically it is love that has ruined the four lovers’ relationships with each other. Though there is a happy ending for the four lovers’ in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, there is a possibility that the love between the lovers is not real and their marriages would end horribly. Though Demetrius did have a past fling with Helena, what caused him to desire Helena’s hand in marriage near the end of the play may not necessarily be the rekindling of that old flame, but rather the effect of the magical flower.

It is also important to remember that a few scenes ago Helena had also rejected Demetrius proclamations of love despite of what she said at the beginning of the play. This further proves that Helena’s love for Demetrius is merely obsession. Helena pursues Demetrius due to her memories of their past relationship, however as those memories age, Helena subconsciously begins to distort them. In order to justify her relentless and most likely futile attempts to win Demetrius’ love, Helena’s memories take on a more rose-coloured hue.

It is very likely that Demetrius’ biggest selling point was that he was ?ard to get However, when Demetrius begins to reciprocate he lost his only asset, and Helena is both shocked and repulsed. Managing to convince herself that it was all a joke played to mock her, Helena is able to continue her elaborate fantasy. But, when it turns out that Demetrius was actually in love with Helena and wishes to marry her, Helena, due her previous actions, is forced to accept his proposal, lest she desires to appear fickle and shallow.

Lysander and Hermia would be considered to be the most traditional pair of lovers in the entire play. However, that all changed when Lysander betrays Hermia and falls in love with Helena. Forgetting his vows and the reason he even came into the forest in the first place, Lysander, along with Demetrius, becomes blind with passion and lust towards Helena and aggression towards each other. Finally there is Titania and Bottom whose love is only possible with the power of the magical flower, as shown by Titania’s line: ?ow came these things to pass? O, how mine eyes do loathe his visage now! (4. 1.78-79)

Without the aid of the fairies it would’ve been very likely that the four lover’s would stay in the forest lost and loveless forever. With every example of love in the play being a form of ?alse love A Midsummer Night’s Dream could not be considered as a romantic-comedy but rather social commentary on the irrational and self-destructive nature of love. With their inane deeds done in the name of love the four lovers doomed themselves to an unhappy marriage. Much like Theseus and Hippolyta union for the peace and prosperity of their respective nations, the lovers’ marriage ends up being done out necessity rather than love.

×