22 April 2014
Love in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Throughout the events which unfold in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare delivers several messages on love. Through this play, one of the significant ideas he suggests is that love is blind, often defying logic and overriding other emotions and priorities. Helena loves Demetrius unconditionally and pursues him despite knowing that he loathes her; conflict arises between Helena and Hermia, childhood best friends, over Demetrius and Lysander; and because she is in love, Queen Titania is able to see beauty and virtue in the ass-headed Nick Bottom.
During much of the play, Helena relentlessly chases Demetrius, giving him love no matter how many times he spurns her. While in pursuit of him in the woods, where he tells her that he will never reciprocate her feelings, she tells him, “I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius,/The more you beat me, I will fawn on you” (II.i.203-204). She is so desperate to win him over that she lowers her own status, calling herself his dog; no matter how many times he may abuse her, she will always adore him. Out of love, Helena is willing to swallow her pride to prove her devotion to him. More evidence of Helena’s blind love towards Demetrius can be found in her overlooking the flaws in Demetrius’ character. For example, he proves himself to be quite insensitive towards Helena: when they are in the woods, he says he will “leave [her] to the mercy of the wild beasts” (II.i.228) if she doesn’t stop following him. He also says to her, “…I am sick when I do look on thee” (II.i.212). Lastly, he threatens her, saying “…if thou follow me, do not believe/But I shall do thee mischief in the wood” (II.i.237). Helena acknowledges this aspect of his character, though chooses to love him nevertheless, responding to this with “I’ll follow thee, and make a heaven of hell / To die upon the hand I love so well” (II.i.243-244). This shows her understanding of Demetrius’ hatred towards her, as he is putting her through “hell” with his cruelty, though she loves him so much that she will continue to follow him and make a “heaven” out of her hell, even if it will result in her demise. Finally, following this, Helena decides to continue to pursue Demetrius in the woods to try and convince him to remain with her and forget about Lysander and Hermia, who are running away from Athens to wed. She begs of him, “Stay, though thou kill me, sweet Demetrius” (II.ii.84). Here, Helena recognizes that he is cruel to her and does not love her, though she still wants nothing more than for him to stay and to stop chasing Hermia. She has already resigned herself to the fact that Demetrius will never return her feelings, though this does not make her stop loving him and even if he will continue to verbally abuse her, she will be happy as long as he remains with her.
After Puck has administered the love potion to Lysander and Demetrius, the two men are in love with...