To What Extent Does 'a Midsummer Night's Dream' Present Love As A Kind Of Madness?

1149 words - 5 pages

In Shakespeare's famous comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream, love is an important concept. The different characters have different views on love that they express, and throughout the play, Shakespeare portrays a general attitude about it. He did not portray love as a serious theme but rather treated it as a light-hearted matter, and even something to joke about. Shakespeare seemed to have written this comical play about love as to present is as a kind of madness. One idea in the play is that there is a difference between 'doting' and 'love' something like the distinction between lust and love. Shakespeare took this to a great extent even so few of the characters seem to display any kind of full or true love by modern standards. We define the word love as 'a deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person that which steadily desires and works to attain the benefit of another.' The definition of love becomes very important when we look at the uses and effects of the dew of the pansy on the various characters on whom its charm is worked, and by extension, on those with whom they interact. The dew is employed by Shakespeare as a device to demonstrate how fluid a thing "love" is, and how easily the affections of the so-called lover can be swayed. But the dew's power is not all conquering. It is said to "make man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees", and to induce "hateful fantasies", but it is not irresistible, nor is it ever said to bottle up any feelings of love a person might have had prior to falling under its charm. Lysander, throughout the play, shows a real concern for only two others: Hermia and Helena. His concern, however, acts more like a switch than anything, because as soon as he starts to care about one, he ceases to care about the other. After falling under the dew's charm, he insults Hermia, his former lover, quite harshly 'What? Should I hurt her, kill her dead? Although I hate her, I'll not harm her so.' In a similar manner, Demetrius has his affections toyed with by the magic, and shows them to be fairly empty as well. By his own admission, his love for Hermia was "melted as the snow" when he awoke in the morning and he says, "I wot not by what power". Titania's relationships gets quite interesting, she displays what might be love for three of the play's characters: Oberon, Nick Bottom (as an ass), and the changeling child. However, in much the same way as Lysander and Demetrius, she drops all concern for the child when obsessed with Bottom, giving it to Oberon without a struggle. Once the dew is used on her again, she awakens to find her fancy for Bottom has ended as abruptly as it began, and turns her energies back towards Oberon, on whom they were doubtless focused at some earlier point in time as well. Bottom and Oberon both do a wonderful job of steadily desiring their own personal benefits, but display little (if any) concern for those of others....

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