Key Qualities of Youth in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
The key qualities of youth differ on the time of age they are in because children of different ages behave in different ways. However, in Shakespeare’s play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the youth are shown to only care about their personal lives, which usually have a positive or negative effect in every situation they are in. The youth’s most evident characteristics are honesty and recklessness. An analysis of Lysander, Hermia, Helena and Demetrius’ actions displays the fact that they always tell the truth, but tend to go over the line of wisdom, with an indifference to the rules.
Youth is a term that refers to adolescents. Adolescents are children or teenagers who have not reached full maturity. Honesty is a quality or trait which means to be truthful, frank and sincere. Recklessness, on the other hand, involves being daring, hasty and thoughtless. To be reckless means to be unconcerned about the consequences of any action.
One of the key qualities of youth is honesty because the youth in A Midsummer Night’s Dream never lie, and are often straight to the point with a disregard of other people’s feelings. An example of Lysander being honest occurs when he is under the flower’s spell, in the woods, and bluntly tells Hermia that he is in love with Helena with an indifference to Hermia’s feelings.
Ay, by my life;
And never did desire to see thee more.
Therefore be out of hope, of question, of doubt;
Be certain, nothing truer – ‘tis no jest
That I do hate thee and love Helena. 1
This clearly illustrates Lysander being honest about him changing his love to Helena instead of Hermia. Lysander also openly states his hatred towards Hermia. Lysander is at fault for being blunt with Hermia, when he knows Hermia still loves him. Although this has a negative effect, it also has a positive effect because Lysander is not leading Hermia on with false hopes of love. The change of Lysander’s love makes a new modification to the love oval (Lysander loving Hermia, Hermia loving Lysander, Demetrius loving Hermia and Helena loving Demetrius). Currently the love oval has switched “Lysander loving Hermia” to “Lysander loving Helena”. This is an important alteration to the play because the love has shifted since the magic flower is corrupting the adolescents in the play. This is a key quality of youth because it displays a representative of honesty using Lysander as an example when he was being honest with Hermia. Another example of honesty is demonstrated when Lysander is lost in the woods with Hermia.
This is a preview of the whole essay
Fair love, you faint with wandering in the wood,
And, to speak truth, I have forgot our way.
We’ll rest us, Hermia, if you think it good,
And tarry for the comfort of the day.2
Lysander is one of the most honest characters in the play, instead of telling Hermia that he is merely tired and wants to stop and rest, he tells her the truth about being lost. He risks his male dignity by telling Hermia about them being off-course. Lysander also asks Hermia if she thinks it is proper for them to stop and rest, which was a very gentleman-like act to do. This is another example of how honesty is a main character trait for youth. The last demonstration of honesty occurs when Theseus finds Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena sleeping together in the same grove. Theseus demands to know why Demetrius and Lysander are together, when they were rivals in Hermia’s love. Lysander answers, with another display of honesty.
My lord, I shall reply amazedly,
Half sleep, half waking; but as yet, I swear,
I cannot truly say how I came here;
But, as I think (for truly would I speak)
And now do I bethink me, so it is, –
I came with Hermia hither. Our intent
Was to be gone from Athens, where we might
Without the peril of the Athenian law –3
Lysander knows he will most likely get hanged or jailed for telling Theseus about his plan of running away from Athens. He thought Hermia and himself could live by themselves and be legally allowed to be married because they are not in Athens. Lysander honestly states that he does not know how all four of them were sleeping the same grove. Although it is unlikely for Theseus to believe him, Lysander takes his chances and says it anyways for the hopes of Theseus believing him. This is the final example of honesty being a key quality. Honesty is a main quality of youth in A Midsummer Night’s Dream because the youth know by being honest helps other people understand their situation better, despite the consequences they will later face.
Another key quality of youth in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is recklessness because the youth do not think about the consequences they will later face for being daring and thoughtless. An example of recklessness is demonstrated when Lysander gives Hermia the idea of running away from Athens. He plans the idea when Theseus and Egeus refuse to let Hermia marry him.
A good persuasion. Therefore, hear me, Hermia:
I have a widow aunt, a dowager,
Of great revenue, and she hath no child.
From Athens is her house remote seven leagues;
And she respects me as her only son.
There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee;
And to that place the sharp Athenian law
Cannot pursue us. If thou lov’st me, then,
Steal forth thy father's house to-morrow night,
And in the wood, a league without the town
(Where I did meet thee once with Helena,
To do observance to a morn of May),
There will I stay for thee.4
Lysander is now displayed as a reckless character. He plans to run away with Hermia, even though it is against the Athenian law. According to Theseus and Egeus the law now states that it is illegal for Hermia and Lysander to wed. Although Lysander knows that if he breaks the law he will be hanged or jailed till he dies. Lysander, being a reckless youth, chooses to ignore the consequences he will face if he is captured. Lysander also does not think about the food problem in the woods. They never stop to think about the food issue on their way to Lysander’s aunt’s house. This is a key quality of youth because the youth never think about right and wrong decisions. They just blindly follow their “spur of the moment”, and not thinking about the aftermaths. Another demonstration of recklessness occurs in the woods. Helena decides to follow Demetrius alone, when she is unwanted. Demetrius then asks Helena if she thinks she is safe with him.
You do impeach your modesty too much,
To leave the city and commit yourself
Into the hands of one that loves you not;
To trust the opportunity of night,
And the ill counsel of a desert place,
With the rich worth of your virginity.5
Demetrius brings a valid point in his conversation with Helena. He tells her she is being reckless and unthinking to leave the city with a man who does not love her. He also asks if she trusts him with her virginity. Helena is unmistakably being reckless by supposing Demetrius will take care of her and not harm her. This is another example of being reckless because it shows how the youth trust everyone to never harm them. Another example of recklessness is shown when Helena plans to tell Demetrius about Lysander and Hermia. Helena thinks Demetrius might fall in love with her if she tells Demetrius that Lysander and Hermia are running away to get married.
How happy some o'er other some can be!
Through Athens I am thought as fair as she.
But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so;
He will not know what all but he do know.
And as he errs, doting on Hermia's eyes,
So I, admiring of his qualities.
Things base and vile, folding no quantity,
Love can transpose to form and dignity.
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.
Nor hath love's mind of any judgement taste;
Wings, and no eyes, figure unheedy haste;
And therefore is love said to be a child
Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.
As waggish boys in game themselves forswear,
So the boy Love is perjured everywhere;
For, ere Demetrius looked on Hermia's eyne,
He hailed down oaths that he was only mine,
And when this hail some heat from Hermia felt,
So he dissolved, and showers of oaths did melt.
I will go tell him of fair Hermia's flight:
Then to the wood will he, tomorrow night,
Pursue her; and for this intelligence,
If I have thanks it is a dear expense;
But herein mean I to enrich my pain,
To have his sight thither, and back again.6
Helena is portrayed as a bad friend. She does not think about Hermia when she makes this plan. She does not remember how long her friendship with Hermia has been, and if she is willing to risk it all over Demetrius. Helena is acting reckless because she does not think about Hermia and Lysander. She does not stop and think about how they would feel when they find out about her deceiving them. Lysander and Hermia might get sent to death for running away from Athens. Helena does not stop to think if this rash decision was one of life and death. This is why recklessness is a main quality of youth in A Midsummer Night’s Dream because the youth are always breaking the rules with a disregard of the consequences they will soon face.
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the youth’s key qualities are honesty and recklessness. The youth are honest because they always tell the truth in every situation they are in. They are honest when they tell people they love or hate them. Whenever they are in messy situations they can easily lie about their position, but choose not to. The youth are also reckless because they always do something they know their parents will not approve of. They make plans to run away with their lover or deceive their closest friends for love’s sake. The youth are always telling the truth when asked, but are always doing something daring, without thinking about the consequences they will face later. If a person does not ask them a question, they will not openly tell anyone the state of their condition, and they are often doing something behind your back, which makes the youth not trust worthy.
1 William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Linda Buckle ed., (United Kingdom: Cambridge 1984), Act III, scene ii, lines 277b – 281.
2 Ibid., II, ii, 41 – 44.
3 Ibid., IV, i, 143 – 150.
4 Ibid., I, i, 156 – 168.
5 Ibid., II, ii, 214 – 219.
6 Ibid., I, i, 226 – 251.
Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Linda Buckle, ed. United Kingdom: Cambridge 1984.