A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
There are various types of “love” found in A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, which Shakespeare explores through the constant evolution and changing of relationships between the characters. The first of these relationships is that of the duke, Theseus, and his bride-to-be, Hippolyta. Although his enthusiasm over their wedding can be interpreted as a sign of love, it belies his actual dominating nature. He had “wooed” Hippolyta with his “sword”, and “won (her) love doing (her) injuries”. This is a clear example of how Theseus is not the righteous man he claims to be, another example of which is given in Act II Scene I: we discover that he had “ravished” Perigouna, and “broke his faith” with Aegles, Ariadne, and Antiopa for Titania.
The Fairy Queen’s relationship with her husband Oberon is where we once again see male domination and female subservience, as was common in Victorian society. But in reciprocal, Ritania is depicted as a strong woman who is loyal to and cares for her friends, even if one such friend was a “votress of her order”. Oberon is, comparatively, rather shallow, bordering on cruel. Throughout the play, he shows more companionship towards his servant Robin Goodfellow than his own wife, calling her a “rash wanton”. He demands that she hand over an Indian changeling boy to be his “henchman” solely because he is her “lord”. He fails to see, however, that she is his “lady”.
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Disregarding the fact that he made love to “amorous Phillida” and has a “buckskinned mistress”, a “warrior love” who is none other than Hippolyta, he states that Titania herself was a lover of Theseus. While she expresses her angst at their “debate”, their “dissention”, he devises a plan to “anoint” her eyes with a love potion that will make her “madly dote upon the next live creature that (she) sees”. In this way, Shakespeare shows how although Oberon and Titania are married, they find love in the end only through Oberon’s manipulation.
Titania is seen again in a relationship with Bottom, an actor in the Mechanicals’ group. With his magic, Puck “translates” Bottom’s head into that of an ass, and makes it so that he is the first creature that Titania “spies” when she awakes. Despite his appearance, Titania thinks of him as an “angel” and beckons her fairies to wait on him. The irony of this is that the beautiful queen Titania has fallen in love with a common man, whose head has been transformed into an ass’! This is a brief relationship, yet it explains how “Cupid” is “blind” and love does not take into account one’s appearance or status.
One of the most important relationships in the play is that of Hermia and Lysander. Their love is forbidden, as her father wishes her to be married to Demetrius, and is a theme employed by Shakespeare in other famous plays, especially “Romeo and Juliet”. They are an example of young love, that which seems undying but is, in the end, easily destroyed. We also notice how Lysander seems far more eager to advance into physical contact, an aspect of love which Shakespeare sensitively mentions. Hermia, on the other hand, is hesitant and bashful, calling him a “sweet friend” and asking him to “lie further off”. What is ironic that this attempt to preserve her modesty is ultimately what causes Hermia to lose her love, as Puck mistakes Lysander to be Demetrius due to the fact that they lie far apart from each other.
The other main relationship between the lovers is that of Demetrius and Helena. Despite the resolution at the end of the play, we know that Demetrius’ love is fickle. This had been established quite early in the play, when lysander calls Demetrius a “spotted” and “inconstant” man as he “made love to Nedar’s daughter Helena” while vying for Hermia’s affections. But in the end, all couples have been paired and Shakespeare ends the play happily. We can safely say that there is no concrete form of love seen in the play that applies to all relationships, it is clear that they all follow the same basic principle; “the course of true love never did run smooth”.