In William Shakespeare 's A Midsummer Night 's Dream, following the climax of the play, Theseus, the Duke of Athens, makes an interesting observation about the nature of the one thing that has driven the conflict of the story: love. "Lovers and madmen have such seething brains/ Such shaping fantasies that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends" (V.I.4-6). Theseus ' statement, making lovers akin to madmen, casts the action in a somewhat different light than one might ordinarily see it. If lovers do, in fact, think and behave as madmen do, as Theseus seems to be suggesting, this speaks not only to the nature of the conflict and confusion between the four lovers, but to the nature of the relationships between nearly every character in the play, artificially induced though some of them may have been. This somewhat altered view of the matter calls to attention several factors of the play 's various conflicts: the fickleness displayed by both Demetrius and Lysander when they have been influenced by magic, the blindness and deliberate ignorance brought about by love in some cases, and finally, the refusal of the madman to admit his madness—the refusal of the lover to admit that perhaps, love is not always a good thing. Shakespeare 's likening of a lover to a madman highlights the complete ridiculousness, and ultimately the lack of actual resolution of the story 's conflict, born of love, and resolved, at least on the surface, with the imitation of it.
Though the play has many significant characters, the focus and driving force of the play is the relationship between the four lovers: Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, and Helena. When taken to heart, the comparison of lovers to madmen speaks most directly about these four: their en...
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...er happiness for the mere chance of being noticed by a man who despises her. Love leads to chaos between the four lovers, shifting back and forth, unpredictable, unbalanced, destructive. False love distracts Titania from her desire to protect the Indian boy, to the extent that once she 's awakened from the spell she doesn 't even mention him, though Oberon has taken him against her wishes while she 's been distracted by the madness he inflicted on her. Love leads her to forgive him these transgressions, though he has done nothing to deserve forgiveness of any sort. Though everything appears resolved at the play 's conclusion, a whole host of unaddressed issues lurk beneath the surface—madness, suppressed for the time being, but never eradicated. Love, in this story, is a form of madness, and it is as dangerous as it can be appealing to any subjected to its charms.
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