Love in A Midsummer Night's Dream

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In much of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it appears that, as Bottom the Weaver says, ‘reason and love keep little company’. However, in some cases, this is not true.

Francis Bacon once said that ‘it is impossible to love, and to be wise.’ There are many instances in A Midsummer Night’s Dream when this is reflected; for instance when Lysander and Demetrius both suddenly start loving Helena – but perhaps most notably when Titania falls in love with Bottom the Weaver, (calling him ‘as wise as [he is] beautiful’), once he has been turned into an ass which even his friends, the other Mechanicals, run away from. He hardly seems a fitting choice for the Queen of the Fairies.

This sudden change in Titania’s feelings is of course the result of the love juice being squirted on her eyes by her husband Oberon, who wanted the young boy who was the subject of their quarrel. Indeed, the love juice – the ‘little western flower, before, milk white; now purple with love’s wound’ – is absolutely central in the story, for it is this which makes the characters change their mind about whom they love, and makes them become unreasonable to a point where they almost defy reason; as with Titania. The love juice is the sole reason why the ‘love cycle’ of who loves whom changes so often throughout the course of the story.

The fact that the juice is squirted on a person’s eyes is, I believe, important as well. Shakespeare seems to be telling us that we love only with our eyes, as opposed to our brain; which is why love can be irrational. The love juice not only affects the characters’ actions; it affects their speech as well. Beautifying words, such as those from Lysander’s speech in hyperbole in Act 3 Scene 2 (‘goddess, nymph, perfect, divine...

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...s comes back to himself in Act 4, and is explaining his new-found love for Helena, he is a very different man. He seems to value his love for her as nothing, and says that it is rational. He says; ‘like a sickness I did loathe this food. But, as in health come to my natural taste, now I do wish it, love it, long for it, and will evermore be true to it.’ He seems like a different man to the one who, earlier, told Helena that he would ‘leave [her] to the mercy of wild beasts.’

In the end, I think it fair to say that although there are some parts of the play where clearly, love changes the characters greatly; not only altering their personality, but also their mind, love is rational to an extent (as far as the rationality of love goes), in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

But how can one answer such a question accurately, when the very concept of love is irrational?
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