Midsummer Night’s Dream: Love Isn't All You Need

2021 Words9 Pages
The love story is one of the oldest and most cherished traditions in any world culture. The prevalence of romantic works throughout history, whether Greek myths, Jane Austen’s dramatic narratives, or today’s dime-a-dozen romantic novels, ultimately encourages us to believe in the power of true love. We identify with the archetypal star-crossed lovers, who combat established convention in order to assert their romance, because we too yearn for our own “happily-ever-afters.” When used in conjunction with reason, love is the highest form of compassion – without it, we could not possibly interact productively with one another or develop as individuals. But when we take a new perspective and examine love as an independent, free-acting entity, a dark side can emerge and destroy the idyllic images of romantic bliss that have pervaded literature throughout the ages. William Shakespeare, in his comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, takes the idea of pristine, pure, and rebellious romance and turns it on its head. Shakespeare uses irony to characterize impulsive love not as a blessing, but as an irrational, destructive force that leads us away from a valuable, constructive life.

Irony serves as Shakespeare’s weapon of choice in dismantling our idea of love as strong and noble. Irony in itself, however, is so nuanced and complex that it requires further explanation. Richard M. Eastman provides that explanation in his book Style, which illuminates the basic structure and function of irony and other stylistic elements found in literary works. In Eastman’s words, the “rudimentary pattern of irony” is “an assertion pointing in one direction together with some signal to the reader that the real sense lies in another” (Eastm...

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...pairs our rationality, and, ultimately, in our course of vulnerable irrationality, it swoops in to transform and destroy us. In Shakespeare’s comedy, all does turn out right in the end, but that is because A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a work of fiction. In the real world, love has the potential to be very dangerous – but only if we let it realize that potential. Shakespeare ultimately impels us not to let love control us; we must instead control it by continuing to assert our values and our individuality in the face of its pernicious destruction. We must cling to our reason in the face of love and use that rationality to keep the malicious aims of love at bay. Only then, can we experience our own true love and reach our own “happily-ever-afters.”

Works Cited

Eastman, Richard S. Style. 3rd ed. 1970. New York: Oxford University Press, 1984. Print.
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