Realism and Romanticism in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Realism and Romanticism in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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Realism and Romanticism in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

 

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare, love is viewed in different ways. While the four main characters believe in romanticism, Theseus is a strong supporter of realism.  Bottom proves to be quite accurate characterizing the four main lovers when he states, "O what fools these mortals be.".

            Demetrius and Lysander both speak in figurative language and both are very handsome. Their love for Helena and Hermia deal mainly with physical attraction and flirtatious acts than love that captures body, mind, and soul. If any of the four characters posses anything of realistic love, it would be Hermia. She was willing to risk death in order to be with Lysander. This act of love goes beyond any other in this play, and demonstrates Hermia’s devotion to Lysander. "My good Lysander, I swear to thee by Cupid’s strongest bow- Tomorrow truly will I meet with thee" (Act 1, Scene 1).

            Helena is one of the silliest character’s in the play, and at times can be quite irritating. Demetrius shows no love for her, yet she persists in chasing him. "And even for that do I love you the more. I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius, the more you beat me, I will fawn on you" (Act 2, Scene 1). These characters are a true definition of "love sick." All of them appear to be in love with love, more so than in love with each other. They all frantically run about, each changing partners so often that one is never really sure of who loves whom. Each consume themselves with what they consider to be real love to the point of losing touch completely with the real world. To them, love is a fairy tale which involves no reason. They all believe that falling in love involves nothing more than romantic speech and desire for each other.

            Unlike the four main lovers, Theseus, Duke of Athens, believes that men should never be out of touch with the real world. In short, he views the four lovers story as nothing but an illusion concocted in their imaginations. The entire idea of being infatuated with one’s lover to the point of losing touch with the real world is ludicrous to him. At first, Theseus’ love for Hippolyta may be viewed as cold, but once one realizes Theseus’ realistic and noble character, it is obvious that he strongly desires his bride.

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Theseus may not use poetic language or "shout his love from the rooftops," but the feelings he shares with Hippolyta are from his heart, mind, and soul.

            More strange than true. I never may believe

            These antique fables, nor these fairy toys.

            Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,

            Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend

            More than cool reason ever comprehends.

            The lunatic, the lover, and the poet,

            Are of imagination all compact. (Act 5, Scene 1)

 

            Theseus sees the story of the four lovers as nothing more than a magical adventure that took place in their imaginations. He distrusts how they believe so absolutely in their love story. Theseus and Hippolyta’s love is far deeper than the four lovers, but this real love may be seen as something that matures with age. Young love has proven to be far more romanticized and less thought out than older, more realistic love.

            Theseus compares the four characters feelings for each other to poets and lunatics. Each, he says, see their fantasies more clearly than they see what’s actually there. This has proven to be so in the minds of the four lovers. Their devotion to each other is far more romanticized and figurative than the more realistic, mature love that Theseus shares with Hippolyta.
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