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An Analysis of Love in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream Essay

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A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of Shakespeare's most widely read comedies about love. This seems somewhat strange, however, in light of the fact that so few of its characters seem to display any kind of full or true love. A close examination of the actions and words of each of the players will reveal that only one of them, by the end of Act V, should be considered a "lover".

For the purposes of this inquiry, we are defining "love" as "that which steadily desires and works to attain the benefit of another." I think this definition becomes very important when we study the uses and effects of the dew of the pansy (first mentioned in 2.1.166ff.) on the various characters on whom its charm is worked, and by extension, on those with whom they interact. The dew is employed by Shakespeare as a device to demonstrate how fluid a thing "love" is, and how easily the affections of the so-called lover can be swayed. But the dew's power is not all-conquering. It is said to "make man or woman madly dote / upon the next live creature that it sees" (2.1.171-172), and to induce "hateful fantasies" (2.1.258), but it is not irresistible, nor is it ever said to repress any feelings of love a person might have had prior to falling under its charm.

Thus I believe that from our definition of love we can reason that what the dew affects and causes is not, in fact, love at all. Rather, it is fancy, another emotion of which Shakespeare makes considerable use. If a person steadily desired and worked to attain the benefit of another, the charm of the dew would not change that. It would merely fill his or her head with "hateful fantasies" about the new object of affection -- and not desires for its benefit. In any event, certainly someone genuinely in...


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... of my examination of love in A Midsummer Night's Dream, to arrive at the conclusion that none of its players exhibited any love at all, and Shakespeare's point was to prove that love is unreal; a fabrication of human imagination. I was excited to discover, however, that in the midst of the ugly scene he set up to emphasize this argument most strongly, he left a single bastion of true, honest, unadulterated (for Hermia is never charmed by the pansy's dew) love. To me, Hermia is an example of what humanity could be, and how it could love, were it to forget some of the smaller matters in which it so often becomes willingly entangled.



Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. Houghton Mifflin Company. Boston. New York. 1997.

Rhoades, Duane. Shakespeare's Defense of Love: "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Westport, CT: Greenwood Press,1986.


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