Different Types of Love in A Midsummer Night's Dream


William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream conveys several lessons about love through the three types developed within the play: friendship, family and romantic love. Friendship shows that love can come in different forms and does not have to be dependent on beauty, familial love displays its powerful influence in one’s life and romantic love is a force of disorder that can make one blind and irrational.

Throughout the play, friendship consistently demonstrates love’s diverse forms and how it is not reliant on appearances. By exploring the relationship of Helena and Hermia, the audience gains a better understanding of these lessons such as when Helena says, “Like to a double cherry, seeming parted, / But yet an union in partition, / Two lovely berries molded on one stem;” (III.II.209-211). This relationship exhibits the power and influence of a true friendship and what happens if it were to be neglected. Shakespeare embeds the relationship of Bottom and the Mechanicals to display a positive example of true friendship as shown when Flute says, “And the duke had not given him sixpence a day for / playing Pyramus, I’ll be hanged. He would have / deserved it.” (IV.II.18-20). The Mechanicals never mention beauty in relation to their friendship, their love is based on trust, respect and caring for each other. Furthermore, Titania and the priestess show another aspect of friendship when Titania says, “But she, being mortal, of that boy did die, / And for her sake do I rear up her boy; / And for her sake I will not part with him.” (II.I.135-137). Although keeping the Indian boy was causing conflicts in Titania’s life and the world, she would not give him up for the sake of her friendship. Titania did not love the priestess because she was attractive, but because they were respectful and amiable to one another, true friendship embodies trust and sacrifice. These relationships show how friendship displays that numerous types of love exist which are not dependent on appearances.

The powerful influence of family love plays a crucial role within one’s life as shown throughout the play. During Elizabethan England, men were treated differently than women and Theseus and Hippolyta’s striking relationship challenges this ideology, as shown when Theseus says, “We will, fair queen, up to the mountain’s top, / And mark the musical confusion / Of hounds and echo in conjunction.” (IV.I.108-110). Theseus treats Hippolyta respectfully rather than as just a beautiful object, unlike many of the other relationships in the play. The audience can reflect upon their own lives and understand that familial love should be respectful, unconditional, supportive, equal and caring. Shakespeare includes negative demonstrations to adequately portray the influence of family love. For instance, Oberon and Titania show that jealousy is not optimal within a relationship, when Oberon says, “Wake when some vile thing is near!” (II.II.40). Negative feelings should not affect one’s family love as it may lead them to regretful actions, it should be nurtured and considered seriously. Additionally, the power of love is emphasized here, since Oberon was only doing this because he was jealous of the love the Indian boy was receiving from his wife. Women were often unwillingly forced into loving someone by a male figure within their life as seen through this relation and many other parts of the play, such as the father/daughter relationship of Egeus and Hermia, when Egeus says, “And she is mine, and all my right of her / I do estate unto Demetrius.” (I.I.97-98).  Shakespeare purposefully makes Egeus a disliked character to show that his behaviour is inadmissible. If one finds themselves in a similar situation the play encourages them to work towards a relationship based on true familial love. Out of all the relations in the play, Theseus and Hippolyta would be the most conspicuous, as relationships like Hermia and Egeus, and Titania and Oberon were common during that time, and even today, which Shakespeare challenges by showing the influence of Theseus and Hippolyta’s family love in comparison to the others. 

Romantic love is displayed as a force of disorder that causes one to become blind and irrational. Due to this, many of the relationships in the play have a threat of violence within them that serves as a warning to the audience, such as Helena and Demetrius’ relationship when Helena says, “I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius, / The more you beat me I will fawn on you.” (II.I.203-204). Through this relationship, the audience understands that romantic love should be reciprocated from both sides, not dependent on appearances, and has a powerful influence. The disorder caused by romantic love has made Helena irrational, and blind to Demetrius’ adverse traits. Another relationship that conveys romantic love would be Bottom and Titania as seen when Bottom says, “And yet, to say the truth, reason and love keep little / company together nowadays;” (III.I.127-128).  In Shakespeare's time period, romantic love would make one blind and allow looks to triumph over character, which still applies today, but through Bottom, a revered character, Shakespeare opposes this idea. Due to the influence of the flower, Titania is able to see Bottom’s inner beauty even though his appearance resembles a donkey. When she is no longer under the influence, she becomes disgusted by him, because of his looks and ignores all the qualities that make him internally beautiful. Bottom’s saying is correct and society has caused romantic love to cause disorder and to be based upon the factor of appearances rather than characteristics. Romantic love is also shown as a force of disorder in Lysander and Hermia’s relationship, when Lysander says, “There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee; / And to that place the sharp Athenian law / Cannot pursue us. If thou lov’st me, then / Steal forth thy father’s house tomorrow night,” (I.I.161-164). Due to the impulsiveness of these young lovers, the conflicts in the woods emerged and posed a threat of violence to several characters, which indicates that although at times love can be complicated, patience will allow solutions to surface. Romantic love made them make the spontaneous decision to run away, affecting their other relationships as well. Romantic love portrayed in the play is a force of disorder that can make one blind and irrational to threats such as violence within relationships, however one must remain in a state of order to overcome these difficulties.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, expresses many lessons about love through the friendship, family and romantic love developed throughout the play. Friendship shows that love can come in different forms and does not have to be dependent on beauty, the love of families demonstrates its powerful influence and romantic love is displayed as a force of disorder that can make one blind and irrational. It is important to acknowledge that love is everywhere and it comes from within, however, one must ensure the love they are surrounded by, is true and mutual.

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