Monday, January 16, 2012

Thoughts: A Midsumer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

What, can you do me greater harm than hate?
Hate me? Wherefore? O, what news, my love?
Am I not Hermia? Are you not Lysander?
I am as fair now as I was erewhile.
Since night you loved me; yet since night you left me.

Lysander and Hermia love each other, but Hermia’s best friend, Helena, loves Demetrius who loves Hermia. Since Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius, she and Lysander decided to run away together, and, somehow, they end up in the woods. The woods happen to be the realm of Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies, who are currently fighting over a changeling. Some workmen, led by Bottom, are rehearsing a play in the woods for an upcoming wedding. Also, Robin a.k.a Puck is around somewhere, causing more mayhem with a love potion.

This play is supposed to be confusing, but it’s not. The characters, except for the four lovers, are so distinct that you won’t have any difficulty telling them apart. Bottom is kind of an idiot, while Robin a.k.a Puck is basically giggling like a hyena at all the mayhem he’s causing. See? Easy as pie to tell apart.

First of all, I kept wondering why Hermia loved Lysander so much. According to Lysander himself, he and Demetrius are equal in looks, wealth, and rank. On the surface, there’s practically no way to tell who’s Demetrius and who’s Lysander. The same can be said about Hermia and Helena. Why were Demetrius and Lysander so crazy about Hermia when Helena was just as pretty and nice?

It occurred to me, then, that Shakespeare is a genius by presenting Lysander and Demetrius/Hermia and Helena as eerily similar. That’s what love is all about. When you’re in love, that one person might look ordinary to everyone else in the world, but you notice little things about them that set them apart, that make special when compared to the other people in this planet. You notice the way his hair falls over his eyes, and the way he stands still when he’s thinking about something important. The furrowed brow. The unruly hair. You see every little detail, and it delights you.

There’s also a scene where, with the help of a love potion, Titania, the queen of the fairies, falls in love with Bottom after Robin turns him into an ass. She isn’t repulsed by the hairy ears and the large front teeth. She is fascinated by him, and compares his neigh to a nightingale’s song.

The Titania/Bottom subplot is a great metaphor. It basically screams that love is indeed blind. When we’re in love, we see the other person’s faults. It’s just that we choose to accept or ignore them. He keeps forgetting to put the cap back on the Colgate after he uses it? His clothes keep missing the laundry basket? Who cares? You’re in love. That’s basically it.

In this play, Shakespeare says, “The course of true love never did run smooth.” He was right. As human beings, we have pride, we makes mistakes, and we never fail to screw things up. But, hey, the screwed up love stories make the best ones.


Read this play for Shakespeare Reading Month hosted by A Literary Odyssey.


Audra said...

Shamefully, I've read/seen this but I want to -- it sounds so fun, and your observations about love and Shakespeare's 'comments' on love even more intriguing!

Laura said...

I've never thought about it that way before (I kind of think of Hermia as being sort of boring, and Helena as a crazy mess!) but I can totally see the whole thing where the one you love is wholly special to you... fab analysing of things!

amanda (simplerpastimes) said...

I've read this but remember it so little that I'm planning on rereading later this year. Your thoughts remind me how great it really is, so I'm excited to reread it!

Red said...

Love your take on the similarities of the lovers! Everyone else may see the same, boring person but to those in love all those ordinary things are actually something special. Great review/thoughts!

Zibilee said...

I haven't read any Shakespeare, but you make me want to try, because you make it sound so accessible, when I always had the impression that it was really difficult. I love what you had to say about this book, and think that I might have to crack open this one soon. Terrific review today!

Sam (Tiny Library) said...

I also love your take on the similarity of the lovers. I first read this for school when I was about 13 and always got Helena/Hermia confused, I think you're right that that's part of the point.

Brooke said...

This is the next Shakespeare on my list and you make it sound excellent and well worth the wait!

L.L. said...

I love what you say about the meaning of love being blind. To be honest, when I read this in the past I just thought of the story and how it was amusing that everything became so mixed up, but I think you are right.

Trisha said...

I love this play because it is just so much fun!

Kailana said...

I actually read this play today, but I am still thinking about it for the moment.

bibliophilica said...

This is an excellent review, Darlyn. Four years ago I had an overly ambitious project to read through all of his plays in a year. I failed, but I did get through 2/3rds of them. And Midsummer Night's Dream was the first one I read and I will always be fond of it for that reason - as well as the fact that is excellent!

I really like "that merry wanderer of the night" Puck. He sure works a lot of mischief in a short time, doesn't he?


Jillian said...

I love the way you distinguish Shakespeare as a genius in the one because the characters are so similar. That's such a good point -- that our eyes see more deeply, in love.

I'll be reading this one for the first time tonight. :)

Rebecca Reid said...

I have seen a few movie versions of this and LOVED them but haven't ever read the play. Sounds fantastic. I look forward to enjoying all the subtlety (and not subtlety) and humor by focusing on the language as I read it!


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