Love in a Midsummer Night's Dream: Theme & Analysis

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  • 0:04 Love By Conquering
  • 0:55 Forbidden Love
  • 1:54 Jealous Love
  • 2:19 Unrequited Love
  • 3:17 False Love
  • 3:56 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

Love is what makes the entire play 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' happen, but the love portrayed is not exactly typical. There's forbidden love, jealous love, unrequited love, and false love, but is there any true love? Find out in this lesson!

Love By Conquering

Is there such a thing as true love? Love is a wonderful thing, especially when it's true love. But is there any true love in Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream? The answer is. . . well, it's complicated. This lesson will focus on the types of love in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Let's take a look at love in this play and see what we come up with!

The Duke of Athens, Theseus, is in love. He's so preoccupied with his upcoming wedding (and the wedding night in particular) that he can barely concentrate on what is going on around him. But he won his love in battle, rather than in a more traditional way. Theseus says to his bride-to-be, ''Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword / And won thy love doing thee injuries.'' Because of this, we wonder if the love is true between these two, or whether there is love simply because it's what's expected for a conquered bride?

Forbidden Love

Forbidden love is a theme that runs through the story. Hermia, whose father, Egeus, is insisting she marries Demetrius, loves Lysander. But Athenian law gives Egeus the right to choose a husband for his daughter. Hermia refuses Demetrius, so Egeus drags her in front of Theseus, who admits that she must listen to her father. Rather than face death, celibacy, or a life with Demetrius, Hermia runs away into the forest, hoping to elope with Lysander.

Another forbidden love is portrayed in the play Bottom and his friends perform for the Duke's wedding. Pyramus and Thisbe are star-crossed lovers, who are kept apart through a wall. They too eventually decide to run away together, but their ending is not nearly as happy as Hermia and Lysander's. Believing Thisbe has been killed by a lion, Pyramus stabs himself, only to be discovered by the distraught Thisbe, who then kills herself as well. Of course, the bumbling actors manage to make the tragedy comedic, and the Duke and lovers are left laughing.

Jealous Love

The king of the fairies, Oberon, and his queen, Titania, are in love, but their love is contentious. Oberon is jealous of the attention Titania pays to others, most recently a little changeling boy she has adopted. Oberon demands the boy be his, and when Titania refuses, Oberon decides to make her fall in love with a monster. Though they are eventually reconciled, it doesn't look like the future for these two fairies will be all smooth sailing.

Unrequited Love

In a love triangle (or, actually, a love rectangle) someone is always left out. In this case, it is Hermia's friend, Helena, who is the odd woman out. Helena loves Demetrius, but he is besotted with Hermia and doesn't even look her way. To curry favor with Demetrius, Helena tells him of Lysander and Hermia's plan to run away. So Demetrius follows them, and Helena follows him, as faithful (and sadly, regarded) as a puppy following its master.

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