Freshman English II

What is love? Is it an emotion, a magical feeling, or just a four-letter word? After reading several of Shakespeare’s plays I think that love is almost impossible to define. The only way to know what love is would be to experience it first hand.

In the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream Shakespeare portrayed love in several different forms. The play opens with Theseus and Hippolyta discussing their wedding plans. Theseus states “But oh, methinks, how slow This old moon wanes! She lingers my desires,” (Act I, Scene I, 3&4). Theseus’s intentions are not pure in fact one could say that he is confusing love with lust waiting not for the marriage but for the benefits of being married. Hippolyta reassures him that four nights will soon pass and making a reference to cupid states “And then the moon, like to a silver bow New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night Of our solemnities.” (Act I, Scene I, 9-11). Hippolyta’s love may seem pure but the consequences leading to the marriage between the two prove otherwise. Hippolyta’s love for Theseus was influenced by the recent battle between the two in which Hippolyta was defeated by Theseus.

As plans go on for the wedding Egeus and his daughter Hermia arrive on the scene along with Demetrius and Lysander. Hermia has a slight problem, her father does not agree on her choice of husband. Theseus has sided with Egeus and stated that Hermia has three options obey her father’s wishes and marry Demetrius, spend her life in a nunnery or be put to death. Lysander then states, “I am, my lord, as well derived as he, As well possessed; my love is more than his…and, which is more than all these boasts can be, I am beloved of beauteous Hermia.” (Act I, Scene I, 99-104). This does nothing to persuade Theseus, so Hermia must decide should she stay in Athens and marry Demetrius, forced love, or flee Athens and marry Lysander, true love.

At the end of scene one Hermia informs Helena that she will be leaving Athens with Lysander to elope. This introduces us to yet another portrayal of love, the love that Helena has for Demetrius and Demetrius for Hermia. Which I think is best described as an un-pure or fake love. It is a love of the chase, without the chase there would be no feeling of love. The more Demetrius pushes Helena away the more she desires his love, and the same for Hermia and Demetrius.

The second scene introduces Nick Bottom who appears to be the rudest most conceited character in the play, but ironically these same characteristics make Bottom the most successful lover. The most important step to loving someone is having love for one self, which is why Helena, with her lack of self-worth, is a horrible lover. Bottom crosses paths with the fairy queen Titania, and quickly falls in love with her. Titania also confesses her love for Bottom but only because she is under a spell that her husband Oberon has cast upon her. This same spell was accidentally cast upon Lysander who then falls in love with Helena this is a portrayal of influenced love. When Lysander confesses his love to Helena she does not accept it she believes that he is teasing her. This just goes to show that Helena’s lack of self-love causes her to be unable to accept love from another.

This play leads me to believe that love should not be defined in words, but should only be recognized as a deep and magical emotion. Sadly in the world today love is almost a meaningless word the way it is just tossed around. Many people will confess love because they think it is the right thing to do, or tell someone they love them because they believe their supposed to. I think that many people have given up on finding that true love in fear of growing old alone. If people would only slow down and evaluate their lives then maybe we could get back to Shakespeare’s time when love was more than just a four letter word.