`A Mid Summer Night’s Dream’ by William Shakespeare How do events support Lysander’s claim that “The course of true love never did run smooth”? In this essay I will give my views on the quote: `The course of true love never did run smooth,’ a statement made by Lysander to his love Hermia. I will find quotes and sections of the play, which support this claim. I will find information from the play, which may have inspired Lysander to say this. At the start of the play Theseus and Hippolyta are talking about their forthcoming marriage and how it came to be.
You can see that they are happy and settled together as their `nuptial day’ is arriving; they are going to be married soon and seem very excited about the approaching event. Yet this had not always been the case, their love had not always been so smooth. It started by means of death and war: `Hippolyta, I wooed thee with my sword,’ is how Theseus describes the ways in which he won the love of Hippolyta. Theseus is referring to a myth, in which he killed many Amazons (warrior women). He won Hippolyta’s love by doing this as he showed courage, strength and most of all determination to win and overcome Hippolyta.
This supports Lysander’s claim as when he made this statement he suggested reasons like `war’ and `death’ as factors which affect the course of true love, here they both played a part in the myth where Theseus `wooed’ Hippolyta. Theseus backs up Lysander’s statement even more, as after talking about killing many Amazon’s he says: `But I will wed the in another key,’ meaning that even though their relationship started badly, their marriage would be a brilliant celebration, `with triumph’ and `with pomp. ‘ Theseus echoes Lysander’s thoughts when he says that their relationship didn’t start smoothly but on their wedding day they would forget about the past and think of a glorious future.
When Lysander says `true love never did run smooth,’ he says it in perfect unison with the play, as just prior to this claim we learn that under the `sharp Athenian law’ Hermia must marry Demetrius, or face the ultimatums of being killed or becoming a nun. Hermia’s and Lysander’s true love is being disturbed by Egeus, Hermia’s father, as he wants Hermia to marry Demetrius. Theseus knows that the two have true love and sympathises with them, but still has to abide by the law, but he gives Hermia the choice of becoming a nun.
One of Lysander’s reasons for love not running smooth is: `Ohell, to chose love by another’s eyes. ‘ Meaning that social class and family will decide who they are to marry. Egeus says: `As she is mine, I may dispose of her,’ ensuring Theseus will agree with him. In this day and age, the kind of comment which Egius made would generally be frowned greatly upon. However this situation has contemporary relevance, as in some parts of the world arranged marriages still happen today. These problems still face young couples today; thus adding to the contemporary relevance of the play.
Lysander also gives these reasons for love not running smoothly: `Ocross! Too high to be enthralled to low,’ meaning that high class can not marry into lower classes. `Or else misgraffed in respect of years,’ meaning that people of different ages can not get married to each other. `O spite! To old to be engaged to young,’ meaning that someone too old can not marry anyone too young. We also learn in this conversation that Helena and Demetrius used to be together, but while Demetrius now loves Hermia, Helena still loves Demetrius. Lysander says Demetrius `made love to Nedar’s daughter, Helena.
‘ Helena and Demetrius used to be in love, but it did not run smooth and their love became fickle and they eventually broke up as Demetrius fell in love with Hermia; another example of love not running smoothly. Lysander makes a plan to flee Athens with Hermia after their conversation with Egeus and Theseus. They wish to run from Athens and the law, which requires them to do as Hermia’s father wants: `Through Athens’ gates we have devised to steal,’ is what Lysander says when he reveals their plan to Helena. Telling Helena of their plan was Lysander’s biggest mistake, as he would shortly learn. If Helena let Hermia and Lysander run away she would be left with Demetrius to herself.
However, although she does not say it, I think she must have worried that Demetrius would either run after Hermia, or he may end his own life because he could not be with his loved one. She decides to tell Demetrius of `fair Hermia’s flight,’ in the hope that Demetrius will realise that chasing Hermia through the wood is pointless, as she doesn’t love him and never will. The theory is that when Demetrius comes to terms with this he will settle for Helena instead. At this point we realise that Helena is a desperate and pitiable character as she loves Demetrius so much she is willing to do anything for him.
While Helena is thinking of telling Demetrius of the two lovers plans to flee Athens, as she reveals her thoughts and fellings to the audience in soliloquy. In it she backs up Lysander’s statement by saying: `Nor hath love’s mind of any judgement taste,’ meaning that she agrees love is foolish and is too easily tampered with, when it should not be. At the same time she is being very hypocritical; she is saying that love has `no eyes,’ and that it has blinded Demetrius, making him love Hermia passionately, even though Hermia continues to reject him.
Yet Helena is doing exactly the same thing; ever since Helena and Demetrius split up it is clear that she has been hopelessly chasing Demetrius, even though he rejects her. It is not only in this play that we see examples of true love going amiss and making people do things influenced by love, it has a contemporary relevance with today’s society. Many murders and assaults happen because of couples committing adultery, and so called crimes of passion. Shakespeare may have been leaving his own little message to the people who read his poetry and plays. The scene of the lovers in the woods, is the main body of the play and in terms of this essay, one of the most important parts, as we can see
the power of love and how easily it can be changed. When Helena is running into the woods in pursuit of Demetrius, Demetrius stops to try to talk Helena out of following him: `I love thee not, therefore pursue me not. ‘ Demetrius is brutal to Helena, making it clear that he has no feelings for her. Demetrius cannot understand why she would continue to follow him, yet if he thought about her situation logically, he would realise that her feelings are similar to his; he pursues Hermia, even though it is obvious Hermia does not love him.
Helena and Demetrius both have true love, which is unfortunately not running smooth and neither of them can have the loved ones they so dearly wish for. Helena’s love for Demetrius is summed up by the metaphor used by Shakespeare: `I am your spaniel,’ meaning that the more Demetrius pushes her away the more she will continue to love him like an adoring dog. This just proves how powerful love can be and how if running smooth, it should be left alone. Helena is basically saying that Demetrius is everything to her and she would have a pitiful and meaningless existence without him. She would do anything for Demetrius except the one thing he wants, which is for her to go.
No matter what Demetrius says: `I am sick when I do look on thee,’ Helena comes out with a loving reply: `I am sick when I look not on thee. ‘ Demetrius even threatens that he may hurt Helena just to stop her following him: `I shall do thee mischief in the wood,’ Helena doesn’t care as she would rather be dead than not be with him: `I’ll follow thee, and make a heaven of hell. ‘ She also mentions, as she says Demetrius is metaphorically the light of her life and her world.
Oberon king of the fairies watches over their conversation, realising the `Athenian lady’ (Helena) is desperate for the love of the `disdainful youth’ (Demetrius) and thinks of the love-in-idleness potion. The pollen of this flower when put in some ones eyes will make them love the first person they set eyes on, so Oberon tells Puck (his servant) that he must use it to make Demetrius love Helena. When Lysander awakes to Helena’s shouting he looks at her and immediately falls in love with her, after having the magical potion put on his eyes by accident, as Puck had made the mistake of putting the potion on Lysander’s eyes rather than Demetrius’s.
He discards the `tedious minutes’ he spent with Hermia, and exaggerates his love for Helena in an effort to persuade Helena that it was always her that he loved. Helena becomes increasingly confused, as just days before her friends were talking of fleeing Athens and leaving their whole lives behind just so they could be together. When Puck realises his mistake he takes the `love-in-idleness’ and puts the juice into Demetrius’s eyes to right his mistake and make him love Helena, Puck thankfully carries out this instruction correctly.
Demetrius wakes in Helena’s sight and falls in love with her instantly and very passionately: `O Helen, goddess, nymph, perfect, divine! ‘ Aswith Lysander the love is instant and not progressive, which confuses Helena even more which leads her to the conclusion that they must be playing a trick on her: `But you must join in souls to mock me too.
‘ This is what Helena says when complaining and questioning Demetrius as to why they would do such a thing to a `gentle lady’. So we can see than when love is not running smoothly, it can be a powerful and hazardous force Although the men can’t see the predicament they leave the two women in, Helena and Hermia are in a very emotionally confused situation, both unable to understand what is going on. Hermia doesn’t know
whether to be very upset that Lysander might be leaving her or to be happy that he is playing a trick to get rid of Demetrius and Helena. It results in Helena blaming Hermia for the whole ordeal. She believes that they are definitely playing a trick on her and also that Hermia has devised it to get rid of her: `I scorn you not; it seems that you scorn me. ‘ This is what Hermia says as Helena blames her, yet Hermia understands the situation no better than Helena and is not willing to argue. We can see at this point that not only is the love not running smoothly but also is destroying what were previously good relationships.
The men are mere bystanders as they watch this argument unfold, ignorant to the turmoil they are causing to their previous loves. As Lysander refers to Hermia as a `vile thing’ and a `serpent’, Shakespeare uses these powerful metaphors emphasise Lysander’s feelings and add comedy to the scene. This proves that true love is very powerful, for Lysander now truly loves Helena and discards Hermia with no care for her feelings, he loves Helena and no longer cares for anyone else. The men’s ignorance of their past loves and their strong love for Helena causes them too fight for Helena, potentially even to the death.
At this moment in time love is not running smoothly for any of the young lovers, and the characters are literally and metaphorically `in the dark’. Only the audience, Oberon and Puck are privy to the magic that is at work. After this affair has ended and the men are unable to find each other in the forest and both go to sleep. At this point Puck puts right his errors and now Lysander will love Hermia when he awakes beside her and Demetrius will love Helena when he wakes beside her. When the lovers are found together, Hermia with Lysander expectedly and confusingly Demetrius with Helena.
Theseus asks; `How comes this gentle concord? ‘ This leaves the lovers in a perplexing position as they themselves cannot explain the weird goings on in the wood. `I cannot truly say how I came here,’ is what Lysander says in reply as the four lover’s wake in the midst of confusion trying to forget the previous and somewhat supernatural days. This reminds the audience of the way Shakespeare cleverly weaves the world of the spirtis and the mortals, creating a dream-like atmosphere. Yet it all turns out to their advantage, as Demetrius now loves Helena, and Lysander and Hermia have no reason to flee Athens; even if Egeus still wanted Hermia to marry Demetrius he cannot change the fact that Demetrius now loves someone else.
Theseus overrules Egeus: `Egeus I will overbear your will,’ and states that `these couples shall eternally be knit’ as they will all get married together. Thus the play is given a magical, happy ever after ending. The whole scene in the wood has in one way or another supported Lysander’s claim that true love never does run smooth. Lysander and Hermia were partially split up. The two men had true love for Helena and were both willing to risk their lives to prove it. Also Helena doubted her love for Demetrius as she thought they were all mocking her and that she had no chance of really getting the love of Demetrius.
Meanwhile between these goings on we see that it is not only mortals who suffer from the course or true love not running smooth, as the King and Queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania are very argumentative. This is because Titania was given a boy from a mortal woman before she passed away, and Oberon wants this boy to become one of his “henchmen”. Yet Titania has promised to look after this boy and will not hand him over to Oberon; we can see immediately that there is no compromise in their relationship and it seems quite immature that they cannot reach some form of agreement.
Titania claims `His mother has a votress of my order,’ as Oberon continued to `beg’ for the little boy; but Titania would not give in but remains faithful to the promise she made to look after the boy. Not only does this escapade cause trouble for their relationship, which had previously `run smooth’, but was now in tatters, but because of their powers it is also affecting the mortal world.
The wind had become ferocious, `contagious fogs’ have come and gone randomly without explanation, rivers have `overborne their continents’ and have flooded with no clarification, and the `green corn hath rotted’. `The seasons alter’ randomly causing turmoil for farmers. The fairies know they are causing all this trouble yet the persist to dispute: `evil comes from our debate. ‘ In the 16^th Century a poor harvest would have been devastating; the trouble the fairies were causing to the mortals was enormous, this gives the play historical relevance which an audience at the time could relate to. We can see why their relationship is no longer running smooth as Oberon believes that he should be all powerful over all fairies, even the Queen.
He says `I will go with thee,’ if Titania will give him the boy. He says this as if Titania desperately wants to be with him but can’t in fear of losing the boy; in real life this would be very patronising to Titania and would only worsen the decaying situation. Oberon is so enraged by Titania’s actions that he immaturely seeks revenge and he plots to make Titania fall in love with an ugly beast. While she is love struck he hopes to take the boy with her consent, as she would no longer care for him.
Ironically, he choose to use the love-in-idleness potion to trick his wife, rather than fix there relationship which at the time was obviously in tatters and giving the mortal world difficulty as well. When this task is carried out, Puck brings the news to Oberon and he is delighted by the way his plan has unfolded: `This is better than I can devise. ‘ The fact that she fell in love with a mortal with an animal’s head is fantastic, as he expected to fall in love with some wild creature; not only is it a wild creature, it is also a mortal too. This makes it even more confusing and humiliating for Titania.
Puck’s mischief ends up benefiting Oberon is two ways. Oberon not only gets the boy from Titania; he also realises that he still does love Titania after seeing her with Bottom; he wants her back for himself. He uses the `love-in-idleness’ potion to make her go back to normal and once again love Oberon: `Be of thou wast wont be,’ meaning that she should not have a new love for Oberon, but should just go back to normal. Once Titania and Oberon had overcome their problems they began to do their job efficiently and let the mortal world be ordinary once again.
Now they want to help the love of Theseus and Hippolyta as Titania says they will `dance in Duke Theseus’ house triumphantly. ‘ Yet their relationship is not yet stable and we don’t get to find out whether they patch up their mistakes fully, as when they leave Titania says: ` Tell me how it came this night,’ meaning that Oberon would have to explain what happened. This means that the audience are left to wonder whether their relationship will `run smooth’ in the future. The workmen’s play devised for Theseus and Hippolyta’s marriage is a sub-plot of the play, which is emphasised by comedy; although it seems to be a minor part it has some important meanings.
For one we see Bottom attempt to boss around the other workmen and the director, which in turn leads to Puck giving him an asses head, and this mischief plays a vital role in the story of Oberon and Titania. Also the play itself has many meanings, not only for comedy and to entertain the lovers; but more subtle and important meanings. The play has a lot of relevance to the play, as Pyramus and Thisbe, the lovers in the workmen’s play, are in a similar position as the lovers in “A Mid Summer Nights Dream”. In the workmen’s play the two lovers both end up killing themselves for love.
Hermia is in a similar position as she has been offered the ultimatum of death or becoming a nun or marry Demetrius. Also Helena claims she would do anything for Lysander, making it clear that she has no other encouragement to be alive if she cannot be with Lysander. Also in the workmen’s play it tells us that the reason they cannot be together is because their families will not let them be together. This backs up Lysander’s claim that true love never runs smooth, as one of his reasons is: `Or else stood upon the choice of friends,’ meaning that social groups and family groups will decide who people marry.