Midsummer Night’s Dream Themes

In the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare the central theme is the struggle of true love to develop and strengthen within the right characters. Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazon, is captured by Theseus, the Duke of Athens, in a war between their two kingdoms. Hippolyta is forced to marry to Theseus after her capture, but in the resolution Hippolyta decides she does truly love him. Hermia and Lysander also face difficulties with their relationship due to Puck’s mistake with the love potion, and Hermia’s father’s disapproval of Lysander.

Hermia and Lysander wish to marry, but Egeus, Hermia’s father, wants he to marry Demetrius. Demetrius also loves Hermia, but Helena, Hermia’s friend, loves Demetrius. In addition, troubles begin between Oberon and Titania. Oberon, king of the fairies, faces complications with his wife, Titania. Titania, queen of the fairies, has her friends Indian boy. Oberon wishes to have the Indian boy for himself, but Titania refuses to give him up. This begins a quarrel between the two lovers over possession of the young Indian boy.

When Lysander tells Hermia “the course of true love never did run smooth,” (1. 1. 134) he is stating the central theme of the play; therefore, true love struggles to grow and develop in many characters creating difficulties in their relationships. In the exposition, Theseus conquers the Amazon kingdom, including their queen, Hippolyta. Theseus captures Hippolyta, bringing her back to Athens. Theseus plans a wedding for him and his newly captured queen. He can hardly wait until their wedding day: “ Four happy days bring in another moon. O, methinks how slow this old moon wanes! (1. 1. 3-4).

Although Hippolyta is forced into this arranged marriage, she does not object. In fact, she reassures Theseus that “four days will quickly steep themselves in night… and the moon… shall behold the night of our solemnities,” (1. 1. 7-11). Hippolyta is uncertain if she does truly love Theseus after he “wooed thee with my sword and won thy love doing thee injury,” (1. 1. 17-18). Theseus upholds law and order as the Duke of Athens; therefore, Egeus turns to him when his daughter, Hermia, refuses to marry Demetrius, the man Egeus chooses for her.

Egeus wants Theseus to maintain Athenian law when he says to Theseus, “I beg the ancient privilege of Athens: As she is mine, I may dispose of her, which shall be either to this gentleman or to her death according to our law,” (1. 1. 42-45). Hippolyta waits for Theseus’s final decision on Hermia’s case to determine if she truly loves him. Theseus overrules Egeus’s wishes for Hermia, allowing Hermia to marry Lysander: “Egeus, I will overbear your will, for in the temple by and by, with us, the couples shall eternally be knit,” (4. 1. 186-188).

Once Theseus makes his decision, Hippolyta discovers she does love Theseus by the resolution of the play. Even though, Hippolyta was obligated to marry Theseus, she end up loving him in return when they get married. Hermia and Lysander are the only pair of true lovers in the play. Their love experiences many difficulties to fully develop. Starting in the exposition, Egeus will not let Hermia marry her true love, Lysander. Instead, he wants to force her to marry Demetrius, who also loves Hermia. If Hermia does not marry Demetrius, Egeus will have her killed for being disobedient. Theseus tells Hermia, “take time to pause… pon that day prepare to die for disobedience to your father’s will, or else be wed to Demetrius, or on Diana’s altar to protest for aye austerity and single life,” (1. 1. 85-92).

After Lysander and Hermia hear this, they plan on running away together to escape the Athenian law. They plan to go to Lysander’s “widow aunt… from Athens is her house remote seven league… there, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee,” (1. 1. 159-163). When Helena comes along, they tell her of their plans to run away into the forest. Helena, who loves Demetrius, goes to tell Demetrius of their plan: “I will go tell him of fair Hermia’s flight,” (1. . 252).

Demetrius then goes to pursue Hermia in the forest, but he is followed by Helena. While in the woods, Oberon sees Helena being rejected by Demetrius. Oberon feels sympathy for Helena, and requests Puck, his mischievous servant, to “anoint his [Demetrius] eyes” (2. 1. 269) with the magical nectar of a flower to make him fall in love with Helena. Puck mistakenly puts the flower’s juice in Lysander’s eyes while he is sleeping, which causes Lysander to fall in love with Helena because she is the first person he sees. When Lysander falls in love with Helena, he follows her, leaving Hermia to wake up alone.

This causes more catastrophe in their relationship making it difficult for their love develop into marriage. As Hermia and Lysander’s relationship continues to struggle, Helena and Demetrius’s does too. Helena follows Demetrius through the woods untils she is “out of breath in this fond chase,” (2. 2. 94). She is now being wooed by Lysander due to the love potion from the flower. Helena thinks Lysander is mocking her: “Wherefore was I to this keen mockery born? ” (2. 2. 130). Hermia wakes up and goes to find her dear Lysander gone, so she goes to look for him.

Demetrius then finds Hermia alone, and he starts to woo her. Oberon realizes Puck “hast mistaken quite and laid the love juice on some true-love’s sight,” (3. 2. 90-91). Oberon then orders Puck, “go swifter than the wind, and Helena of Athens look thou find,” (3. 2. 96-97) while he anoints the eyes of the sleeping Demetrius. Demetrius then wakes, and also falls in love with Helena. The complications continue now that both Lysander and Demetrius both love Helena instead of Hermia. Helena is becoming furious because she thinks Hermia, Lysander, and Demetrius are all mocking her: “O spite!

O hell! I see you are all bent to set against me for your merriment,” (3. 2. 148-149). Hermia is also upset with Helena when Hermia says, “It seems that you scorn me,” (3. 2. 226). The four break out in a huge argument, and Oberon tells Puck to “lead these testy rivals so atray… till o’er their brows death-counterfeiting sleep… then crush the herb into Lysander’s eye,” (3. 2. 379,385-387). Once they all fell asleep, Puck “apply to your eye gentle lover, remedy,” (3. 2. 479-481) to Lysander, so “the man shall have his mare again, and all shall be well,” (3. 2. 492-493).

Lysander loves Hermia once again, and Demetrius continues to love Helena. Demetrius loves Helena because of the love potion. He was not going to love her on his own, but sometimes love needs an extra push, so it can fully develop. Although both couples undergo many difficulties, in the resolution their love finally strengthens completely. Both couples get married, along with Theseus and Hippolyta.

Titania and Oberon’s love goes through many troubles as well. Titania depicts Oberon as a romantic, who is not loyal to her. She says, “I know when thou hast stolen away from Fairyland… at all day playing on pipes of corn and versing love to amorous Phillida… your business mistress and your warrior love, to Theseus must be wedded,” (2. 1. 66-75).

Oberon wishes to have the Indian boy for himself. Titania refuses to give the Indian boy up because she is raising him for her friend who “being mortal, of that boy did die,” (2. 1. 140). She says “his mother was a vot’ress of my order… and for her sake do I rear up her boy, and for her sake I will not part with him,” (2. 1. 127, 141-142). This begins the quarrel between the two lovers.

Even though Titania is his wife, Oberon constructs a plan to win over her Indian boy. He commands Puck to go get a special flower that makes people fall in love with the next creature they see. Oberon wishes to make Titania fall in love wit beast and use her infatuation to get the Indian boy from her. Oberon “anoints Titania’s eyelids with the nectar,” (2. 2. stage directions). Puck then turns Bottom, a mechanical, into an ass, which makes all his fellow mechanicals flee. When Titania wakes up she see Bottom as an ass, she immediately falls in love with him: “What angel wake me from my flow’ry bed? (3. 1. 131).

Oberon has to get what he wants, so he goes against his wife just to achieve his goal to get the Indian boy. After Oberon obtains the Indian boy in his possession, he reverses the spell on Titania. Titania is not enraged at Oberon when she wakes up thus ending the quarrel between them. She dances with him after he says, “come, my queen, take hands with me, and rock the ground whereon these sleepers be,” (4. 1. 898-90). The peace is restored in Fairyland and their relationship. Oberon says to Titania “now thou and I are new in amity,” (4. . 91).

There love faces struggles, but in the resolution, their true love for each other finally develops. In this comedy, the central theme is the struggle of true love to grow and develop among the characters. This is stated when Lysander tells Hermia in the exposition, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” (1. 1. 134). This theme is demonstrated in may of the characters in this play. Hippolyta and Theseus’ engagement struggles to completely strengthen until the resolution when Theseus let Hermia marry her true love, Lysander.

Hermia and Lysander’s love face many hardships, like Puck’s misuse of the love potion in their relationship. Helena’s love of Demetrius also experiences difficulties because his love of Hermia instead of Helena, but with the help of magical love flower, he finally realizes his true love for Helena. The trouble between Oberon and Titania relationship has many complications as well, but in the resolution their true love for one another finally overcomes their quarrel. In the resolution, love finally develops completely throughout all the characters relationships even though it struggles to grow and strengthen throughout the rest of the plot.