I. LOVE IS BLIND
-Shakespeare's parody of love reaches its peak in this scene.Although Hermia claims Lysander's love is truer than the sun onto the day, previous scenes have shown that his love was easily altered with the application of a little love juice. When Oberon criticizes Puck for turning a true love false, rather than a false love true, Puck replies, "one man holding troth, / A million fail, confounding oath on oath" (92–93), suggesting only one man in a million isactually able to be true to his vows of love; all others break oath on oath, including the seemingly true Lysander. The comedy of the situation appeals to Puck, who muses on what fools "mortals be." "Lord, what fools these mortals be!", Puck makes this declaration in his amazement at the ludicrous behavior of the young Athenians (III.ii.115). This line is one of the most famous in A MidsummerNight’s Dream for its pithy humor, but it is also thematically important: first, because it captures the exaggerated silliness of the lovers’ behavior; second, because it marks the contrast between the human lovers, completely absorbed in their emotions, and the magical fairies, impish and never too serious.
II. ANOTHER KIND OF LOVE AND THE REACTIONS
- In declaring his love forHelena, Demetrius focuses first on her eyes, which he believes are clearer than crystal. Her lips are luscious fruit, like ripe and tempting cherries, but, more interestingly, he emphasizes her "whiteness." She is a pure white, like the snow on top of some high summit; indeed, in his eyes she is a "princess of pure white." The emphasis on white links her with purity, with innocence, with thedazzling, blinding light of a snow-covered field. But it also has a racial overtone. As whiteness becomes associated with purity, darkness becomes linked with its opposite, with evil. This creates a hierarchical dichotomy in which whiteness is prized and darkness is denigrated. As a result, dark-skinned people are also maligned, as happens here with Hermia. Lysander critiques her by labeling her an"Ethiope" and a "tawny Tartar" and implying that her darkness makes her somehow inferior to Helena.
height seems to play a role in love, and Hermia seems to believe that Lysander loves Helena simply because she is the taller of the two women. This exchange emphasizes the arbitrariness of the factors that create or repel love: eye color, hair color, height.
- The relationshipof Hermia and Helena is also parallel with that of Titania and her Indian votress. Like Titania and her friend, Helena and Hermia are as close as sisters. Together they sang with one voice, often working as if their hands and minds were united. Indeed, Helena compares them to a "double cherry" that seems to be parted, yet is united at the stem. Close friendship is another form of love exalted in...