William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" examines the topic of love. In the first act, a character by the name of Helena expresses her view of love. She is in love with Demetrius, another character in the story. However, her love is unrequited. In her soliloquy, she discusses the attributes of love. According to her, love is blind ("Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind: And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind."), love is naive ("And therefore is Love said to be a child: Because in choice he is so oft beguiled."), and love is uncontrollable. This is why she must love Demetrius even though he uncontrollably spurns her advances. "Love can transpose to form and dignity," she eloquently remarks. These characteristics of love are demonstrated by the characters throughout the play.
Shakespeare uses great symbolism in portraying the blindness of love. When Puck and Oberon apply the juice of the pansy to the eyes of the Athenians and to the eyes of Titania, the fairy queen, they are quickly enveloped by a magical love spell.
This spell causes them to fall deeply in love with the first living creature that they set eyes on. "The next thing then she waking looks upon, (Be it lion, bear, or wolf, or bull, On meddling monkey, or on busy ape) She shall pursue it, with the soul of love". The spell can only be reversed by applying yet another herb to the eyes of the victims. Titania serves as a good example of the power of the spell when she falls in love with Nick Bottom, a character who, at the time, has the head of an ass.
Titania also falls victim to the spell, and gives the reader a representation of the naivety of love. In her mind, she has no conception that she is in love with a man who has a donkey head. She does not realize that this is not a thing to be desired. All that she knows is that she is in love. "Mine ear is enamored of thy note: So is mine eye enthralled to thy shape," Titania passionately states. Lysander also demonstrates child-like actions when he tells Hermia, his true love, that he hates her. Before he is under the spell of the pansy, he and Hermia are en route to his aunt's house to be married. However, because of the spell, Lysander can not be held responsible for his misanthropic behavior toward Hermia.
The spell of the pansy also makes the characters lose control of their actions, as is evident through Demetrius. The woman he scorns at the begining of the story is the woman he loves by the end of the story. This is because when Puck reverses the effects of the spell on the characters, he does not reverse the spell on Demetrius. Helena has loved Demetrius from the begining of the story, so the relationship works out well. Again, Titania not only is oblivious to the appearance of Bottom, but she has no control over her feelings for him. "How came these things to pass?", she asks of Oberon upon being released from the spell. "O, how mine eyes do loathe his visage now!" When she is under the spell, it is as if she sees him, but does not care what he looks like. Now that she is released from the spell, she wants no part of Nick Bottom. Shakespeare uses this to express that true, unadulterated love is from the inside and is not based on outward appearance.
Helena's soliloquy in act one is foreshadowing of the events to follow. Throughout the play, characters are falling in love with those whom they do not truly love. They can not conceptualize that something is awry because they are too naive to see what has taken place. Characters are attracted to those whom they are not attracted to under normal circumstance because love is blind, love is naive, and love is uncontrollable. "