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A Midsummer Night’s Dream Essay: The Young Lovers

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The Young Lovers of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

For the proper view of the plight of the young lovers of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we should look to other characters in the play. We are invited to sympathize with their situation, but to see as rather ridiculous the posturing to which it leads. This is evident in their language which is often highly formal in use of rhetorical devices, and in Lysander's and Hermia's generalizing of "the course of true love" (the "reasons" they give why love does not "run smooth" clearly do not refer to their own particular problems: they are not "different in blood", nor mismatched "in respect of years"). Pyramus and Thisbe is not only Shakespeare's parody of the work of other
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But the best reason is that Demetrius's profession of his new-found love makes the antidote or its absence redundant in his case.

Early in the play we laugh at what the young lovers say. Lysander is aware of his and Hermia's sufferings, but to pontificate about "the course of true love" generally, to say it "never did run smooth", is risible. The alternate lines in which Lysander proposes a reason why love does not "run smooth", while Hermia comments on his statement, invite ridicule, as his "or" (leading to another reason) is followed by her "O", bewailing the cause of the lovers' suffering. In the same scene, we note how the same device (stychomythia) is used rather differently, as Hermia and Helena expound Demetrius' preferences: "I frown upon him, yet he loves me still"/"O that your frowns would teach my smiles such skill!". Here the use of similar vocabulary with opposite meaning is made emphatic by the rhyming couplet.

When Helena soliloquizes about love, at the end of the scene, she speaks wisely, in her general account, but her inability to be wise in her own situation is comic. Disclosing her rival's flight to Demetrius, to enjoy his company briefly, seems perverse, but is wholly plausible: young people in love often do silly things. In the wood, we see the likely outcome of Oberon's orders to Puck, as
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