How Two Shakespearean Couples Resolve the Conflict in Their Relationships





How Two Shakespearean Couples Resolve the Conflict in Their Relationships


In Shakespeare’s comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It, the playwright deals with love, relationships, and how couples come to terms with their problems and resolve the conflicts within themselves and with those around them. Both of the plays point out that when individuals look within themselves and face the issues that are keeping them apart from the one they love, they can begin to heal the relationship. Helena and Demetrius from A Midsummer Night’s Dream go to the forest to run away from their problems while Rosalind and Orlando from As You Like It are forced to flee to the forest because they are no longer welcomed in their homes. Both couples find the forest to be a place of refuge and are able to resolve their conflicts and come together in the end of their respective plays to be married.
Helena and Rosalind both are in love with a man that they cannot have until the conflict is resolved. Helena has been rejected by Demetrius, who now says he is in love with Hermia, Helena’s best friend. Helena is devastated and asks Hermia to help her regain Demetrius’ love and attention by teaching Helena how to be more like Hermia:
The rest I’ll give to be to you translated.
O, teach me how you look, and with what art You sway the motion of Demetrius’ heart.
(1.1.191-193)

Helena suffers from a low self-esteem and cannot accept Demetrius’ rejection of her. Helena is described as the “ideal woman” of the time in that she is tall, blond, and fair skinned, whereas Hermia is shorter, dark haired, and olive-skinned. In spite of their appearances, Helena is jealous of Hermia because Demetrius is now in love with her:
Demetrius loves your fair, O happy fair!
You eyes are lodestars, and your tongue’s sweet air
More tuneable than lark to shepherd’s ear
(1.1.182-184)

Helena cannot understand why Demetrius cannot see in her what the rest of the world sees.
Helena refuses to give up on Demetrius because they were engaged, and at that time, an engagement was a promise to marry. Helena wants Demetrius to honor his promise to marry her and will do anything to make that happen. If they do not get married, she could be publicly humiliated and she desperately wants to avoid that. Therefore she decides to tell Demetrius of Lysander’s and Hermia’s plans to meet in the forest and elope because Helena knows that Demetrius will go after them. When Demetrius goes to the forest, Helena can shamelessly pursue him, hidden from the rest of society where she would be limited by the rules that society places on women and how she would be expected to behave:
I will go tell him of fair Hermia’s flight;
Then to the wood will be to-morrow night
Pursue her; and for this intelligence
If I have thanks, it is a dear expense.
But herein mean I to enrich my pain,
To have his sight thither and back again.
(1.1.246-251)

While in the forest, Demetrius treats her very badly, but she continues to plead with him to come back to her. Instead of getting angry at him for treating her so poorly, she cowers and basically asks for more: “Use me but as your spaniel; spurn me, strike me, / Neglect me, lose me” (2.1.205-206). Helena’s actions are quite childish and immature. With these two personality traits, she will not be able to have any kind of relationship with Demetrius. She needs to gain some emotional stability before she can begin to reconcile with Demetrius.
In Act 3 when Helena believes that Hermia, Lysander, and Demetrius are playing a joke on her, she is finally able to get angry. This is Helena’s turning point which finally allows her to give up on Demetrius and gain some of the emotional maturity that she was lacking:
And now, so you will let me quiet go,
To Athens will I bear my folly back,
And follow you no further. Let me go.
(3.2.314-316)

It is at this point that she is able to love Demetrius in a manner befitting mature adults. Helena becomes willing to change herself rather than Demetrius. Her journey into the forest enabled her to gain the qualities she lacked in