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The Wrong Love
Scene 4.1 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is full of things that are easily changed, such as love. Demetrius, upon awaking in the forest, has changed his mind about his love of Hermia, and chosen Helena—“My love to Hermia/ Melted as the snow, seems to me now/ As the remembrance of an idle gaud…” (4.1. 162-164) It illustrates how quickly his love is gone and replaced. Demetrius’ fickle love is also demonstrated by the following lines: “The object and the pleasure of mine eye/ Is Only Helena. To her, my lord,/ Was I betrothed ere I saw Hermia.” (4.1. 167-169) To paraphrase, he was engaged to Helena before he saw Hermia, upon which point his love changed. Yet an interesting point in Demetrius’ speech is thus: “But like in sickness did I loathe this food;/ But as in health come to my natural taste.” Demetrius makes the connection between food and love when speaking of both Hermia and Helena.
We, as the outside reader, know that Helena and Demetrius are supposed to be together. When Demetrius refers to the love of Hermia as a sickness, he is describing the wrong love. In this play, the wrong love is symbolized by something horrible; Demetrius’ wrong love is signified by a sickness, and earlier in the scene, we see the same thing with Queen Titania. “My Oberon, what visions have I seen!/ Methought I was enamoured of an ass/…/How came these things to pass?/ O, how mine eyes do loathe his visage now!” (4.1. 72-75) Titania’s wrong love is Bottom, translated into an ass. It almost seems like Titania expresses incredulity at the very thought that she could have fallen in love with an ass, one of nature’s ugliest creatures, and obviously the wrong love for her.
Hippolyta expresses her woe at the wrong love differently. Being the captured Amazon queen, unwilling to wed, she mourns for her old home and its way of life: “I was with Hercules and Cadmus once/ When in a wood of Crete they bayed the bear/ With hounds of Sparta. Never did I hear/ Such gallant chiding; for besides the groves,/ The skies, the fountains, every region near/ Seemed all one mutual cry. I never heard/ So musical a discord, such sweet thunder.” (4.1. 109-115) In my estimation, her mention of Hercules and Cadmus at the beginning shows a mourning of her old life; I also find it interesting how casual the drop of these famous names is. Perhaps a way to gain displeasure with Theseus, by mentioning the names of great heroes that he could never compare to. I think it is a surge of defiance—almost like ‘well you may have caught me, but you are still not as good as my friends the heroes.’ I think that Hippolyta’s mourning of her old life is quite extreme, because of the line of how musical the discord of the barking dogs is. Musical discord is when different notes combined strike the ear harshly, yet, Hippolyta refers to it as “sweet thunder.” (4.1. 115)
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream when two people are together that are either not supposed to be or are together against one person’s will, the sense of the ‘wrong love’ is given to be horrible; it is either criticized or, as in the case of Hippolyta, good things are remembered in order to avoid thinking about the wrong love. In the end, the overall sense of the ‘wrong love’ is given to be something quite atrocious, and thankfully everything is put to amends.
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Fiction, Literature, Theatre, Hermia, Helena, A Midsummer Nights Dream, Demetrius, Oberon, Hippolyta
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