Search Menu

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

William Shakespeare

Contents

Act II, scene ii

page 2 of 2

Act II, scene ii

Act II, scene ii

Act II, scene ii

Act II, scene ii

The ease with which characters’ affections change in the play, so that Lysander is madly in love with Hermia at one point and with Helena at another, has troubled some readers, who feel that Shakespeare profanes the idea of true love by treating it as inconstant and subject to outside manipulation. It is important to remember, however, that while A Midsummer Night’s Dream contains elements of romance, it is not a true love story like Romeo and Juliet. Shakespeare’s aim is not to comment on the nature of true love but rather to mock gently the melodramatic afflictions and confusions that love induces. Demetrius, Helena, Hermia, and Lysander are meant not to be romantic archetypes but rather sympathetic figures thrown into the confusing circumstances of a romantic farce.

Like much farce, A Midsummer Night’s Dream relies heavily on misunderstanding and mistaken identity to create its humorous entanglements. Oberon’s unawareness of the presence of a second Athenian couple—Lysander and Hermia—in the forest enables Puck’s mistaken application of the flower’s juice. This confusion underscores the crucial role of circumstance in the play: it is not people who are responsible for what happens but rather fate. In Hamlet and Macbeth, oppositely, Shakespeare forces his characters to make crucial decisions that affect their lives.

Much of the comic tension in this scene (and throughout the rest of the play, as the confusion wrought by the love potion only increases) stems from the fact that the solution to the love tangle seems so simple to the reader/audience: if Demetrius could simply be made to love Hermia, then the lovers could pair off symmetrically, and love would be restored to a point of balance. Shakespeare teases the audience by dangling the magic flower as a simple mechanism by which this resolution could be achieved. He uses this mechanism, however, to cycle through a number of increasingly ridiculous arrangements before he allows the love story to arrive at its inevitable happy conclusion.

Test Your Understanding with the Act II, scene ii Quiz

Take a quiz on this section
Test Your Understanding with the Act II, scene ii Quiz

TAKE THE QUIZ
+
#

ACT II, SCENE II QUIZ

What does Demetrius tell Helena?
That he loves her
That he wishes to marry her
Test Your Understanding with the Act II, scene ii Quiz
TAKE THE QUIZ

Act II, scene ii QUIZ

+
Test Your Understanding with the Act II, scene ii Quiz
TAKE THE QUIZ

More Help

Previous Next
A Midsummer Night's Dream Blog

by DanMitchell23, January 02, 2013

I've just bought the complete works of Shakespeare for my University module. Visit my blog to see what I thought about this play ...

http://inbetweenthelines1.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/shakespeare-play-a-midsummer-nights-dream/

0 Comments

24 out of 48 people found this helpful

A Midsummer Nights Dream

by Matt_1321, March 06, 2014

The idea that would help me and probably lots of others, is to have quizzes for each chapter. The way it is now you have had to read the whole book to take a test/quiz. please improve.

0 Comments

9 out of 16 people found this helpful

School

by Grayson_Breland, May 24, 2014

This helped a ton I have a test on this and this really helped I am confident in myself that I will get a good grade

0 Comments

4 out of 4 people found this helpful

See all 10 readers' notes   →
Got it?
Take a quiz on this section →