A Midsummer Night’s Dream, several marriage situations arise. King Theseus is set to marry Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, as a means of consolidating political power. Egeus, an aristocrat, wants his daughter Hermia to marry Demetrius. Hermia, however, is in love with Lysander (Act I Scene I). Helena, Hermia’s best friend, is in love with Demetrius, who has spurned her love in favor of Hermia. Oberon and Titania, King and Queen of the fairies, are engaged in a marital dispute.
Egeus and Theseus expect Hermia to comply with her father’s wishes irrespective of her own desires. To them, it is the younger generation’s duty to follow the elders’ decisions. Her refusal to do so creates conflict to the extent that they threaten her with execution (Act I Scene I).
The play about the tragic love of Pyramus and Thisbe serves the purpose of entertainment during the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. On a deeper level, it underscores the other love conflicts in the play and serves as a reminder that the path of love is never smooth.
The love potion makes someone fall in love with the first person he or she sees upon waking. In real life, the potion may symbolize the unpredictability and irrationality of love. People and recipients of the potion fall in love with are wrong for them, leading to chaos.
Helena is an outstanding example of personal transformation. At the beginning of the play, she is used to playing second fiddle to Hermia. She does not consider herself worthy of both men’s love when they chase after her. By the end of the play, she stands up for herself, confronts Hermia and fights for the love she deserves (Act III Scene II).
Chance intervenes when Puck accidentally puts the potion on Lysander instead of Demetrius, when Titania awakes to the sight of Bottom, and when Lysander awakes to the sight of Helena instead of Hermia. These chance happenings create the conflicts that drive most of the plot. Chance also influences the outcome positively, as we see all the conflicts resolved at the end of the play, for example, when Theseus’ hunting party comes across the sleeping lovers in the woods.
Egeus and Hermia exemplify parent-child love, with the conflict arising from Hermia’s refusal to obey her father. Theseus and Hippolyta exemplify love between a ruler and the ruled; Theseus conquered the Amazons and took their Queen as his wife to resolve the conflict between the two nations. Titania, a Fairy Queen, falls in love with Bottom, a lowly mortal. The already-existent conflict is worsened by Bottom’s ass-like appearance. Titania’s overpowering love for a Bottom while under the influence of the love potion may also fall under the category of sexual love. Helena and Hermia share-friendly love. Their friendship faces a threat when they come close to fighting over the men they love. Oberon and Titania share a marital love that falls into conflict when they bicker over the possession of an Indian boy.
The characters of Puck and Bottom are alike in some ways. They both provide the comic humor of the play, acting as the “fools” or “jesters”. They also drive the plot as they interact with all the sets of characters such as the workers, the fairies and the lovers.
Kennedy, X. J. and Dana Gioia, eds. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama and Writing. 11th ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2010. Print.