Shakespeare/Midsummer Nights Dream And Lunatics term paper 12510

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In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the moon is the guiding force of madness in the

play which influences the chaotic nature and lunacy of the characters. The moon

seems to preside over the entire play and is a symbol of change. Oberon and

Titania, king and queen of the fairies, are one example of lunatic lovers that

parallel the theme of changeability. Oberon and Titania are quarreling over the

possession of an Indian boy that Titania has mothered since the boy was a baby.

This makes Oberon very jealous. But, Oberon doesn’t help matters much with his

straying after nymphs and admiring Hippolyta. This quarrel becomes so intense

that it begins to affect the seasons on earth. Titania describes it as: The

spring, the summer, The childing autumn, angry winter, change Their wonted

liveries, and the mazed world By their increase now knows not which is which,

And this same progeny of evils comes From our debate, from our dissension; We

are their parents and original. II:I 114-20 The constant changing of the

earth’s state in the seasons creates chaos among mother nature. In order to

solve the quarrel, Oberon wants to teach Titania a lesson by telling Puck or

Robin Goodfellow to use a magical nectar on her and the Athenian man called

Demetrius: Fetch me a flower; the herb that I showed thee once The juice of it

on sleeping eyelids laid Will make man or woman madly dote Upon the next live

creature that it sees. II:I 172-75 In the case of the two lovers, Hermia and

Lysander, they plan to meet by moonlight and elope in Athens. Egeus, Hermia’s

father, wishes for her to marry a man named Demetrius whom he thinks is of high

stature and is fitting for his daughter as a husband. Hermia is very much in

love with Lysander and chooses to directly disobey Athenian law and her

father’s wishes by eloping. Hermia’s willingness to risk banishment from her

homeland shows that love can make a person do irrational things. Helena,

Hermia’s friend, was once the beloved of Demetrius and if she can win back his

love, then Hermia and Lysander will be free to wed. In an effort to gain the

attention of Demetrius, Helena betrays the secret of her dearest friend when she

informs Demetrius that Hermia and Lysander are eloping. This is another example

of a “lunatic lover” in Shakespeare. Helena knows that she must keep

Hermia’s secret, but she cannot help but tell it to Demetrius in order to get

him to notice her. Helena’s love for Demetrius could cost her the friendship

that she has with Hermia but when a person is so much in love sometimes he or

she will risk anything. A mistake made by Puck increases the chaos and madness

in the play. Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius and sprinkles Lysander’s

eyes with the potion instead. Lysander awakens and the first person he sees is

Helena. Under the influence of the potion, he immediately falls in love with

her. A catastrophe is created when Hermia awakens from her slumber and finds

that Lysander has only eyes for Helena. A fight emerges among the two best

friends when Helena says: O spite! O hell! I see you are all bent To set against

me for your merriment. If you were civil and knew courtesy You would not do me

thus much injury. III:II 148-51 . Puck also sprinkles the potion on Titania’s

eyes causing her to act like a “lovesick lunatic”. When she awakens, she

sees Bottom who is now an ass head, and she immediately falls in love with him.

Even though Bottom is an ass head, the potion hinders her judgment and she is

attracted to him anyway. Otherwise, Titania would certainly not be attracted to

the ass head, Bottom, at all. In these lines, Titania talks of the repulsive

Bottom as a very handsome man: Come, sit thee down upon this flow’ry bed,

While I thy amiable cheeks do coy, And stick muskroses in thy sleek smooth head,

And kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy. IV:I 1-4 The madness of this type

of love is reflected in the line, “reason and love keep little company

nowadays” from Act III, Scene I (145-46). Love is blind to reason and

sometimes love overpowers reason. Theseus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

reemphasizes the connection of the lunatic and the lover, hence the phrase

“lovers are lunatics”: Lovers and madmen have such seething brains, Such

shaping fantasies, that apprehend More than cool reason ever comprehends. The

lunatic, the lover, and the poet Are of imagination all compact One sees more

devils than vast hell can hold; That is the madman. The lover, all as frantic,

Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt. V:I 5-11 The lunatic lovers in

Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night also show the changeability and madness of love.

Viola, who is disguised as a young man named Cesario, is in love with Duke

Orsino. Viola was shipwrecked and wanted to seek employment with Olivia, but she

could not because Olivia did not wish to associate with anyone due to her

brother’s recent death. Viola is employed with Orsino instead as a eunuch.

Throughout the play, Viola stays true to her purpose in helping Duke Orsino win

Lady Olivia’s love. Orsino says that love acts like a demon and can wreck a

person’s life in the following lines: If music be the food of love, play on!

Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting, The appetite may sicken, and so die.

That strain again! It had a dying fall. I:I 1-4 At this point in the play,

Orsino is not in love with one particular person. He is in love with love

itself. He uses words such as “excess,” “surfeiting,” “appetite,”

and “dying fall,” which shows that the Duke is sentimentally in love with

love. Orsino thoroughly enjoys giving himself up to the exquisite delights of

his own passions, and uses Viola (Cesario) to do his courting of Lady Olivia for

him. Also in that same speech, Orsino refers to the metaphor of the sea that he

loves: O spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou, That, notwithstanding thy

capacity Receiveth as the sea, naught enters there. I:I 9-11 The sea is vast and

symbolizes Orsino’s capacity for love. The sea is also changeable, unstable,

and constantly shifting. At the end of the play, Orsino’s love shifts from

Lady Olivia to Viola (Cesario). He has been working up to this. The Fool

comments on the changing attraction and compares Orsino’s love to that of an

opal. An opal is a gem stone that constantly changes color according to the

nature of the light: Now the melancholy god protect thee, And the tailor make

thy doublet of changeable taffeta For thy mind is a very opal. II:IV 80-82

Another incident of love causing madness occurs when Maria concocts a scheme

involving a letter and Malvolio. Malvolio discovers a letter that says should it

fall by accident into the hands of the author’s beloved, he should be aware

that the woman who loves him is “above” him, but she begs him not to fear

her “greatness”: Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have

greatness thrust upon ‘em. II:V 149-50 Malvolio is to wear yellow stockings

that are “cross gartered” to win the love of Lady Olivia. This attire is

considered a symbol of a low-class serving person. Also, yellow is a color that

Lady Olivia detests the most. Malvolio does these outrageous things because he

wishes to woo the countess, Lady Olivia. In Act III, Scene 4 (61) Olivia reacts

by saying, “Why, this is very midsummer madness!” Malvolio’s crazy

behavior of wearing the yellow stockings also shows that love is blind to

reason, and a person will do just about anything to impress the one he loves. In

Act III, Scene I, another lunatic action done by a lover occurs. The Lady Olivia

falls in love with Cesario who is really the woman, Viola. When Cesario comes to

court Olivia for Orsino one evening, Olivia tells Cesario that she will not have

him. Then as Cesario is about to leave, Olivia is curious to know what he thinks

of her so she tells him to stay. This shows the changeability and madness in

Lady Olivia’s character. Surprisingly, Olivia makes a passionate declaration

of love for Cesario when she boldly refused to court any man because she was in

mourning of her brother’s death. Olivia says: Cesario, by the roses of the

spring, By maidhood, honour, truth, and everything... I love thee so... Nor wit

nor reason can my passion hide. III:I 146-49 Cesario cannot answer her plea for

love or the disguise would be revealed so Cesario chooses to reject Olivia. Lady

Olivia is now reduced to the same state as Orsino in terms of his courtship with

her. They both pleaded for love and were rejected. Also, a homosexual love

affair occurs between Antonio and Sebastian. Antonio cannot ignore his feelings

for Sebastian but at the same time, he is now sure how Sebastian will react.

Antonio would like to be Sebastian’s servant but that is not possible because

Sebastian dare not take Antonio to Duke Orsino’s court due to the “many

enemies” that are there. Antonio says that he will always treasure his

friendship with Sebastian and decides to go with Sebastian anyway despite the

danger. Antonio recognizes the dangers ahead if he follows Sebastian to

Orsino’s palace, but after the horrors of the shipwreck, future “danger

shall seem sport.” This is another example of blindness and madness of love.

Antonio knows the dangers of traveling to Orsino’s palace, but he is willing

to do it anyway because of love. Throughout all of this constant madness and

lunatic love affairs in Twelfth Night, the Fool observes the incidents and

manages to refrain from being involved in the madness. The Fool always seems to

be one step ahead of everyone else in the play. He saw through Viola’s

disguise before any of the other characters: Foolery, sir, does walk about the

orb like the sun; It shines everywhere. I would be sorry, sir, but the Fool

Should be oft with your master as with my mistress. III:I 40-43 The continual

usage of “sir” and the emphasis applied to the word when talking to Cesario

hints at the Fool’s knowledge of Viola’s disguise. The rest of the

characters in the play are the Fool’s entertainment, and he enjoys watching

the lunatic lovers. In Twelfth Night, Shakespeare shows how silly people can

really be and through the Fool’s perspective we can observe the madness of the

love affairs and the vagaries of sexual attraction in the play. In conclusion,

the lovers in both A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Twelfth Night are lunatics

and show that love is blind to reason.


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