Love and Other Magic Tricks
Discuss the idea(s) developed by the text creator in your chosen text about the conflict between pursuing a personal desire and choosing to conform. (January 2011)
“A good persuasion. Therefore, hear me, Hermia.
I have a widow aunt, a dowager
Of great revenue, and she hath no child.
From Athens is her house remote seven leagues,
And she respects me as her only son.
There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee.
And to that place the sharp Athenian law
Cannot pursue us. If thou lovest me then,
Steal forth thy father’s house tomorrow night.
And in the wood, a league without the town—
Where I did meet thee once with Helena
To do observance to a morn of May—
There will I stay for thee.” (1.1.158-170)
Lysander. A lover by all definitions, this fervent young character exemplifies the potent impact of desire in an individual’s life. Even when manipulated by the supernatural, his desires motivate him to denounce all pressure to conform and pursue his passions. In William Shakespeare’s play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he introduces the thought that an individual consumed by their desires will prove capable of resisting pressure to conform at the risk of their civility – thus, giving in to their animalistic nature. Said notion is explored through the character Lysander and his resolute pursuit of Hermia (and momentary, but passionate, pursuit of Helena). As a lover, Lysander is a man controlled by his passions. His love for Hermia is so great that he even rejects the harsh authority of Athenian law for her, allowing him to avoid conforming to the lofty expectations of Greek society. His tunnel vision regarding the women he desired is precisely what makes him so enticing to explore; though challenging, the difficulty Lysander presents in study proves all the more rewarding as his dilemma of conformity and desire serves as an example of a passionate pursuit of ideals regardless of risk. Even when faced with the risk of death at the hand of the law, Lysander’s desire allows him to persevere. Not even fantastical forces could withhold him. Supernatural influences – in this instance, fairies – were incapable of forcing Lysander to conform as they too were impacted by the potency of his desire. A Midsummer Night’s Dream allows readers to see that Lysander’s longing for love eventually triumphs, even after his passions are manipulated and directed towards another. In this collection, you will find an intellectual cornucopia awaiting you. Readers will gain a deeper understanding into the harnessing of one’s desires as comfort when faced with societal expectations or the cruelty of naysayers: Lysander’s determination and resilience can act as a sort of guidance for many of us as we address the conflict of desire and conformity.
Creative 1/ Explanation:
While it is true that Lysander was powerless to prevent the magic of the supernatural, the reversal of the spell can be seen to suggest that, even in the midst of societal pressure or external forces, one’s desires can eventually resist the opposing forces around them, allowing them to live according to their personal wants. To illustrate this idea between desire and conformity, I chose to use John Charles Dollman’s painting, The Temptation of St. Anthony. The painting depicts a popular story, particularly from medieval Catholic folklore, from the life of St. Anthony, who was an Egyptian monk from the third century who ran away into the desert in order to live as a hermit. By doing so, he sought to gain “treasures in Heaven” by giving away all his earthly treasures and focusing solely on God. However, it is said that the Devil – in an attempt to corrupt Anthony’s soul – forced him to endure a number of supernatural temptations, many of which were deemed visions or dreams by both theologians and artists alike in the centuries that followed. It was only through prayer – an act of love towards God in the Christian worldview – that the demons fled and these temptations ceased.
Knowing this, one can more fully see how much of Lysander’s efforts to battle conformity in favour of his personal desires are reflected. His love for Hermia, paralleled by St. Anthony’s love for God in the painting, is the object of his desire. In order to run away from the demands of a harsh world and to pursue said desire, Lysander flees far into the wilderness of the forest, where he finds the time to be alone with his love. Likewise, St. Anthony finds refuge from the world in the isolation of the desert in order to spend time contemplating God. Both are eventually assailed by supernatural forces, in which a vision or dream tries to lure them away from attaining the true desires of their heart; however, love ultimately triumphs over temptation, and they reject the pressures of conformity. Through the painting, Dollman attempts to convey the tension between two opposing forces – love of God on one side, and love of the world on the other. This same conflict is what boils within Lysander, albeit between love of Hermia and the pressure to give in to the world’s demands. By using warm colours in his painting, Dollman lends his masterpiece an ethereal beauty. In making the demon-woman “glow”, the artist portrays the near-irresistibility of the world’s wants and thus, allows Lysander’s plight to take on a more human nature. Being human, one often fails to remain steadfast to one’s beliefs as temptations abound and we are easily led astray. Lysander’s dilemma is far from uncommon and this allows Shakespeare’s readers to connect to him on an emotional level; Lysander’s saving grace, however, comes in the form of his strong love for Hermia, one that not even the fairies can resist. In restoring Lysander’s love, the fairies show that no supernatural force – even if they be demons – can permanently quench the strength of one’s personal desires, as long as their determination remains.
Creative 2/ Explanation:
By Ibukun Ojo
In the saddest of moments,
the instances when we are apart
i watch the moon
as it crawls
onto the horizon,
chasing away the sun,
i am left to the darkness of my room
left with my vivid thoughts.
in those moments –
i find myself
thinking of You.
I love the feeling of the small of your back against my fingers as we walk. I love the feeling of the curve of your waist as we dance.
And when we are alone
When you’ve reached the point of no return
Fingers gripping the sheets
In those moments-
I know you are mine
They will try to write our story
they will tell us they are
but ours is a
written in the stars.
My dear, Hermia,
We will be together yet.
I chose to write a piece inspired by the poems “Destined to be Yours” and “One More Touch” by Michael Faudet from his collection Smoke & Mirrors. Faudet’s work embody desire – innocent or otherwise; thus, I felt that the lust he conveyed in “One More Touch” and the innocent longing in “Destined to be Yours” were a greatly contrasted pairing – a pair most fitting for Lysander. Admittedly greatly inspired by the film adaptation of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the poem displays the intensity of emotion I imagine Lysander experienced when choosing to run away with the woman he loved. Throughout the play, his sexual and innocent desire, whether for Hermia or Helena, was an incredibly powerful motivation for his every action. Be it he felt as Romeo did for Juliet or Richard III did for Lady Anne, the all-consuming focus induced by Lysander’s desire was very evident. Choosing to represent this through poetry was very intentional as the nature of poetry is idyllic and intense. As suggested in Northrop Frye’s The Educated Imagination, poetry (all literature, actually) describes the home and not the house; it takes us out of reality and allows for interpretation and emotion. Lysander’s reality was certainly skewed by the intensity of his desire. There is a sort of innate irrationality in fleeing into the forest in hopes of pursuing love on a whim. Poetry allows his haze to be accurately related. Although the haze of Lysander’s emotions discouraged reason, the intensity of his desire induced such great a motivation that his actions seem irreproachable.
Destined to be Yours
By Michael Faudet
It is in the quietest of moments,
the silent pause found
in twilight hue,
when the sun
slips behind the horizon,
lost to a single
purple pen stroke –
I find myself
thinking of you.
How your eyes
reflect the moon
of a love
the universe –
our destiny written
in the stars.
One More Touch
By Michael Faudet
I love how your hips rise, reaching the point of no return, fingers gripping the sheets – my hand between your legs.
Rebellion in the face of societal norms can be a greatly daunting task; founded in the pursuit of intense desire, however, such fears are alleviated. The creative pieces above explore the impact of Lysander’s desires on his ability to resist pressure to conform. The analysis of “The Temptation of St. Anthony” shed light on the immense strength required to resist pressures to conform; “Hermia”, however, explored the nature of the desires themselves and the intensity required for them to inspire any sort of action. Though different, both pieces were able to establish similar thoughts. In order for an individual to resist conformity their passions must, in a sense, take them over and guide them beyond adversity, just is the case with Lysander.
In response to constant opposition, he allowed his aspirations to guide him. If Lysander were to conform – clearly, a far simpler route – he would have married Helena and most likely would not have been judged: most marriages of the time were not established because of love. This was not his case. His love for Hermia and longing for her hand in marriage allowed him to disregard convention or the risk to his person – specifically, death – and pursue the woman he loved into the wilderness. As seen in his blatant disregard of Athenian law and the Duke’s ruling, Lysander’s desire was clearly influential. In the likeness of his romanticized view of Helena, their journey into the forest was the things of fantasies. In the end, however, fairies, magic and donkeys alike could not force him to conform. Be it the curses of men or the whispers of fairies, he would not be moved. Ergo, the thought that a spirited individual, ardent in the pursuit of their desires, will find the strength within themselves to denounce societal expectations despite the danger to their general well-being is founded.
Humanity is run by the pursuit of desire. Like many of us, it fuelled the dreams of my childhood, and it continues to paint the paths I choose to take, especially now with the spectre of adulthood looming fast before me. Yet, despite the best laid plans of mice and men, the world often has its way and dreams are left to disintegrate in its wake. Relating to Lysander’s plight regarding the pursuit of his desire – namely Hermia – and the pressure to conform to the whims of Egeus and Demetrius proved rather difficult as I myself struggle with fully understanding what I want and its implications on the scale of the world around me. In spite of the conflicts within myself, one thing always remained true – my desires ran contrary to the ideals of others. Like Lysander, however, I was never dissuaded from continuing my pursuit in accord with my own ideals on how I wanted to live, in spite of opposition.
Ever since I was a young boy, I always wanted to pursue a life of adventure. Missionary, cruise ship captain, travelling doctor, archaeologist, ethnographer, travel writer, explorer – different possible career paths, same wanderlust. However, regardless of the path I wanted to take, I always faced opposition from friends, family, and other people who found themselves unable to reconcile their worldviews with my own. I admit that my ambitions for the adventurous lifestyle – both then and now – are rather romanticized, but perhaps this fact is exactly why I have had to endure a lot of naysaying, even from those I love most. This was especially evident in the comments from my close family, who were not able to understand how I envisioned my life.
Yet, how could I blame them?
I myself never understood my own vision for my life. I still don’t.
One of the comments that stung me most came from my brother, who, struggling initially with the pursuit of his own dreams, sought temporary relief in blindly crushing mine! In having such romanticized notions of life, I struggled with reconciling my lofty ambitions with the harshness of reality. I’ve always wanted to travel the world, but not in the structured way associated with missionaries, sailors, or travel journalists. In my thirst for adventure, I dreamt of a vagabond life complete with stowing away on ships, hitchhiking everywhere, and making a home on the streets. These ideas, however impractical, highlighted the life I desired to live – an unstructured, wild, unpredictable life. I wanted to travel the world with almost nothing in my pocket, and go wherever the winds of fate took me.
It was no surprise, then, when my brother decided to tell me, vis-à-vis, that it would be impossible to get what I wanted, and that I would not be able to travel the world in the way that I envisioned. He even said that if I ever hitchhiked, I might be kidnapped or even killed. The risks were there, I admitted, but they didn’t decrease my resolve. My mother, being the loving parent that she is, also attempted to dissuade me when I told her that I wanted to travel to Africa; she simply responded by saying that I might not survive on account of the harsh allergic reactions I get from mosquito bites. However, none of this could’ve prepared me to hear what an aunt of mine told me when I expressed my desire to be travelling in Europe in ten years time: “It doesn’t hurt to dream.”
These are the people I love. These are the same people who tried to dissuade me from my dreams.
Many a time, I’ve pondered upon what they’ve said to me. And many a time, I’ve felt the need to abandon those desires in order to pursue a cleaner, more organized life. But, like Lysander, I was able to shake off my doubts and keep my eyes on what I wanted. In spite of all the opposition I’ve faced, I’ve remained steadfast to what I feel life – and God – is calling me to do. In a few years time, I hope to become a cultural anthropologist. And after that, perhaps an independent ethnographer. Or maybe even a freelance travel writer, researcher, or explorer. A missionary, perhaps. My life brims with a multitude of possibilities – I guess only time will tell which ones I will choose to follow.
This is what I desire and, at least for now, I refuse to conform. At least for today, however, one thing remains true:
I choose to chase the fairies of my dreams.
In describing love as Cupid, the Graeco-Roman god of passion, rendered blind, William Shakespeare makes it clear that the power of desire holds the ability to not only blind an individual to the imperfections of those they love, but also to the strength of their adversaries. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare reveals to his readers the ignorance of lovers like Lysander who, in a mad pursuit of love, disregard the dangers of disobeying the laws of strict Athenian society, as well as the perils in the dark, wild forest where he planned his rendezvous with Hermia. Through Lysander, he demonstrates the consuming, tunnel-vision-like effect of intense desire – manifesting in a sexual nature, as is the case with Lysander – and the motivation that accompanies such fervent passion.
Thus, like any personal desire, love makes people blind to things outside the scope of their ambitions. However, the play suggests that the fruition of such goals lie only within the strength of those very desires; in other words, their attainment can only occur when the will or determination to achieve said desire matches, or even surpasses, the desire itself.
Even the fairies are forced to submit to the power of true love. When Puck’s mistake is realized, the fairies undertake great measures to ensure that the real love between Lysander and Hermia is restored at the expense of Demetrius’ future. Such a determination on Lysander’s part compels the fairies to restore what has been lost, thereby proving the strength of Lysander’s desire. It shows that not even the pressure of societal expectations or external influence – as signified by both Athenian and fairy society – can permanently dissuade one from reaching one’s ambition if that individual’s desire is potent enough. Passion can prevail over all.
While such resolve may mean sacrificing highly-sought attributes like reputation, civility, and safety, the consequences of pursuing one’s personal desires often mean little for the people chasing their dreams. Despite the risk of ridicule and the dangers of the wilderness, Lysander knows that only one thing matters to him – namely, his unrelenting love for Hermia. Helena, in attempting to sway Lysander from bothering himself with Demetrius, tells him: “Yet Hermia still loves you: then be content.” (2.2.769). In such a line, Shakespeare is able to effectively sum up the truth he sees about the conflict between personal desire and the pressure to conform: despite the threats of the world, lovers – and all those bound to the pursuit of their personal desires – are able to find happiness simply in being free to be with the things, or people, they love.
Conformity always appears to be the easiest option, yet history has given us many examples of men and women who have bravely pursued the folly of their dreams in the face of a cold, highly-demanding world. Many, like Romeo and Juliet, died bodily for their passions. Others, like Lysander and Hermia, chose to die to the world they knew and loved. In William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, readers witness the drastic measures taken by Lysander in his attempt to win a battle against a society threatening to tear their love apart. However, the strength of his desires act as motivation to resist all pressures of conformity, enabling him to defy Athenian law and run to the savagery of the wilderness – thereby risking both his civility and safety – in order to be with the one he loves. Controlled by the power of his personal desires, Lysander experiences a tunnel vision that allows him to focus solely on his wants. Even the power of the fairies prove to be no match for Lysander’s devotion to Hermia, as they are eventually compelled to lift the spell from Lysander’s eyes and bring back the true passions of his heart. Through this, Shakespeare is able to assert the idea that personal desires – strengthened by determination and such unadulterated passion – have the capability to trump any opposing force. As a human with human faults, one often faces a lapse in their pursuit of their desires at one time or another. Even amidst temptation, however, individuals eventually overcome distractions luring them away from what they truly want and they regain sight of their personal goals, just as Lysander shakes off his infatuation for Helena – with the help of the fairies – and regains his sight for the love of his life, Hermia. With this, it is revealed that those who unrelentingly pursue their desires ultimately find ways to attain them, vanquishing even the wants of a society seeking to rid itself of individuals refusing to conform to its vision of perfection. Thus, by strengthening resolve and battling against assimilation, humans can find the will to pave the way for their personal dreams and fight whatever seeks to tear their passions asunder, whether it be the rigid laws of a strict Athenian world, the fiery torments of a demon, or the pranks of one mischievous fairy.
Who Did What?
Jieo: Creative 1, personal, insight and conclusion.
Ibukun: Intro, Creative 2, transition, and insight (mildly).
In order of appearance:
Unknown by paintsings. Includes: Bleachers – ‘Don’t Take The Money’ (2017) | John Simmons – Hermia & Lysander (1870) |Taken from: http://paintsings.tumblr.com/post/169265439276/bleachers-dont-take-the-money-2017-john
The Temptation of St. Anthony by John Charles Dollman. Taken from: https://conchigliadivenere.wordpress.com/tag/john-charles-dollman/#jp-carousel-1072
Unknown by poppunkarthistory. Includes: The Front Bottons: Tattooed Tears (2013) | Claude Monet: The Cliff Ofm Aval Etr Tat (1885)| Taken from: https://poppunkarthistory.tumblr.com/
Gustav Klimt: The Kiss (1907-1908) Taken from: http://www.nargismagazine.az/en/68777
I Don’t Want To Name My Work by Ibukun Ojo. Includes: image taken from https://weheartit.com/entry/310999027; details unknown.
A Fairy Tale by Arthur Wardle Taken from: http://www.victorianweb.org/victorian/painting/fairy/index.html
Unknown by poppunkarthistory. Includes: Dads: Groin Twerk (2012) | Claude Monet: Water Lilies (unknown) Taken from: https://poppunkarthistory.tumblr.com/post/139252968398/water-lilies-claude-monet-x-groin-twerk-dads#notes
A Midsummer Night’s Dream – The Lovers by shakespearesiphone. Taken from: http://shakespearesiphone.tumblr.com/post/155044842393/begin-these-woodbirds-but-to-couple-now-a
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