Discuss the ideas developed by the text creator in your chosen text about the conflict between pursuing a personal desire and choosing to conform.
Lysander to Hermia:
“Ay me! For aught that I could ever read,
could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth…” (1.1 132-134, pg.7- 8)
Lysander. He is undesirable, yet passionate. He is a lover, yet a competitor. He is a character bound by the conformity of Athenian law, yet driven by his personal desires. Grounded by his love for Hermia, Lysander is forced to choose between love and compliance. In this love, however, it is shown that an individual does not have as much control over their circumstances as they want it to be. Lysander is the ideal lover; ready to throw his original life away in pursuit of personal desires. However, he is a victim to the supernatural forces he has no control over, and his desire to pursue his love for Hermia is challenged by the fairies’ interventions. Despite his strong love for Hermia, his infatuations are immediately directed to Helena with no hesitance; simply because of a few drops of love potion, Lysander’s love for Hermia no longer exists. As an individual determined enough to disregard the expectations of conformity, and instead passionately pursue personal desires, Lysander fails to consider any factors that will cause him to fall out of love. In Midsummer Night’s Dream, the playwright explores love through the perspective of an individual who has gone through extreme lengths to secure one’s relationship. However, misled by the false securities of love, one may fail to consider the external forces that an individual has no control over. It is through this idea, that Shakespeare demonstrates the fragility of love through the character of Lysander and his relationship with Hermia. Readers will journey with Lysander as he struggles against the difficulty, fragility, and eventually, the faulty restoration of love, exemplifying the various aspects of personal desire in conflict with conformity.
Creative Piece #1
“Yet marked I where the bolt of Cupid fell.
It fell upon a little western flower,
Before milk-white, now purple with love’s wound,
And maidens call it love-in-idleness.” (2.1 165 -168)
My heart unto yours is knit.
Here you are,
dressed in milky white love,
in my eyes,
One heart, one bed, two bosoms, and one troth.
Cupid’s arrow inflicts
for my heart did
with a fairy-dusted purple.
Who will not change a raven for a dove?
drenched in mallow’s scent,
in their nativity,
form upon her contempt,
I swear by that which I will lose for thee,
To prove him false that says I love thee not.
Amidst spiteful revenge,
dare I sleep
with drooping eyes,
only to wake
in your blissful white love.
A forgotten purple dream,
I see him with her,
These couples shall eternally be knit.
Despite a strong bond when one thoroughly develops a relationship, love comes with the fears of unfaithfulness. Lysander is the the perfect illustration of the condition of desire in which humankind fears to acknowledge; many individuals are afraid to pursue desires because of the possibilities of rejection, loss, or the obstacles that they may face in the path of obtaining that desire. In this case, Lysander is challenged by Egeus’s expectations to conform to his demands. He counters this factor with an attempt to pursue security by eloping with Hermia. Being so caught up in his desires to establish love, he fails to consider the external forces that causes him to fall out of his love.
Through this poem, I wanted to establish the direction of Lysander’s love based on the quote shown above. This is presented through the four stanzas, where the first represents Lysander’s love for Hermia, the second and third where he pursues his love for Helena, and the fourth comes back full circle with Lysander in love with Hermia once again (Note that the italicized lines of the poem are taken from the play).
Before I go on, the story of the flower used as a love potion must be explained. As Shakespeare recounts in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Oberon states that the flower was originally pure white until it was struck by Cupid’s arrow. The wound from the arrow formed the dark purple center of the petals. It is also interesting to note that the flower used for the potion is a pansy (mentioned in the footnotes), nicknamed “love-in-idleness.” During the Victorian era in England, the pansy was used for secret courting; any display of passion or affection was frowned upon during this time. This pansy signifies the secrecy needed for the love potion to work; only in sleep is Puck able to administer the flower’s spell. The fairies act as a supernatural power of forced conformity, which interferes with Lysander’s pursuit of personal desire.
In the beginning of the play, Lysander’s affection for Hermia is obviously demonstrated through his willingness to elope with her. I used “milky white” to describe their love not only because the colour white is associated with innocence, but it is also the time before Cupid (albeit indirectly) or the fairies interfere with his love. Cupid, the God of desire, love, and passion in the poem is used to represent a higher form that Lysander has no control over. Through the fairies interventions, the fragility of Lysander’s love is demonstrated when his personal desires are so easily directed elsewhere.
In accordance with my colour motif, purple was used to represent his love, or rather, sudden infatuation, for Helena. His personal desire now conflicts with Hermia’s desire for him to conform to her expectations of faith. Since purple is a combination of red and blue, it holds both warm and cool properties. On one hand, purple may represent passion, fulfillment, and vitality. On the other hand, dark purple hues evoke feelings of gloom, sadness, and frustration. It is through the colour purple that I represent Hermia’s confusion and misery as a result of Lysander’s change in desire. Furthermore, the line, “drenched in mallow’s scent,” was used to symbolize the purple mallow flower’s meaning – consumed by love. Whether it be Hermia or Helena, Lysander’s actions are dependent on his personal desires to pursue love. In his attempts to defy conformity, his personal desires instigate the chaos that arises in the play.
In the last stanza, I chose to apply capitals in front of each line in order to represent the restoration of harmony from chaos. Through the usage of the colour white again, readers can interpret that as Lysander’s recovered love for Hermia. His love is only restored by the interventions of the fairies; otherwise, his affection for Helena would have continued despite his once strong devotion to Hermia. Moreover, all the italicized lines are spoken by Lysander except for the last one; spoken by Theseus, a character who represents a force outside the fairy world, fulfills Lysander’s original desires, rendering conformity as an unnecessary concern. Through this poem, Lysander’s struggle between personal desire and conformity is shown by his fragile pursuit of love.
Creative Piece #2
The choice of composing music to exemplify the fragility of love was to isolate the story of Lysander and highlight events which demonstrated profound meaning to the theme. Music, in all its chaotic beauty, is excellent in communicating the symphonic catastrophizes which occur in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The ways of a heart are never to be determined; therefore, artisans often fall back to the comfort of music to communicate that which the mind does not understand. This small composition is written in the scale of D which includes F# and C# (both cacophonic notes which were used to represent the beguilement of the love potion). In the beginning, the music is orchestrated to demonstrate a series of ‘questions’ and ‘answers’, and these exemplify Lysander’s and Hermia’s committed love and dedication to withdraw from the conformities opposed upon them by society. More specifically, the questions are the threats imposed upon them by external factors; however, as the questions ring out, a series of answers are heard with assurance and confidence that overrides conformation. The music transitions from the initial stages and intensifies, now including aggressive chords and speed. It was my intention to create a chaotic scene, specifically to exemplify the night which Lysander was under the spell of the love potion. Along with the major chords, I have also include a b minor to portray the beguilement of the love potion. This section of the music is most likened to a chase in which passion continuously overtakes desire. Often times passion and desire and interchangeable; however, in the play, the influence of the love potion ignites passion which comprises previous desire for love. As we approach the last shift in the music, a noticeable mellowness can be detected as the music is calming and quiet. The play closes with a content Lysander married to Hermia – the one whom he loves. Here we see the restoration of love as Lysander is set free from the restraints of passion and continues to love Hermia. Quite interestingly, Shakespeare illustrates an unconventional concept in which individuals are not as pressured by society, rather the supernatural forces that caused confusion and surreal passions. The music returns to the soft bright chords denoting happiness and the restoration of that which was lost.
“Lysander. [Awakening] And run through fire I will for thy sweet sake.
Transparent Helena! Nature shows art, that through they bosom makes me see thy heart.” (2.2 102-105)
As exemplified in his play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s romantic comedies revolves around a conventional mishap which is to be resolved to restore harmony and happiness. However, the inevitable essences of chaos and interventions of supernatural forces represents an irrational and unpredictable force that transforms an honorable individual to lust after desires created by the ‘potion’. Through the use of the love potion, Shakespeare displays the fragility of love by which significant characters are torn apart from previous relations and continue to be beset by doubts and fears of each other. Despite previous statements of love and desire for Hermia, Lysander is beguiled by the potion and becomes vulnerable to the passions that are enforced upon him. Lysander is not to blame because his course of actions were not self-directed, but rather is the hapless outcome of an overpowering supernatural force. As portrayed in the actions of Lysander, he is the ideal lover of any romantic relationship. Though aware of the consequences, he proclaims his unconditional love to Hermia and attempts to free themselves from the bondages of the Athenian law. However, in the frantic pursuit of love, Lysander stumbles upon an unwanted interruption that terrorizes their idealized romance. The work of the love potion is overwhelming as the characters fall erratically out of love and shocks the reader with an outburst of unexpected change of heart and passions. The literal use of fire in Lysander’s diction, “And run through fire I will for thy sweet sake,” denotes the passions and desires that were enforced upon him, causing Lysander to conform uncharacteristically. It is through these hectic events that Shakespeare reveals the fragility of love and how it crumbles, even in the hands of the most worthy lover. It is a universal understanding that genuine love establishes strong relationships; however, love itself is a delicate feather, vulnerable to other influences. The circumstances of love unraveled through the creative pieces, captures an essences of fragility and corresponding responses which humankind inherit for such cases.
“I think Paris smells not just sweet but melancholy and curious, sometimes sad but always enticing and seductive. She’s a city for the all senses, for artists and writers and musicians and dreamers, for fantasies, for long walks and wine and lovers and, yes, for mysteries.“
- J. Rose
Often in my own life, I find myself beguiled in my own fantasies – lost in a trance of a seemingly never-ending reverie where the currents of my own imagination drive such a paradise without any guilt of reality. Being in such a painted world requires a sort of willing on my part to being vulnerable; to subject myself to a new world where the certainty of my everyday life is gone. Instead, I am submitted to a different space where any preconceived knowledge of what is true no longer applies. One can find outlets to express such internal yearning to achieve this ultimate freedom from literature or art, but even then some of these art expressions cannot capture the true essence of what this desire actually is; after all, how could you capture such a deep-rooted internal feeling of wanting to escape the restraints real life has and pursue a different one where none of your certainties or responsibilities applies?
Alas, what goes up must come down, and this built out of illusion eventually always must be faced with true reality and convention. And so after being forced back into what reality is, I am often left feeling unsatisfied and in a state of constant yearning towards my perfect picture to try and find refuge from the turmoils that life brings. Although my instincts always find a way back to returning to this ridiculous dream, there will always be a part of me bringing me back: the realist in me. This part can see past the romantic pictures the dreamer in me paints and instead can see all the underlying problems in pursuing such a utopian and unrealistic ideal. This inability to reconcile illusions with reality results in a vulnerability where I’m unable to live life in the present with such ideas instead I must wake up to a life of restless responsibilities, commitments, and problems.
Lysander himself, in the City of Athens, faces a similar frustration due to his unchanging condition: the one woman he desires the most is the one woman he cannot have. The gruesome trouble limits him from being able to fully pursue her with the one binding ceremony, one that joins two people into one – marriage. However, despite this, his infatuation with her drives him to act on impulse and go against the law to pursue a life with her venturing through the chaotic woods. His want to gain absolute free will drives him to act in such extreme measures. Rather than attempting to reconcile with his desires and the reality of his and Hermia’s situations he chases this ideal of seeking a future with Hermia that does not seem to be possible. His impulsive actions to becoming independent from the oppressive ruling of the King and Egeus, in turn, make him fragile and susceptible to the influences of other creatures lurking in the woods. His own romanticized ideals are what hinders his ability to recognize that his situation with Hermia is “too good to be true,” and instead, he continues to pursue his ideal life with Hermia unknowing of the mess that is inevitable to occur. In their own fashion, the fairies meddle with Lysander’s love and although the concept of magic and fairies seem to be against natures will, they ironically play the role of maintaining the balance of nature; even though they create a problem between Lysander and Hermia in playing with the love potion, overall, they were ensuring balance of order from hindering a love that was never supposed to happen in the real world. Ultimately, Lysanders failure to reconcile his yearnings to escape his circumstance and his responsibilities in accord with reality is what eventually corrupted his love for Hermia. In relation to my personal connection, it is out of both mine and Lysander’s desire to escape conventions, we are unable to see the threat it poses: mine with being unable to gain a satisfaction with my own reality and his with having his love interfere by the fairies magic – despite the yearning of our dreams, reality will always seep back in.
In the play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, William Shakespeare comments on the almost humorous tendencies for individuals to be completely infatuated with another. Humans with these tendencies are willing to do what it takes to pursue a secure future, only to be suddenly repulsed by the sight of their original love. This portrays humans as foolish mortals being pulled into different directions as a result of external factors puppeteering their every move. Shakespeare enunciates the significant impact of this idea through the use of fairy magic on Lysander. Lysander’s motives throughout the entire play change quite drastically in accordance with his desires and responding actions. In the beginning of the play, his motivation is directed towards satisfying his love for Hermia through elopement; and yet his intention of being with Hermia completely collapses in the presence of a love potion that results in his pursuit of a completely different woman. In reference to the faulty nature of humans, relationships often come with the uncertainty of faithfulness; yet in spite of this, individuals will continue to pursue their love and desires by taking a leap of faith – this in itself requires a passion for love, and to some extent, certain foolishness. In the decision to completely trust another individual, one must submit themselves to the mercy of the other making one vulnerable. Despite proclaiming a deep-rooted love, Lysander’s actions are recklessly disloyal; demonstrating the fragility of his desires to secure his relationship. In other words, the deeper the love, the larger the negative impact of a betrayal should hit. However, Shakespeare indicates the ridiculousness and shallowness of their love – Hermia easily forgives him, merely passing off his betrayal as a teasing dream. Through the faulty restoration of Lysander’s love (only through the potion does he revert to his original desires), the playwright displays the senseless actions that result from passionate desires, and by extension, the blindness of infatuation.
Kelley: opening, creative/explanatory paragraph #1, insight paragraph (mildly), conclusion
Hefseeba: creative/explanatory paragraph #2, transition, conclusion
Natalie: personal connection, insight paragraph, conclusion
References for sites:
References for images: