William Shakespeare in “Romeo and Juliet” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” present tragic love stories. Although these two plays tell the stories of profound love, immense pain and suffering seems to be customary. In “Romeo and Juliet” there is an unending row between two families, Montague and Capulet (Shakespeare 5).
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The main plot of the play concerns Romeo and Juliet whose love defies all odds. Romeo comes from the Montague family while Juliet is a Capulet. Their love is passionate and intense, but their family feud is a barrier. The tragic end in this story demonstrates how love is a cause of misery.
In “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” the plot is centered on the deep love between Theseus and Hippolyta who are about to wed. During their wedding preparations, the plot reveals the affections of other characters like Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, King Oberon and Queen Titania. They find themselves in fairyland where they interact with magic. These characters find themselves in circumstances that trigger pain and suffering because of their love for one another.
The story is full of dreams and magical events, which makes it fantastical. In addition, the play has a humorous tone that underplays the ordeals and hardship faced by people in love. The difference between “Romeo and Juliet” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is in their endings. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” has a happy ending while “Romeo and Juliet” ends in tragedy. Both stories depict a dichotomy between profound love and suffering.
This paper examines romantic love as the source of joy and fulfillment in “Romeo and Juliet” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. It also examines how love contributes to pain and suffering in both stories.
Love as a source of joy and satisfaction in “Romeo and Juliet”
The love between Romeo and Juliet is powerful. Romeo is attracted to Juliet immediately after meeting her. The two of them are happy and express their affections for each other (Shakespeare 48). After seeing Juliet, Romeo realizes his feelings for her are different. Although their families are at war, their love is powerful.
Romeo is beyond himself with joy because now; he loves someone who also loves him. When the nurse informs Juliet about the identity of Romeo, she has no desire to end their relationship. Instead, she says, “My only love sprung from my only hate” (Shakespeare 52). Later, when they meet, she tells Romeo it is only a name that makes them enemies. This revelation gives Romeo confidence to fight for her. Juliet’s affection is a source of joy to Romeo.
He confesses if Juliet calls him love then; he will be a new man. As their conversation continues, Juliet asks Romeo what will bring him satisfaction. Romeo tells Juliet that marrying her is his only desire. Their love is a source of satisfaction. Her feelings for Romeo are so strong she is prepared to give up her name and her birthright.
Love as a source of pain and suffering in “Romeo and Juliet”
As the plot begins, Romeo is lonely and miserable because he loves Rosaline but, she does not share the same feelings. He makes his room dark during the day because he believes love is associated with light (Shakespeare 16). He barely does anything other than moan for a love which is unreciprocated. Romeo’s friend, Mercutio scoffs at his feelings for Rosaline when he shares his misery. However, Romeo likens his sadness to madness.
When he asks Romeo what makes him sad, Romeo replies “Ay me! Sad hours seem long” (Shakespeare 17). His days are bleak without love. This scene illustrates how love causes suffering. Romeo’s pain causes him to go to a Capulet feast even, though, the two families are fighting. After meeting Juliet, Friar Laurence asks about Romeo and Rosaline.
Romeo answers by saying “I have forgotten that name, and that name’s woe” (Shakespeare 26). This statement depicts how deeply Romeo is wounded following Rosaline’s rejection. Friar Lawrence then wonders how Romeo can forsake his love for Rosaline so quickly. Romeo explains his affections for Rosaline were childish.
In “Romeo and Juliet”, love is a vicious and powerful feeling. Romeo and Juliet contemplate suicide whenever they think of being separated. Romeo tries to kill himself in the presence of Friar Lawrence after he is banned from Verona for killing Tybalt (Shakespeare 65). Similarly, When Juliet finds out about the ban she is desolate. She equates their separation with death. Furthermore, Juliet threatens to end her life when she is forced to marry Paris.
She tells her mother she would rather have the wedding in the graveside (Shakespeare 70). Towards the end of the play, Juliet feigns death in order to stop her upcoming wedding. Friar Lawrence is the mastermind of this plot but, he fails to inform Romeo. He gives Juliet a sleeping pill to induce her into a deep sleep.
In the morning, when the nurse finds Juliet, she thinks Juliet is dead. Juliet’s family also believes the facade and mourns for her. Romeo kills himself when he finds Juliet because he also thinks she is dead. Juliet then wakes up and finds Romeo dead; she takes a dagger and stabs herself. The tragic in this story is the ultimate sacrifice of love.
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Love as a source of joy and satisfaction in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Love is a source of joy in this plot. The story begins with wedding preparation. Theseus confesses he won her love through a sword, but he will love her differently (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 3). Because of his happiness, Theseus orders the commoners to stage a play for entertainment (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 3).
His joy and satisfactions causes him to give Hermia enough time to think about her actions instead of judging harshly. Hermia and Lysander are happy just loving each other. When Lysander discloses a possibility of leaving Athens, Hermia gets excited. Although their plan does not run smoothly, Hermia and Lysander enjoy a happy ending. In addition, Demetrius learns to love Helena and the people of Athens witness three weddings. King Oberon after tricking Titania and the four lovers with a love spells finds fulfillment in Titania.
Love as a source of pain and suffering in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”
Love is the source of pain and suffering in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. As the story begins, King Oberon and Queen Titania love is the source of their suffering. (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 20) The two parties are at war because Titania refuses to release the Indian boy to Oberon. She is disgusted with him for coercing her to comply. She declares “I have forsworn his bed and company” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 20).
Consequently, Oberon sends one of his attendants, Puck to find a flower known as love-in- idleness. If this flower is rubbed on a person’s eyelids, the person will fall in love with the first living creature he sets his eyes on. Oberon intends to use this flower on Titania because she refuses to comply with his wishes. It is clear in this story love causes suffering because Oberon loves Titania yet, he desires to seek revenge over an Indian boy. His desire to have a knight outweighs his affections for Titania to a point he harms her.
Similarly, Hermia and Lysander are suffering because of their love for each other. Hermia desires to marry Lysander but Hermia’s father; Egeus forbids the union (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 5). According to the law of the land, the father has a right to choose a spouse for his daughter.
The penalty for non compliance is death or confinement to a nunnery for life. In this story, Egeus believes his daughter has been bewitched by Lysander into selecting him for a husband. He accuses her before Thesius and demands for her punishment if she continues to disobey.
Love is the source of suffering for Hermia who wishes to be with Lysander but, is being forced to marry Demetrius. Hermia declares Athens was paradise before she met Lysander and she wonders what grace Lysander has “that he hath turn’d a heaven unto hell” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 10). On the other hand, Demetrius claims to love Hermia even though he is ready to see her executed for choosing Lysander.
Another source of disharmony in a love is relationship is portrayed in the romantic situation between Helena and Demetrius (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 10). Helena feels affection for Demetrius, and Demetrius is attracted to Hermia. This means the two men are fighting for the affection Hermia, while Helena is lonely. Helena’s love for Demetrius brings unhappiness because he rejects her. Helena is constantly complaining about his rejection.
She says “the more I love, the more he hateth me” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 10). As Hermia and Lysander are planning to elope, they see Helena complaining about her affections for Demetrius and confide in her. They hope that she will be happy with Hermia out of the picture (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 14). However, Helena’s affections for Demetrius cause her to betray Hermia and Lysander by revealing their plans to elope. Helena hopes her show of loyalty will make Demetrius fall in love with her again.
In this story, the love is confusing. This confusion brings potent pain and suffering. Initially, Demetrius is attracted to Helena but, after she meets Hermia her affection change. Helena feels dejected by this turn of events. Later, as Lysander and Hermia try to escape, Puck makes a mistake and places the magic juice on Lysander’s eyelids. The first person Lysander sees when he wakes up is Helena, and he falls in love with her (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 55).
Instead of eloping, Lysander turns his attention on Helena. Lysander’s lack of interest hurts Hermia. She holds Demetrius responsible for Lysander’s departure. On realizing that Punk made a mistake, Oberon squeezes the magic portion on Demetrius. Upon waking up, Demetrius falls in love with Helena. Now both men try to win Helena’s heart. Hermia is distressed by the sudden change in Lysander. Similarly, Helena is hurt because she believes the two men are tricking her.
Hermia attacks Helena and blames her for her suffering (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 65). The confusion that arises because of the magic spell stirs up rage in this story. After witnessing the suffering of the lovers, Oberon corrects his mistake, and the love story ends happily. In this story, the course of love faces trials and temptation. Lysander says “the course of true love never did run smoothly” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 8).
Shakespeare, William. Romeo & Juliet. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1958. Print.
— A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Sydney: HowYouWant.com, 2008. Print.