From the vicious
, yet very real, love of Oberon and Titania
to the youthful obsessive love
that Helena has for Demetrius (and the false love
the fairies cause Demetrius to have for Helena), love is a primary subject in William Shakespeare
's "A Midsummer Night's Dream
." Though the King and Queen of the Fairies
are violent in their love for one another, their anger shaking the ground when the two fight, they most assuredly do love each other. Not so with Helena and Demetrius
In the case of Helena and Demetrius, Helena is in such a deep state of obsessive love for Demetrius that she truly shames herself when trying to "catch" him - going so far as to compare herself with a Spaniel dog, available exclusively for Demetrius' use. All the while, Demetrius scorns Helena's affections, preferring instead to chase after Hermia. In fact, Demetrius does not show any love or interest in Helena until the fairy Robin Goodfellow, or Puck, puts a spell on him. This is not a true love on either side. Helena does not love Demetrius, but rather obsesses over him - affording Demetrius all worth and herself none unless he returns her affections. On Demetrius' side, the only reason that he begins to love Helena at all is the fairy spell - not from any affection of his own heart. This is not a healthy, mature love in any sense, with one person in a self-degrading obsession and the other under an enchantment.
On the other hand, the King and Queen of the Fairies, Oberon and Titania, have a much healthier, a much truer love relationship between them. Though spiteful at times because Titania's possessions take her attention away from him, Oberon certainly loves his queen. However, this spite drives Oberon to play tricks and put spells on the Queen of the Fairies in order to remove that which so distracts the lady from her husband. On Titania's side, the queen is not above using her power to make Oberon jealous - fawning over her possessions to point of ignoring him. However, once these tricks and intrigues are finished, Oberon and Titania meet in a spectacular reunion that once again reaffirms their love for one another. This is a healthy sort of love, with each partner exerting his or her own will - as opposed to one giving all control over to the other person - and compromises being made between the two. Furthermore, the couple is not afraid to fight one another when it is appropriate - and the relationship seems stronger for the arguing and making up.
The two couples of Oberon and Titania and Helena and Demetrius show the striking contrasts in the types of love evidenced in "A Midsummer Night's Dream," though multiple other types are present in the play as well. Ranging from a youthful dalliance to a mature and healthy love, Shakespeare shows the full gamut of the love spectrum.