Act 1, Scene 1, of A Midsummer’s Night Dream, by William Shakespeare, concludes with Helena thinking about love. From lines 226 to 244, Helena describes the struggles of love and how they relate to her specific situation. She rants about it as she tries to think through why love can manipulate people so easily into believing things. Reading this short passage can easily evoke empathy in the audience. She phrases things in a specific way to get her point across and to influence the audience to understand where she is coming from. The passage is a significant piece to the play as it demonstrates the main theme of love by foreshadowing key problems of the rest of the play from Helena’s viewpoints.
The passage as a whole is Helena’s thought process over how love is blinding. She thinks that Demetrius is childish for loving Hermia over her. She justifies her reasoning with paintings of Cupid. “And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind. Nor hath Love’s mind of any judgement taste— Wings and no eyes figure unheedy haste.” Without eyes and only wings, cupid is bound to be reckless and make bad decisions. This viewpoint includes imagery to support Helena’s idea that Love is blind which can cause mistakes, hence, Demetrius picking Hermia over herself. It also allows for the audience to view Helena as reliable because she makes valid points for her ideas.Helena’s rant allows for the audience to notice the importance of love as a theme in the play as aspects of it are continually foreshadowed. First, it is obvious that the audience is meant to understand that Helena is jealous that Demetrius has eyes for Hermia instead of her. This can be seen when Helena states “Through Athens I am thought as fair as she. But what of that. Demetrius thinks not so.” After concluding this, the audience is able to figure out that the theme of love exists and is what the characters revolve their thoughts around. Helena’s rant allows for foreshadowing to be presented about how she is jealous of Demetrius and Hermia.
Love is personified through this passage as Helena describes what comes with it proving the characters put love on a pedestal. The word is capitalized through her thoughts as if it is its own person. An example of this can be seen when she explains, “Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind.” This is how Helena rationalizes why Demetrius is pursuing Hermia instead of her. Helena wants the audience to know that love is deceptive and will manipulate a person by blinding them with its tactics. She reasons that Demetrius can’t see how he should be with Helena rather than Hermia because his thoughts are infiltrated with the idea of loving Hermia.The largest metaphor of the passage is when Helena compares love to a child. Helena spells out “And therefore is Love said to be a child, Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.” This phrase is important as Helena creates the idea that love can cause mistakes which is another form of foreshadowing for the rest of the play. This statement is true in the sense that love can cause people to do compulsive acts. The characters may make irrational decisions since there are so many love triangles. The audience may agree that love has highly influential powers and could even use their own experiences to relate to Helena. Comparing love to a child further engages the audience to comprehend where her reasoning is coming from.
The language Helena uses permits the passage to be understood clearly which adds support to her claim that love is deceptive. For example, she uses very descriptive adjectives such as beguiled as stated before. Helena also states “So the boy Love is perjured everywhere.” (Shakespeare) Perjured is a strong word that not only means to lie but to lie willingly and knowingly making matters worse. This causes the audience to gather a deeper understanding of the pain Helena feels. Helena’s word choice is definitely her strongest tool in her passage as it influences the audience to agree with her and her premonitions. The entire passage is full of repetition of how love is childish and blinding yet she finds multiple ways to highlight this for the reader, empowering her to get the audience to agree with her viewpoints.
This passage is extremely important for the rest of the play as it gives insight to Helena’s thought process over love. Without paying close attention to this passage, the audience could be confused for the entirety of the play and not understand why Helena is thinking the way she is. It foreshadows that not only will Helena continue to pursue Demetrius, she will become jealous of Hermia as well. The entire point of lines 226 through 244 is to have the audience see Helena’s point of view from her own thought process and to recognize the power love has on the characters of this play.