Imagine reaching out to someone. Imagine longing for their help, company, love, but every time you extend your hand, they slap it away, spit on you and call you scum. Now imagine the same situation but instead of neglecting and abusing you, they love and accept you. Which situation would you prefer? Similarly, in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we see two pairs of lovers, one with passionate mutual love and another with only one partner yearning for the other. Both pairs run off into the forest, each one desiring of loving who they want, while magical beings alter their wants and fears, distorting their views of reality. By examining the relationship between Lysander and Hermia, and of Demetrius and Helena, we can see that mutual love is key in order to have a good relationship.
Lysander and Hermia’s relationship emphasizes strong love from both sides, and without it, the relationship would fall apart as seen as when they were broken apart themselves. When Hermia says, “So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord, Ere I will yield my virgin patent up Unto his lordship, whose unwished yoke My soul consents not to give sovereignty,” she is saying that she would rather die than be with one who she doesn’t love. This not only highlights her beliefs and views of common society, but also that of her version of ‘true love’ (1.1.79-82). She, as well as Lysander, believe in lovers loving each other, and being with each other, no matter the hardships they face. “O hell, to choose love by another’s eyes! […] Or, if there were a sympathy in choice, War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it, Making it momentary as a sound,” (1.1.140-143). They see having someone else choose their love for them as hell, and now that they realize that they do live in this hell, they seek to flee. They reject the cruel world they live in, and abscond, thinking that as long as they have each other, they are willing to face whatever comes ahead. One is another’s heaven and if one were to magically love someone else for example, the other would likely be confused and likely kill themselves, realizing that they are not complete without the other.
Unlike Lysander and Hermia’ relationship, the early part of Demetrius and Helena’s relationship teaches us how one-sided love only brings more hate and can hurt us in more ways than one. “And even for that do I love you the more. I am your spaniel. And, Demetrius, The more you beat me, I will fawn on you,” (2.1.202-204). Words of affection said by Helena are only rebuffed and returned with words of hate by Demetrius. Helena even goes as far as to call herself Demetrius’ “dog” just to be his lover (2.1.210). Helena loves Demetrius beyond reason, however, Demetrius cannot return the love. He loves someone else, a wish fueled by greed, which has made him almost subconsciously hurt others in the way of getting what he wants. She is risking getting abused, verbally and physically, other explicit things, and even killed by being close to Demetrius. Nevertheless, she loves him so much, she is willing to risk her life by going into the woods, where she would be all alone if Demetrius would leave her, as he is threatening to do. However, to Helena,” It is not night when [she does] see [his] face,” so she thinks that she is safe when near him (2.1.221). Everything seems to disappear when he is around that she seeks nothing but his love and embrace. Being blinded by love, Helena does not perceive the dangers that come with a one-sided relationship and puts herself in great risk.
After analyzing contrasting relationships in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we see that passionate mutual love can greatly improve a relationship while a one-sided relationship can significantly damage a person’s mental, physical, and emotional health. Reading from these types of other lives can improve our own. In the play, Helena is oblivious to red flags around her because she loves Demetrius so much. We can apply this to our own lives. If we see that the relationship we are in is one-sided, it’s important to let go sometimes. At the end of the day, we have to help ourselves first, in order to help others. So, it’s important that when you are reaching your hand out, you find someone who is willing to hang on just like you are.