Quotes in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Quotes Examples in A Midsummer Night's Dream:

Act I - Scene I 4

"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind.(240) Nor hath Love's mind of any judgment taste;..."   (Act I - Scene I)

In this soliloquy, Helena muses on love and her unfair situation. She is unlucky in her unrequited love, but she is also the character that seems to understand real love the most. She claims here that love is nonjudgemental and comes from understanding rather than lusting after a person. Even though she has this rational perception of love, she still loses confidence after Demetrius's rejection and becomes cynical when she is the subject of both men's desire later in the play.

"The course of true love never did run smooth;..."   (Act I - Scene I)

In one of the most famous and quotable lines from this play Lysander elevates his love to the status of famous doomed romances and historical "star-crossed" lovers. Ironically, he uses this comparison to reassure Hermia that hope is not lost. Notice that in comparing their love to history, Lysander is able to claim that their love is "true love." This could set up Hermia and Lysander to be tragic characters; however, these lines are spoken within a comedy making Lysander's claims to tragic, ill-fated love not as serious as they are intended.

"War, death, or sickness, did lay siege to it, Making it momentany as a sound,(145) Swift as a shadow, short as any dream, Brief as the lightning in the collied night..."   (Act I - Scene I)

"Swift as a shadow" comes from a 12th-century proverb "to flee like a shadow." Lysander uses this metaphor to highlight the brevity of love and its ephemeral nature. Hermia complains that the biggest obstacle to love is choice. But Lysander notes that the forces of nature often conspire against love even if one gets to choose, and death, war, or sickness cut it short. These lines begin the play in a more dramatic tone than one would expect from a comedy. There is a darker theme that runs throughout the play and underscores the lighter romantic themes and tropes. This darker theme questions the truth and value of a love that is so fickle it can be drawn from perception and so ephemeral that it can change its object frequently over the course of this short play.

"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind; And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind...."   (Act I - Scene I)

Helena's soliloquy underscores a major theme within this play: the connection between love and perception. Helena notes that she is just as beautiful as Hermia, but does not appear so to Demetrius because love colors his perception. The relationship between love and eyesight continue to develop throughout the rest of the play as Puck's love potion causes the characters to fall in love by sight. The play continues to explore whether or not love comes from the heart or from the eye after the question is posed within this speech.

"We cannot fight for love as men may do;(245) We should be woo'd, and were not made to woo. ..."   (Act II - Scene I)

Helena expresses frustration that she must defy her gender role and pursue Demetrius because he will not pursue her. While this can be read as a comedic line, it can also be read as a serious critique of courtship traditions during Shakespeare's time. Women were generally not allowed to choose their husbands or pursue the men that they desired; their fathers would make contractual arrangements with men who were monetarily and socially suited for their daughters, and then the man was allowed to court the woman before wedding her. If we read Helena's "should be" as an indication of obligation or duty rather than a belief, then Helena can be seen as frustrated that she is subject to this unfair gendered system in which she has no control over her fate.

"Lord, what fools these mortals be!..."   (Act III - Scene II)

Puck's line is ironic because Puck's love potion, which made Lysander and Demetrius fall in love with Helena, is the reason these mortals are acting so foolish. Puck's obvious delight and sense of pride in the mischief he has created creates an interesting presentation of love within this romance. Puck seems to to hold these mortals in contempt because they becomes foolish and weak when they are in love. While most Shakespearian dramas and comedies trumpet the importance of love and relationships, Puck, one of the most memorable and beloved characters in this play, openly mocks love and denies its importance.