Throwback Thursday: Love is blind…or is it?

February 13, 2014

A 1920s woman holding a big pink heart and rosesI hope everyone has bought that heart-shaped box of chocolates and pre-ordered that bouquet of crimson roses because Valentine’s Day is less than twenty-four hours away—the day you are expected to show your love in the most extravagant ways imaginable…after all, love makes us do crazy things sometimes. Or is that love at all? Shakespeare, the “bard of love,” has a very specific concept of what “true” love consists of, and it might not be what we expect.

The dominating theme of Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream has often been interpreted as a ridicule of romantic love, but this, according to Ernest Shanzer, is an incorrect assumption. Although Shakespeare may smile occasionally at the follies of romantic lovers, such as the purchasing of expensive gifts to express one’s affection on Valentine’s Day, he always treats them with the utmost indulgence as long as their love conforms to the Shakespearean norm. As defined by Herford, this love is “a passion, kindling heart, brain, and senses alike in natural and happy proportions; ardent but not sensual, tender but not sentimental, pure but not ascetic, moral but not puritanic, joyous but not frivolous, mirthful and witty but not cynical” (Shazner 2).

Therefore, true love is that which has reason, senses, and feelings all working together in harmony, keeping perfect balance. Shanzer argues that the love Shakespeare ridicules, which ultimately undermines our own cliché aphorisms for love,  is the one that is engendered in the imagination, blind to reason and the senses. This is the kind of love-madness, an aberration from the norm of love, that Shakespeare’s midsummer night instigates, a concept previously unexplored before Shanzer.Image of the play A Midsummer Night's Dream. Image of Titania, the fairy queen, awakening, surrounded by other fairies

Is the love you’re celebrating tomorrow for real or just a magic spell Shakespeare’s characters have also fallen prey to? Perhaps you should reread A Midsummer Night’s Dream to find out, or read the rest of Shanzer’s article “The Central Theme of A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which was published by the University of Toronto Quarterly in 1951.

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