Everything about Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is full of love this and love that, with several different versions of love that come into play. However, Helena’s view of love is the one I’m most intrigued by. She was the one that said one of the most well-known lines, “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,/ And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind” (Shakespeare 1.1 234-35) which she says only because of her equally well-known self-consciousness of her appearance, with the opinion that love isn’t based on reason and is unfair.
Helena is insecure and self-conscious of herself, which is something I oftentimes feel as well. Even when there’s probably nothing wrong, I’ll constantly second-guess myself and doubt whether or not it’s good enough. Whether it be my appearance, like Helena consistently does, “Call you me fair?/ That ‘fair’ again unsay” (1.1 181), or my projects, homework, how I did on a test—literally anything and everything. Like right now, I’m wondering if this blog post is good or not. Helena is also always comparing her weaknesses to other people’s strengths, most of all to Hermia, who she thinks is much prettier and better than her, “O, teach me how you look, and with what art/ You sway the motion of Demetrius’s heart” (1.1 192-93). I can also get that way too, wondering if that person’s smarter than me, did better than me, and how unfair it all is. I know it’s so bad, but I can’t help comparing myself to other people (haha like I’m doing right now in this blog post). On the bright side, like Helena, I can also be a bright and happy person on the inside once you get to know me and I stop feeling awkward and insecure around you. After that I pretty much will be super loyal and all about that “sisterly bond” that Helena shows towards Hermia with their childhood friendship, “Two lovely berries moulded on one stem” (3.2 211), except I don’t call my friends “berries”, but you get the picture.
Maybe caring about what other people think of me makes me shallow, but at least I still have more dignity than Helena does—I mean, she was willing to grovel and let the man she loves treat her like a dog despite the repeated rejection and intense loathing he felt towards her, “Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me,/ Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,/ Unworthy as I am, to follow you./ What worser place can I beg in your love/ (And yet a place of high respect with me)/ Than to be used as you use your dog?” (2.1 205-10). This girl needs to learn about shame and get a smidgen more of self-respect. Even the other characters think that while she may be sweet, she needs to stop worshipping Demetrius like a god and realize she’s worthy of someone better, “…and she, sweet lady, dotes,/ Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry,/ Upon this spotted and inconstant man” (1.1 107-10). I may have my own insecurities, but at least I’m not willing to stoop so low as to explain them away by simply assuming I’m just inferior and shouldn’t get anything good in my life because of it. Helena is also established as being tall, at least according to Hermia, which is (sadly) not something I can relate to, “And with her personage,/ her tall personage,/ Her height…” (3.2 292-93). See, this is another one of my insecurities and a classic example of me comparing myself to others again. Though Helena might have her shortcomings, as she repeatedly reminds everyone, she’s also got her strengths that she has to realize, something I could do too.
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