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In Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream, do opposites attract? or do similars attract? What evidence is there either way?

I thought about how the characters are opposites in many ways, mentally and physically.

  • Is this better? – user10135 May 23 at 17:19
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    Yes, much better! But if you can add some of your own ideas—how far you have got with the question—then that will help people who might want to write answers. – Gareth Rees May 23 at 17:22
  • Is this a question about the lovers Hermia, Helena, Lysander and Demetrius? Or about Oberon, Titania and possibly Bottom? Or about all of them? – Tsundoku May 23 at 17:28
  • All of them, in general. – user10135 May 23 at 17:35
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Since this seems to be a school essay prompt, I’ll give some advice on how to approach it. A feature of essay prompts like this, is that there isn’t necessarily a right answer, and in any case the teacher or examiner doesn’t care about the answer. The purpose of the prompt is to give you the chance to show that you know the material in the play (who are the characters? what are they like? what happens to them?) and that you can write about it intelligently and clearly.

So in this case I would start by making a list of the romantic pairings in the play:

  • Theseus & Hippolyta
  • Hermia & Lysander
  • Demetrius & Hermia
  • Helena & Demetrius
  • Lysander & Helena
  • Titania & Oberon
  • Bottom & Titania

Then for each pairing I’d make a list of ways in which the characters are similar and ways in which they are opposite. This is a good time to gather quotes from the play to illustrate the points that you are later going to make in the essay.

For example, let’s take Theseus & Hippolyta. Here are three points where they are similar:

  • Both are monarchs (Dramatis personae, “Duke of Athens” & “Queen of the Amazons”)
  • Both are warriors (I.I, “I woo’d thee with my sword”)
  • Both like hunting with hounds (IV.I, “My love shall hear the music of my hounds”)

And two points where they are dissimilar:

  • They disagree on whether the four young lovers’ stories are credible (V.I, “I never may believe / These antique fables” vs “More witnesseth than fancy’s images”)
  • They disagree on whether it is entertaining to watch people humilate themselves (V.I, “I love not to see wretchedness o’er-charged” vs “Our sport shall be to take what they mistake”)

The evidence in this case seems to be equivocal on the opposites/similarities question. But repeat the exercise for all the other pairings, and maybe something will stand out that you can turn into the thesis of your essay: “Shakespeare favours opposite/similar romantic pairings”. But if nothing stands out then that should be the thesis: “Shakespeare presents a variety of different types of romantic pairing”.

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