Analysis of Marriage in A midsummer Nights Dream, Measure for Measure, and Richard III
Shakespeare liked to write about love and marriage. He usually used both tragedy and comedy in his work. He led the reader to believe in love and then sometimes he would end up breaking their hearts when he chose to end the story in a sad manner. This is quite evident in his play Rom “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” when Helena gets married to Demetrius and Lysander marries Hernia. Different people have various reasons why they marry. Some do it because they are in love and cannot live without their loved ones at their side. Others get married for convenience. Whether it be for a sense of maturity and love in A Midsummer’s Night Dream, political ideals in Richard III, or infatuation despite the other person’s flaws in Measure for Measure, the reason that the partners chose to get married is usually that which they choose to stay together when hard times come their way.
To some people marriage is the joining together of two souls, while to others, it is quite hard to define why they get married in the first place. Some seek companionship and friendship while others do it for material gain, for wealth and power. Whatever the reason, marriage has been here since the beginning of time and it does not seem to end sometime in the future. Whether one is married for six days or for sixty days, marriage is here to stay. The three plays, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Measure for Measure and Richard ІІІ all present marriage in different ways.
The theme of marriage is what begins the play “A Midsummer’s Night Dream”. It begins with the preparations of the marriage between Theseus and Hippolyta. The two are the symbol of maturity where marriage is concerned. Theseus readily anticipates his marriage and as he says, four days seem like such a long time. There are other people who also anticipate their marriage and they are preparing for the entertainment. The tradesmen have prepared a play that they plan to present during the celebrations.
Egeus, one of the Duke’s subjects, wants his daughter to get married to Demetrius. However, Hermia, the daughter, is in love with Lysander and at the end of it all, they end up getting married. This is despite the fact that the father was against the marriage, he even went to the extent of using the Duke to speak to his daughter. Helena is totally infatuated by Demetrius. He, on the other hand, ignores her until the fairies come along. In the end, they are married. The fairies take light the issue of love. They use their magic to influence people to love each other.
Another marriage that is present in the play is that of the queen of fairies, Titania, and her husband King Oberon. The theme of violence and courage is best seen in the fairies’ marriage. The queen is adamant in her position that she will not give in to the King’s demands of giving him a changeling boy as a page. This leads the king to plan revenge on his queen, a decision that leads to dire consequences. The importance of love in marriage is seen at this point. The king acts selfishly and he uses magic to cast a spell on his wife. He does not care who she falls in love with so long as he gets what he wants.
The queen ends up falling in love with Bottom, who has an ass head. The purpose of marriage in this scene has been ridiculed. According to the king, it does not matter which methods he is going to use. What matters is that he fulfills his selfish desires. The relationship between Hernia and Lysander is one that is full of love. They defy all obstacles and they triumph in the end. Egeus threats do not seem to influence their decision. This is a case where, though it is wise to seek parental consent in marriage, it is also good to stand for what a person believes in. If Hernia had chosen to get married to Emetrius, their marriage would have been out of convenience and they would not have lived in happiness.
Serving political purpose seems like one of the reasons why people, especially those in political positions, get married. This is best illustrated in the play Richard III. Richard seeks every opportunity he can get so that he can exercise his full authority. He murders Anne’s husband in battle then charms his way into her heart making sure that they end up together. During King Henry’s funeral procession, Richard meets with Anne and he confesses that he killed the king. He uses seductive language to capture her and despite knowing that Richard killed her husband and her father-in-law, she agrees to marry him.
This is in contrast with Theseus who captured Hippolyta, a warrior. The two men fight for their wives in different ways. One uses the skill and smooth flow of language, while the other uses his physical strength. Another person who uses seduction is Demetrius. Although at first he does not love Helena, this does not stop him from seducing her. He seduces her then leaves her and pursues Hermia. In the play Measure for Measure, Mariana is married to a person who does not like her. She loves Angelo despite his hypocrisy and the fact that he ignores her. Angelo does not love Mariana and in the end it is she who will save his life.
As a reward for her service, Angelo’s life is spared but she is forced to marry Mariana. There are situations that arise when people do not understand why they love the way they do. In this case it is hard to understand what Mariana sees in Angelo. He mistreats her and he does not see her worth. It is with profound love that Mariana loves Angelo. She refuses the opportunity to love another yet she has the chance to do so and she has acquired much wealth. She chooses to stick to Angelo who she believes that they are legally married and she is entitled to be called his wife.
Another similar case is in the play A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Helena falls in love with someone who is ruthless and constantly puts her down. She confesses that she does understand what attracts her to him. One can only hope that the love juice that the fairy put in Demetrius’ eyes lasts a long time or that he has changed his ways and he has seen Helena’s worth. The same case is repeated in the play Richard III. It is hard to understand how Anne could agree to marry Richard, knowing he was a blood thirsty man. She does not have the chance to rectify her mistake as the same person who killed her first husband also executes her.
Another forced marriage that takes place is that of Lucio and Kate. Lucio is a gossiper who slanders the Duke’s name to the friar not knowing that the Duke and the friar are the same person. He then slanders the friar’s name to the Duke. When the Duke reveals that he was the one pretending to be friar, Lucio is punished and he is forced to marry Kate who happens to be the village whore. The marriage of Angelo and Mariana is believed to be legal when she sleeps with him yet the same is not true for madam Julietta and Claudio.
Claudio impregnates Julietta and he is sentenced to death because according to the law, that is a crime. The play ends with the Duke’s proposal to Isabella, Claudio’s sister who is a nun. Although the answer she gives him still remains a matter to be debated, most scholars and readers of the play believe that she answered in the affirmative. Lady Anne agrees to marry Richard knowing fully well that he is evil. Richard wants to dethrone his brother King Edward IV so that he can be king. He makes sure that he marries a noble woman. In a desperate move to regain power, Richard murders his wife Anne and he sets his eyes on Elizabeth, the daughter of the former Queen Elizabeth, who is also his niece. Luckily this does not happen as Richard gets killed in battle and Elizabeth gets married to King Henry VII.
From the above plays, women had different roles where marriage was concerned. In the play Richard III, Queen Elizabeth arranges for the marriage of her daughter, Elizabeth to a person who she believes will be the next King of England. She is not asked for her opinion regarding the issue. In the Midsummer’s Night Dream, duchess Hippolyta gives her opinion about the play that had been performed. Her decision is not based on what the Duke thinks. Although the play was acted badly, Theseus appreciates the effort of the laborers. However, this is not the case with the duchess, who does not understand why she has to credit a bad play. Perhaps this independence of thought is brought about by the fact that she was an Amazon warrior and she therefore feels fearless to voice her opinion.
Social status, as revealed in the play, was a very important thing. Richard looked for a wife who could enhance his social status. Despite being a hunchback and ugly, he got a beautiful wife. This conquest made him believe that he was indeed beautiful. King Oberon does not like it when his wife defies his orders. He is infuriated and he looks for ways to revenge. Helena, despite suffering from inferiority complex, does not give up on Demetrius. After the fairy makes the grave mistake of putting the love juice in Lysander’s eyes, Lysander falls in love with Helena and he runs after her. This does not make Helena, who is desperate at his time, falls in love with him. She chooses to run away and place her hopes on Demetrius.
Helena did a good thing to get married to Demetrius. She had been so desperate for his love and attention that she had made pursuing Demetrius the focus of her life. She even betrayed Hermia who was her friend for the sake of Demetrius. In this case, marriage strengthened Helena. It was also an advantage for Hermia to eventually get married to Lysander. The two were in love and being separate was only causing her more stress. Mariana was strengthened by her marriage to Angelo. She knew that she had saved Angelo’s life and this strengthened her too. In some cases, marriage does strengthen the bond between to people. In other cases ,one side seems to benefit and the other suffers.
In all the plays, marriages take place for different reasons. The most obvious ones are the ones between Hermia and Lysander and Demetrius and Helena who marry out of love. Theseus and Hippolyta also marry out of love, although it is not clear whether Theseus believes in love. This is seen when he tells Hernia to follow his father’s wishes and do as he commands. Claudio’s and Julietta, although not legally married are also in love. If according to many scholars, Isabella accepted the Duke’s proposal to marry him, that marriage would be out of gratitude than love. Isabella was grateful that her brother Claudio, who she believed dead, was still alive. This would have obliged her to accept his proposal and get married to him.
One notable character who would marry anyone so that he could get political gain is Richard. He was planning on marrying his own niece so that he could retain his power on the throne. This was after executing her two brothers, uncle and contributing to his father’s death. The marriage of the fairies was clearly not out of love because if it were up to the king, he would not go to such extremes to secure an Indian boy who actually belonged to the queen. After much fighting, the king and queen fall in love once again and they bless the union of Theseus and Hippolyta. Another marriage that was out of convenience was that of Mariana and Angelo.
While it was wise for Angelo to agree to marry Mariana and therefore escape execution, it is not so clear why Mariana would agree to marry such a man. Maybe love did prevail in the end. On Mariana’s side marriage was bestowed as a reward. All the people who also married out of love were also rewarded. However, on Lucio’s side marriage was clearly a punishment. Although Theseus captured Hippolyta in war and he caused her injuries, all this is forgotten and they fall in love. So in the end it was not a punishment to Hippolyta, but it turned out to be a blessing. In conclusion, love does concur all. It may not be the basis of marriage, but it helps to cement a marriage, as is the case of Theseus and Hippolyta and the fairy king and queen.