A Midsummer Night's Dream

by

William Shakespeare

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A Midsummer Night's Dream: Soliloquy 1 key example

Read our modern English translation.
Definition of Soliloquy
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself, relating his or her innermost thoughts and feelings as if... read full definition
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself, relating his or her innermost... read full definition
A soliloquy is a literary device, most often found in dramas, in which a character speaks to him or herself... read full definition
Act 1, scene 1
Explanation and Analysis—Love:

Helena’s soliloquy in Act 1, Scene 1 takes place after she runs into Hermia and Lysander. They have just told her that they intend to flee Athens and live together, away from the Duke’s tyrannical rule. Over the course of the soliloquy, she uses personification to reflects on the happiness of the lovers and on her own misery. She then decides to tell Demetrius that Hermia is leaving. Her use of personification characterizes her view of love and therefore helps the audience understand the motivation behind her decision. She says: 

Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind; 
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.

Helena uses personification in these lines, giving love itself the power to look. She gives love the power of sight, and implies that love has a mind of its own. This makes love seem as though it has an inherent nature, and it shows how powerless Helena feels to change Demetrius’s mind. Helena’s philosophy of love is reflective of her situation, which has caused her a great deal of pain. Her statement here will be counteracted by events that take place later in the play, when Demetrius and Lysander will be bewitched by a love potion. Because of the magic of the fairy world, their love for Helena will come about just by looking at her. In that case, their love will actually "look with the eyes," confounding both Hermia and Helena. This early use of personification helps the audience understand why what happens in the woods makes Helena so confused and angry. It allows her to express her philosophy of love so that her later disbelief fits within what the audience already knows about her.