What Factors Make or Break a Relationship? 

Trust is the foundation of every successful relationship and a lack of it is the breaking point of all alliances. In William Shakespeare’s A Midsummers Night Dream, a group of forbidden lovers take a journey in the mystical forest to escape the sharp Athenian law. In this fairy filled wood, a series of tricks and spells tosses love from heart to heart, causing chaotic conflicts within the group. By dissecting the relationship between Hermia and Lysander and the friendship between Helena and Hermia, we see that trust builds a stable base in a relationship, and without it, relationships can crumble in on themselves. 

Hermia and Lysanders relationship benefits from the trust and selflessness they bestow on each other. For example, “Lysander and [Hermia] will fly [Athens]” and leave everything they know behind to construct a new limitless life that is far less controlled than “the sharp Athenian law” that forbids their love now (1.1.203, 1.1.171-72). They trust that their compatibility is strong enough to gift them with a happiness that is not dictated by others. In addition to this, despite the fairies tainting the lovers emotions, Hermia and Lysander stay committed to one another once they have survived the magic forest and regained their self-control.  Despite the challenges their relationship faced, they feel the most grounded and comfortable when they are with each other, which only comes from a tried and true connection. Hermia also shows her fidelity by telling Demetrius that “if [he] hast slain Lysander in his sleep, […] he should kill [her] too” (3.2.47-48). Lysander is her whole world; he completes her so much that she cannot function without him; her dependency shows the faith she finds in this relationship which is crucial to its success. 

Contrary to Lysander and Hermia’s relationship, Helena and Hermia’s friendship shows how jealousy and wavering personalities can clash to create the ugliest of battles. Helena is the quintessential envious and petty friend. She proves this when she “tell[s] [Demetrius] of fair Hermia’s flight [from Athens]” (1.1.246) Even through the oldest of friendships, “the counsel that [the] two have shared, […] is all forgot”, as Helena selfishly disregards Hermia’s wishes in order to buy herself an opportunity to win over Demetrius (3.2.198-199). These toxic patterns also show as these friends insult and belittle each other while in a state of confusion. Insecurity and a need for attention persuades Helena to play the victim and accuse Hermia of “[joining] with men in scorning [her]” (3.2.216). Hermia’s fervent love for Lysander pushes her to convict Helena as a “thief of love [who stole her] love’s heart from him” (3.2.283-84). The speed at which these friends slight each other with no hesitation reveals the rickety and uncommitted rouse they have played on each other throughout their imitation of a friendship. 

There are two different outcomes that may result from a relationship that faces conflict: a trust or a mistrust. Trust allows people to find strength in their partners, to stay loyal, and to have faith in their shared history and connection. Mistrust pushes others to fall into patterns of jealousy, pettiness, and infidelity as they ignore all the positive attributes that have fed the relationship.  A healthy relationship is a structure that needs to be built. When the columns are made poorly, they will fall, but when the columns are crafted with care and maintained, they can never falter. One can infer that all successful relationships need a strong sense of trustwithout it, bonds are more likely to be broken or to never be formed at all. 

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