After a night of wandering through the woods, chasing fairies, having various potions rubbed over their eyes, falling in and out of love, and threatening each other’s lives and limbs, the four lovers of A Midsummer Night’s Dream wake up in the forest to the trumpeting of horns and find themselves surrounded by nobility. It’s no wonder they are confused, and “cannot truly say .. .” (IV.1.7) how they ended up where they are and what happened the night before. But what they are sure about is how they feel towards one another. Whether it’s a love that has faded, grown anew or been there all along, the four lovers possess a certainty about who (m) they love that is as strong if not stronger than it is at any other point in the play.
Lysander is the first of the four paramours to react to Theseus’ wonderment at their situation. He admits that “I shall reply amazedly, /Half sleep, half waking. But as yet, I swear, /I cannot truly say how I came here.” (IV.1.145-7). In this excerpt, Lysander’s tone is understandably a bit dazed and unsure, and his response is littered with uncertainty. This tone of astonishment is also present in the thoughts of Demetrius, Helena, and Hermia.
“Methinks I see these things with parted eye, /When everything seems double” (IV.1.188-9) exclaims Hermia, and Helena agrees that “So methinks.”(IV.1.190). Demetrius is so bewildered that he finds it necessary to ask the others “Are you sure that we are awake? It seems to me/ That yet we sleep, we dream.” (IV.1.192-4). The underlying tone throughout this ‘waking scene’ is one of uneasiness and confusion between dreams and reality; but the only time the lovers express real uncertainty is while they are sorting out what just happened in front of them involving the Duke and his hunting party. Demetrius asks the others “Do not you think/The Duke was here, and bid us follow him?” (IV.1.194-5), and only concludes that “Why, then, we are awake.” (IV.1.197) after receiving confirmation from the others. But this tone of uncertainty fades when the four talk about their true loves.
Demetrius admits that “I wot know by what power . . .” (IV.1.163) that his love for Hermia has “Melted as the snow . .
.”(IV.1.165), but he is sure that “The object and the pleasure of mine eye, /is only Helena.” (IV.1.169-70). Lysander and Hermia don’t even refer to their love as anytime being in doubt–their confusion again only pertains to what is happening presently; what Hermia sees as if out of focus, “with parted eye .. .” (IV.1.188). While it would take a whole other paper to debate whether or not Demetrius is really in love with Helena in his drugged state, she at least is convinced of his love.
In the woods, Helena was sure that Demetrius’ vows of adoration were to scorn her, and even as he claimed to love her, she lamented “Wherefore speaks he this/To her he hates?” (III.2.227-8). But the next morning, she regards his vows with less doubt, and instead reflects that she has “Found Demetrius, like a jewel/Mine own and not mine own.”(IV.1.190). She acknowledges that Demetrius was lost to her own at one point, but more importantly she now knows that he is found. Helenas new acceptance of Demetrius love could be because his vows are much more concrete than they were in the woods.
There Demetrius proclaimed his love through claims of admiration and idolatry; using spin words of poets without real depth, like when he awakens and out of the blue declares Helena to be a “goddess, nymph, perfect, divine . . .” (III.2.137). In the morning his declarations carry an air of more reason, and focus not on empty catch-phrases of beauty and passion. Instead, Demetrius declares more what he feels, saying “Now I do wish for Helena’s love, love it, long for it, /And will for evermore be true to it.”(IV.1.174-5). His feelings of love are now more certain and confident, thus he is able to express them with language more concrete.