love: words or bodies?

For ere Demetrius looked on Hermia's eyne,
He hail'd down oaths that he was only mine;
And when this hail some heat from Hermia felt,
So he dissolv'd, and show'rs of oaths did melt. (I i 242-5)

Helena's complaint of Demetrius' inconstancy in love demonstrates two aspects of love, perhpas two different kinds of love. Demetrius' love for Helena showed itself in words, he "hailed down oaths that he was only mine." His love for Hermia is more physical: her "heat" dissolves him, melting his words for Helena. (Krieger 1996: 44)

The same can be said of Hermia and Lysander, as Krieger argues: "Hermia and Lysander experience love as a literary process; when they talk of love they talk not of each other but of what they have read." (Krieger 1996: 44) For instance, their duet in I i 132-149, bases the "customary crosses" of loves on "aught that I ever could read."

Krieger argues that language in A Midsummer Night's Dream serves to seperate bodies, rather than allow true communication. In addition to their recurring mergings of love and the written word, Hermia and Lysander repeatedly misunderstand each other, showing the distance between them. Words also keep rivals apart, replacing violence as they replace sex. Lysander wishes Demetrius' name to "perish on my sword" (II ii 106-7), and when they are determined to fight, they follow Puck's words rather than each other (III ii 412). So the separation caused by language can be seen to protect the lovers.

textual examples:

Lysander sees literature in Helena's eyes in II ii 120-2.

When Demetrius awakes and loves Helena in III ii 137-43, he goes through a catalogue of conventional literary praise.