a dance of the varieties of love

G. K. Hunter sees A Midsummer Night's Dream as a dance, or a suite of dances, about the varieties of love:

A Midsummer Night's Dream is best seen, in fact, as a lyric divertissement, or a suite of dances — gay, sober, stately, absurd. Shakespeare has lavished his art on the separate excellencies of the different parts, but has not sought to show them growing out of one another in a process analogous to that of symphonic 'development'. The play is centred on Love, but it moves by exposing the varieties of love, rather than working them against one another in a process of argument. This is probably another way of saying that the play contains no personalities, no figures like Beatrice, Rosalind or Olivia, who, being self-aware, are also self-correcting; on the whole the characters remain fixed in their attitudes; those who change, like Demetrius, Lysander and Titania, are lifted bodily, without conflict of characters, and without volition, from one attitude to another. (Hunter 1962: 8-9)

Hunter goes on to point out how few differences there are between the lovers (see Olson 1968:97 for the opposite point of view):

As far as the play is concerned, the lovers are like dancers who change partners in the middle of a figure;the point at which partners are exchanged is determined by the dance, the pattern, and not by the psychological state of the dancers. (Hunter 1962: 9)

The complex and changing patterns of who loves whom (see for instance IV i 161-68) are thus seen as predetermined figures in a dance. Presumably Puck and Oberon are the dance's (slightly muddled) choreographers.

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