Trust and loyalty form the foundation for any meaningful relationship. It doesn’t matter if someone is a friend, family member, or lover; without trust, how can we genuinely open our hearts to the people we share our lives with? This fundamental base gives us structure and stability to create a space where we feel safe to continue building upon the relationship, to expand the love and appreciation for that person. In William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, four lovers find themselves in a forest enchanted by mischievous fairies, where, thanks to some magic, their loyalty and trust, the very foundation of their relationships, are tested. By examining the loyalty and betrayal portrayed through romantic relationships as with Hermia and Lysander, as well as platonic relationships with Hermia and Helena, we can better understand the importance of being able to be trusted, and the ability to trust.
Hermia and Lysander’s relationship clearly illustrates the importance of trusting and being loyal to one another. Unfortunately, their loving relationship isn’t welcomed by all. Hermia’s father doesn’t approve of Lysander, and tries to force Hermia into a marriage with a man named Demetrius. Lysander tells Hermia of his aunt who’s “ house is remote seven leagues” and is a “place the sharp Athenian law cannot pursue [them]” (I.i. 159-64). He tells her to run away with him so they can be together without the risk of execution. Hermia, knowing this plan risks both of their lives, agrees to follow through. The plan has many dangers, but Hermia and Lysander know it is their only chance to be free. They trust that the other will do their part to fight for their freedom. Their loyalty and devotion to one another gives them a sense of safety, even in the face of danger.
In contrast to Hermia’s trusting relationship with Lysander, Hermia’s relationship with Helena is tested due to a lack of loyalty. Hermia tells Helena, her best friend, of her escape plan with Lysander, assuming she will keep the secret like she’s done in the past. But Helena, blinded by her love for Demetrius, betrays her friends to him, as he is out to kill Lysander and to marry his lawful fiance. She tells “him of [their] stealth unto this wood” (III. ii. 310). While confessing, Helena reminds Hermia of how she “did ever keep [her] counsels” and “never wronged [her]” in the past but it is too late; the damage has been done and the trust has been broken. Later into the night, after the fairies use the flower’s magic juice and confuse the lovers, Helena is convinced the swooning men are playing a trick on her. When Hermia shows her confusion, Helena sees it as her being in on the joke. Helena, distraught and confused, loses all trust in her friend. The betrayal and miscommunication from both people results in the relationship quickly deteriorating. As their relationship’s foundation cracks and crumbles, they ultimately lose the bond they have worked so hard to build over many years in one night.
Like any foundation, trust can be patched up or rebuilt, but sometimes the damage is to extensive to repair. By examining William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, we see how strong relationships are built up gradually from a strong foundation, and how it is something we must continuously work towards. Sure, a building may be strong when built, but being neglected can cause it to break down; continuous effort must be put into maintaining it. It is important we keep this in mind when making decisions that may impact our relationships, so as not to harm ourselves and those around us. Be weary of your relationship’s foundations breaking down, as damage can quietly build up without us noticing until there’s nothing we can do to mend it.