Glossary Home Shakespeare Quotes

The course of true love never did run smooth

“The course of true love never did run smooth” is a quote from Act I, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare’s comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The line is spoken by the character Lysander.

The line is often quoted out of context, which means many readers do not understand the irony at work. Lysander speaks about true love, but within a few scenes of the play, he has abandoned Hermia in favor of another woman. The nature of love is one of the most important themes in Shakespeare’s well-loved comedy, and through the acts, readers can explore how the various relationships change. 

The course of true love never did run smooth quote


“The course of true love never did run smooth” Meaning

 “The course of true love never did run smooth” means that love is not easy. True love is not something that flows smoothly without encountering any obstacles. If one wants real, intense love, they’re going to have to be willing to tackle a number of issues that get in the way. 

Lysander feels this way about his love with Hermia, at least at the time he used the quote. Soon after, as the two are running away to his aunt’s house, Puck enchants him and makes him fall in love with Helena.

Where Does Shakespeare Use “The course of true love never did run smooth?” 

Shakespeare uses this quote in Act I, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The line is spoken by Lysander about his relationship with Hermia. He loves her and would like to marry her. But, Hermia’s father has declared that she’s going to marry Demetrius. If she doesn’t, she’s going to have to decide whether to face death or be consigned to a nunnery. Lysander suggests, in the following lines, that love, like a river, does not run smoothly. Here is the quote in context: 

Ay me! For aught that I could ever read, 

Could ever hear by tale or history, 

The course of true love never did run smooth

But either it was different in blood—

Hermia refuses to marry Demetrius, despite the fact that she might face death. And, during this time, fathers were in complete control of their daughters’ destiny. Hermia has four days to decide what she’s going to do. Lysander suggests that the two run away to live at his aunt’s house outside Athens. There they can get married and remain together outside the reach of Athenian law. She agrees to meet him in the woods, and from there, they can run away together. 

Why Did Shakespeare Use “The course of true love never did run smooth?” 

Lysander uses the quote in an attempt to soothe Hermia’s worries about their relationship. He asks her after Egeus leaves the stage: 

How now, my love? Why is your cheek so pale? 

How chance the roses there do fade so fast?

She responds, “Belike for want of rain, which I could well / Beteem them from the tempest of my eyes.” His four lines about love, history, and blood follow. This inspires the two to engage in a conversation about other issues one might encounter in relationships. For example, “Or too high to be enthrall’d to low,” or issues of class, or “too old to be engage’d to young,” or a couple mismatched in age. 

Lysander is confident that the two can end up together if they try hard enough. He hatches a plan for Hermia to meet him in the woods and run away with him to his aunt’s house outside of Athens. There, they can get married and be safe from the consequences of disobeying Hermia’s father. 

After they meet in the woods, Puck enchants Lysander, and upon waking, he sees Helena and instantly falls in love with her. He runs after her, trying to convince her that he genuinely loves her, leaving Hermia behind. Here is one of the many ways that “true love” is questioned in the play. It also emphasizes Lysander’s point that “the course of true love never did run smooth.” When he sees Hermia again, he tells her that he wants nothing to do with her. 

FAQs 

Who says “The course of true love never did run smooth?” 

Lysander speaks this line in William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It appears in Act I, Scene 1 and can be found in line 136. He is referring to his relationship with Hermia, which is encountering a series of obstacles. 

How does Hermia and Lysander’s situation illustrate Lysander’s point that the “course of true love never did run smooth?”

When he uses this quote, he’s referring to the fact that Hermia’s father, Egeus, and his refusal to allow Lysander to marry his daughter. Instead, Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius. If she refuses, then she either has to face life in a nunnery or death. 

Is the quote “The course of true love never did run smooth” a metaphor?

Yes, here Lysander is comparing the “course of love” to the “course” of a river. Rivers are not straight and even, but curve and are filled with obstacles. But, they continue forward. This is how he sees his love for Hermia. It’s true love and one that will persevere (at least until he’s made to fall in love with Helena). 


Other Resources 

Discover the Essential Secrets

of Poetry

Sign up to unveil the best kept secrets in poetry,

brought to you by the experts

>
Share via
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap