“For aught that I could read, could ever hear by tale or history, the course of true love never did run smooth.”
–Lysander, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 1, scene 1
It seems love stories are always stories of struggle. Even the true-love stories, the stories about people who are made for each other, know it from the beginning and simply have to get the rest of the universe to see it—you never hear a story of people who happily fall in love and everything goes well for them. Why not? Well, first off, it would bore the audience to tears.
It would also be contrary to life. Because love, while debatably one of the most important things in life, is far from being the only thing. Even after you find your soulmate, you have to overcome any challenges you face to actually joining your life with theirs—whether your families don’t approve, your romance is an illicit office affair, or your state actually won’t allow you to marry—and then, after you conquer the obstacles and begin to operate as a couple, there are finances, politics, bad neighborhoods, disobedient children… The course of true love cannot run smooth because the course of life does not run smooth.
Your life partnership is the backdrop for whatever else happens in your world. Think of life as a jazz song—an improvised melody against a steady, rhythmic drum and bass line, with room for interpretation in every facet. Some jazz songs seem smoother and more consistent than others, but generally, the apparent chaos of the music isn’t in the bass line—it’s in the rest of it. Even Hermia and Lysander, who have all kinds of madness going on, are consistent in their love (except for the bit where Lysander is ensorcelled to fall in love with Hermia’s best friend, but hey, once the Fairies are involved, all bets are off).
The point is, a song can have a crazy, atonal, apparently rhythmless melody, but as long as it doesn’t throw off the bass line, the noise adds up to jazz. And it’s doing just what it’s supposed to do—even if it’s the kind of jazz that sounds like a bunch of brass instruments falling down a flight of stairs. True love, the kind that alters not when it alteration finds, is the unifying backdrop of a couple’s life.
Lysander seems to believe that the world is against him and Hermia, and against all other true lovers, for the world will not allow love to run smooth. But that’s not the case. The world isn’t against them. The world is just being the world, with all its ups and downs, wins and losses. How can love run smooth against that current? It cannot, and indeed, that is not its function. Its function is to be a constant pulse under the complicated, rough, jazz-musicians-falling-down-stairs rest of life. Not to run smooth, but simply, constantly, unyieldingly, to run.