A Midsummer Night's Dream
How we cite our quotes:
He will not know what all but he do know.
And as he errs, doting on Hermia's eyes,
So I, admiring of his qualities.
Things base and vile, holding no quantity,
Love can transpose to form and dignity.
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind;
And therefore is wing'd Cupid painted blind. (1.1.6)
Here, Helena admits that she loves many of Demetrius's "base and vile" qualities. It seems that love has the capacity to blind us (figuratively speaking) to the truth. This idea comes up again when Titania literally falls in love with Bottom – a "base and vile" creature.
Fetch me that flower; the herb I shew'd thee once:
The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees. (2.1.8)
Oberon tells us that, when the magic love "juice" is sprinkled into someone's eyes, it causes the person to fall instantly in love with the first creature he or she sees. Shakespeare seems to have borrowed this concept from Book 14 of Ovid's Metamorphoses, where Circe uses a magic potion to transform men into beasts.
Bless thee, Bottom! bless thee! thou art
I see their knavery: this is to make an ass of me; (3.1.13)
After Puck has "translated" Bottom's head into that of an ass, Bottom becomes the butt of Shakespeare's biggest joke about transformation. Clueless that he's been transformed, Bottom declares that his friends have run away from him in fear because they're trying to "make an ass" out of him (3.1.16). Shakespeare probably got the idea from Apuleius's Golden Ass, a hilarious and ancient story about a guy who's turned into a donkey. Bottom's conversion is also key to the play's theme of transformation, a concept Shakespeare borrowed from Ovid's Metamorphoses.