The course of true love: Meaning Then
What was Big Willy Shakes going for?
This is one of the most famous lines of the play, and all of Shakespeare, for good reason. Lysander's declaration pretty much sums up the play's idea that lovers always face difficult hurdles on the path to happiness—whether it's a disapproving parent, rival lover, or some other obstacle.
Lysander says love is like a river. It flows wherever the path leads it. Sometimes that's over rocks. Other times, that's through rough terrain. He says that sometimes love is challenged by friends or by the ages of the couple, but love can always win. Aw. Too cute.
We're also interested in the way Lysander locates his love for Hermia in a long, rich "tradition." For Lysander, love is epic and the stuff of great literature and history. But it's also petty and hilarious sometimes.
Eventually, Lysander and Demetrius fight over Hermia and duke it out in the woods. We're pretty sure Shakespeare is poking fun at tales of chivalric romance, where two knights in shining armor joust to determine who gets the girl (while the girl looks on swooningly, of course).
This brings us to our next point. It's really hard to tell the difference between the two guys. They are both from the same background and social status. Lysander and Demetrius go chasing after the same girl in Athens and later in the woods. As much as the lovers like to think that they are unique, Shakespeare basically tells us that all young lovers are alike. They're all foolish.