The Girl Next Door vs. Desperate and Lovesick

Helena is a very complex character. I do not know if I admire her persistence or fault her for it. In a modern day setting, she can be seen as the girl next door waiting for the one she loves to finally notice her or she can be viewed as a desperate lovesick girl who is willing to do anything to get what she wants. I see both of these sides in her. Helena’s soliloquy at the end of Act One, scene one shows the soft, innocent side of her. I can picture a contemporary Helena sitting her room, probably listening to Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” when she says “Through Athens I am thought as fair as she./ But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so./ 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,” (Shakespeare 854.227-234). Any teenager can relate to Helena because she is just as pretty as Hermia, yet Demetrius refuses to notice her and her love for him faults and all. However, on the other hand, Helena acts like a borderline stalker. Demetrius clearly tells her “I love thee not, therefore pursue me not” (860.188). She acts like she does not even hear him. There is such a thing as having self-respect and knowing when to walk away. When someone does not love another, one cannot force love upon the other. This situation calls for moving on with life. Helena, instead, continues to follow him. She shamelessly throws herself at him. She tells him in the woods, “I am your spaniel, and, Demetrius,/ The more you beat me I will fawn on you./ Use me but as your spaniel: spurn me, strike me,/ neglect me, lose me” (861.203-206). Helena will eventually have to make a choice. If Demetrius continues to ignore her, how much longer will Helena waste her energy on a man that clearly does not love her?
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5 thoughts on “The Girl Next Door vs. Desperate and Lovesick

  1. Samantha Grove

    Its interesting how you say that you would describe Helena as either desperate or a typical girl next door because these views contradict eachother so; but I tend to agree. I think that in a modern view we can see Helena as a "Taylor Swift" caracter and also as a bit of a stalker, but I think that to look at her character in a Shakespearian view would be even more informative in this situation. The fact that the gender roles are reversed with her chasing Demetrius would be a very unsusual act at this time, and I think that this fact is one of the most important to take away.

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  2. Pamela

    I love that you wrote about Helena. I think it is awesome the way she stalks Demetrius. It reminds me of how I might have behaved if I acted on my secret crush in high school. I'm all for her "in Demetrius' face" approach until she refers to herself as a dog. One should retain some self respect regardless of the love-sick level. I think she finds her self respect when she refuses to be what she thinks is fodder for Demetrius, Lysander and Hermia. In all fairness to Helena it is known that Demetrius slept with her so she may be holding onto what transpired between them in the past.

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  3. Jess

    I really like the association you make between Helena and a modern teenage girl. She is completely enamored with Demetrius and her feelings for him seem to be out of her control—much like an unrequited crush of a teenage girl, Helena is unable to control her emotions which fuel her overpowering desire to be with Demetrius. Although I appreciate Helena's ability to stand up for herself against Demetrius, I feel that her actions are a bit excessive. Especially the allusion that she makes being "Spaniel-like" and not having a problem with being like a love-sick dog to Demetrius. I feel that this weakens the otherwise strong female character of Helena.

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  4. Jillian Landau

    I love this analysis of Helena. I can’t imagine that Shakespeare would have expected us to read her character any other way (at least in Act I & II). She definitely has that persistent habit of doting on a person who doesn’t return the sentiment. I laughed at the Taylor Swift reference. I most certainly got an image of Helena with that song. The only problem: Helena doesn’t actually belong with Demetrius. Helena’s stalker qualities are amped up with that spaniel comparison. It’s sad that she is so desperate that she likens herself to a faithful dog. What’s even worse is that Demetrius won’t have any of it. She is also causing Demetrius problems by revering the societal norm of ‘boy chases girl’ and it that agitates Demetrius. One could hope that Helena will regain her dignity and sanity eventually…

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  5. Erika Pumilia

    Excellent comparison Sam! I think that Helena is the total fifteen year old sitting in her room with Taylor Swift playing! I think that all teenage girls do not listen to their first "love" when it all comes to an end. It seems like the entire world has come crashing down. Although, I must say that a play like this would be one that gives many of these girls their "hope for true love conquering all". There is a "modern" remake movie of Romeo and Juliet with Leo DiCaprio, I wonder if the "modern" A Midsummer Night's Dream would include Taylor Swift! Thanks for the post!

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