The Pursuit of Love

The central theme of A Midsummer Night’s Dream is love and its powerful force. The female characters Hermia and Helena show what they would do in their pursuit of love. For Hermia, I thought she stood her ground with her father when she refused to marry Demetrius. She states in 1.1.79-82, “So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord/Ere I will yield my virgin patent up/Unto his lordship whose unwished yoke/My soul consents not to give sovereignty” (851). Hermia shows she would rather risk death than to be forced to marry someone she doesn’t love. It was courageous of her to run away to the woods with Lysander. I was a bit surprised by her prudish behavior with him when they meet because she states in 2.2.63 “Lie further off, in humane modesty” (863). I thought because she fought to be with him there would be more passion for between them. She shows she is still somewhat concerned about how she may appear and this shows she has modesty. It shows that although she is defying her father she still has respect for herself. Modesty is not a word I would use to describe Helena in her pursuit of Demetrius. I was embarrassed to read about her antics when she was interacting with Demetrius. She didn’t seem concerned that she was making a fool out of herself especially as she was running after him in Scene Two, Act Two. I also thought she was being devious when she plans to run and tell Demetrius about Hermia and Lysander running off; hoping“To have his sight thither and back again” (854). Why does she thinks her actions will change his feelings toward her is ridiculous especially because he already had her as a mistress so she has served her purpose. Demetrius made it clear he wants nothing to do with her because he says “I charge thee hence, do not haunt me thus” (864). I wonder how much humiliation she was willing to receive. I felt like she kept putting herself down as she questioned Hermia about how she attracted Demetrius. Then again, could she have been mocking Hermia? Maybe she was being sarcastic when she states in 1.1.88-89, “My ear should catch your voice, my eye your eye,/My tongue should catch you tongue’s sweet melody” (853). It seems as though Helena wants to be like Hermia in hopes of getting Demetrius’ attention. Perhaps if she backed off and showed disinterest as Hermia does he would want her more.

4 thoughts on “The Pursuit of Love

  1. Vanessa

    I found it very interesting that you explored the role and power of love throughout the play. In your post, you write a lot about how the character's love drives them to act in a particular way. Throughout the play, I saw love as a force outside the control of the characters involved. The characters therefore become agents in which love acts through, but they themselves do not have much control over. Between parental interjection, love potions, and circumstances of unreturned love, the characters involved do not have unlimited freedom in the love field. Instead, the characters must surrender to love's course and hope for the best. Although I agree that the characters are very foolish and irrational in their love pursuits, I believe that the character's have little power over their own actions. I don't believe that Helena backing off would make Demetrius want her any more. The characters of Shakespeare's play seem to be driven by internal, spontaneous love and are therefore blind to the idea of practical relationships.

  2. Brianna

    I agree with you in the sense love is a powerful force in the play and I believe it is what is driving the play itself, not just the characters. When it comes to Hermia I was shocked a bit about her rejection of Lysander when they were lying in the woods, but at the same time I wasn’t. I think it actually goes along with the courage she demonstrates by running away. I see Helena and Hermia as foil characters as well, especially when it comes to their views on love. The two of them are complete opposites, being that Helena is chasing down her love while Hermia has all she wants and needs from Lysander. The way in which Helena acts towards love goes along with the childish antics the characters take part in (Krystal’s post further discusses the way in which the characters act like children in regards to other scenarios besides love). We would like to think that if Helena backed of Demetrius then maybe he would be more interested, but with how love struck he is, I don’t think that would be possible. But at least one could hope, right?

  3. Kelsey Maher

    I completely agree with your thoughts on Hermia. It was brave of her to defy her fathers wishes and courageous to run off with her true love Lysander, but her modesty in the woods almost counteracts her original feelings. I suppose it could be to highlight the differences between male and female desires. In contrast, Helena's lack of modesty immediately places her in the role of the male, which in some ways gives her a certain degree of power. She also defies the words of Demetrius, the man who refuses to acknowledge her love. I hope I have the wording correct when I say that Demetrius is Hermia's Helena in that Demetrius refuses to give up on Hermia in the same way that Helena refuses to relinquish her pursuit of Demetrius.

  4. Pamela

    I didn't give much thought to Hermia not sleeping closer to Lysander when they spend the night in the woods until I read your post. Shakespeare's choice of physical placement for the characters is intriguing. Hermia is quite the rebel so her exhibition of chaste behavior is suprising. I wonder what the reasoning was. It seems out of character for someone who defies her father, speaks in court and runs away! Is Hermia really a good girl who just wants to chose her husband? As far as Helena leading Demetrius to Lysander and Hermia, I think she was just trying to get in good favor with him. She also may have just wanted to be in his company regardless of the activity and she may have thought he would view Hermia disfavorably if he knew that she was illegally running away with Lysander.


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