Poor Helena

Throughout A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the character of Helena seems to be developed as the one Athenian who truly values the importance of love, perhaps because in the beginning of the play she is sadly lacking the reciprocation of her love for Demetrius. In Act III, when Lysander is put under the spell of the potion and seemingly falls in love with her, Helena can not help but allow her insecurities to come to the surface and feel as though Lysander is mocking her. Helena’s hurt only worsens when Demetrius wakes, and under the same spell, immediately professes his love for her. It is clear that Helena places the importance of love above all else when witnessing the dynamic between Helena and Hermia after Helena believes that Hermia is part of Demetrius and Lysander’s scheme to mock her. Helena’s understanding of the necessity for love and her own personal experiences with the nature of love cause her to feel the sting of the betrayal of those she loves more harshly.
“We, Hermia, like two artificial gods,
Have with our needles created both one flower,
Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion,
Both warbling of one song, both in one key,
As if our hands, our sides, voices and minds,
Had been incorporate” (3.2.206-211)
Helena has felt, up until this point, that her bond with Hermia was unbreakable, and her self-esteem is so low that she immediately concludes that Hermia is betraying her. There is a certain degree of sympathy felt towards Helena when she is constantly rejected by her true love Demetrius and then is further hurt by her ‘sister’ Hermia. Helena feels so passionately on topics of love that she is blind to reason and logic, that is grossly absent in the play as a whole due to the interference of the fairy population.
Hermia is however, a bit of a hypocrite when she so quickly jumps to the conclusion that Hermia is mocking her and easily forgets how easily she was willing to betray Hermia and Lysander by telling Demetrius where they hid. In Helena’s pursuit of the ultimate love, she easily gets lost in her own desires and desperation because of the fact that she sees plainly how vital natural love is because of her experience living without it.

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3 thoughts on “Poor Helena

  1. Julian Mocha

    I really appreciated a blog entry that focused on a woman in the play! In literature and society in general I always feel that if you look to how women are portrayed/treated (considering they are the less-privileged group in society) you can better understand the writer and male characters. I agree that Helena seemed to pull the shortest straw in this play! Not only did she feel betrayed by her best friend and got consistently rejected by Demetrius, her "happy ending" was forced and relied on magic rather than love. I actually found her determination (and characteristically male demeanor) at the beginning of the play to signify her strength, and even her paranoia about the Hermia/Demetrius/Lysander love triangle was a sign of cleverness. She didn't just take what was told to her as the truth- something women of the time were expected to do.All in all, I really enjoyed this blog post.

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  2. Liz Schiavo

    I agree with this post completely,I felt bad for Helena as well. Helena was starving for love in the begninning and now that she finally has it, she's unsure if it's real or if they're just mocking her. I thought it was funny when Hermia accuses Helena of using her height to win Lysander over? I also laughed at the fact that Hermia threatens to scratch her eyes out, how lady like! I also felt sorry for Hermia, from her understanding Lysander was head over heels for her, poor Hermia was shocked and heartbroken that her lover has left her for someone else? I thought your last point was interesting that Helena is a hypocrite, you're absolutely right, Helena was causing trouble on purpose hoping she would gain Demetrius's attention!

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  3. Myra Gonzalez

    I felt somewhat bad for Helena, however her betrayal toward Hermia regarding telling Demetrius was totally unexcusable. I felt like she was not a true friend to Hermia but cared more about what she wanted which was Demetrius. Her behaviour is quite devious. She quickly played the victim card when she thought everyone was mocking her. Having low self esteem was not something I had thought about until I read your post but it is definately something to consider. I thought she seemed confident as she pursued Demetrius. However, when all the attention got focused on her I can understand how her esteem faltered, especially when she thought all the attention was false.

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