In Shakespeare’s play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream,’ the beautiful Hermia is faced with three impossible choices: marry a man she doesn’t love, disobey her father and die, or become a nun. Instead, she chooses a course of her own and risks adventure in a magical wood.
Character Traits: Hermia the Fearful
A man named Demetrius asks Hermia’s father, Egeus, for her hand in marriage.
Only Hermia, beautiful, desirable, and young, loves another: Lysander. Demetrius is determined and smug. He knows Egeus approves of him, and he intends to marry Hermia whether she likes it or not.Hermia is afraid. She knows the law of the land. If Hermia disobeys her father, she will receive the death penalty.
If she remains single, she must become a nun. Theseus, the king, makes it clear: obey your father, become a nun, or die. How miserable Hermia must feel. She and Lysander are deeply in love.
Character Traits: Hermia’s Hope
Lysander plans an elopement. They will meet in the woods and then flee far from Athens, from Theseus’ law, from her father’s stubborn choice of a husband. So, a flower of hope opens in her heart, and she is determined to forge her own destiny.
However, the magical, wild world of the woods intervenes. But, in an unexpected twist, Helena, Hermia’s best friend and confidant, reveals the plan to Demetrius, thinking that by taking him into her confidence, he will love her instead of Hermia. Hermia deeply trusts her friend, and that friend betrays her trust.
Character Traits: Hermia’s Bewilderment
Unbeknownst to all, fairies dwell in the woods. In this case, the fairies intervene.
As poor Hermia and Lysander sleep, the king of the fairies, Oberon, instructs his mischievous servant, Puck, to put a love potion in Demetrius’ eyes. He takes pity on poor Helena who, unfortunately, is throwing herself at the disdainful Demetrius, who only has eyes for Hermia. This is important to note because Puck accidentally places the potion in Lysander’s eyes.
Lysander sees Helena and begins pursuing her instead of eloping with his true love, Hermia. Imagine Hermia’s confusion! First, she wakes up from a nightmare only to find that Lysander is gone. Then she realizes that her faithful Lysander, really her savior from a loveless marriage, or worse, is now pursuing her best friend! Hermia is tired, and now, confused beyond measure.
Character Traits: Hermia’s Joy Restored
In an effort to redeem himself, Puck drips the love potion in Demetrius’ eyes, as well. Suddenly, both Lysander and Demetrius pursue Helena through the woods.
Helena, however, believes they are joking with her and even believes Hermia to be in on the prank. Hermia begs Lysander to explain his sudden change of heart towards her, and he responds, ‘. .
.vile thing, let loose’ (3.2), calling her rude names, such as dwarf, minimus, and acorn.
Odd insults, to be sure!Oberon scolds Puck for his colossal error and instructs him to make it right. Before Lysander and Demetrius kill each other over Helena, all four young people fall asleep exhausted, and when they wake up, Lysander loves Hermia and Demetrius loves Helena. Not only that, Hermia’s father recants his former edict, and not only do Lysander and Hermia get married that very day, but Demetrius and Helena, as well. Hermia’s joy is restored.
A Monologue From Hermia
Hermia delivers short monologues throughout the play, and most of what she says is in the woods, as she attempts to work out her fears and confusion. Each monologue is written in iambic pentameter, as is customary in Shakespearean plays. One of her best monologues in scene one reads:’My good Lysander!I swear to thee, by Cupid’s strongest bow,By his best arrow with the golden head,By the simplicity of Venus’ doves,By that which knitteth souls and prospers loves,And by that fire which burn’d the Carthage queen,When the false Troyan under sail was seen,By all the vows that ever men have broke,In number more than ever women spoke,In that same place thou hast appointed me,To-morrow truly will I meet with thee’ (1.
1)Here, Hermia swears on the unbreakable love of Cupid’s bow, by Venus’ gentle doves, and by the fire in which Dido Queen of Carthage burned in the Aeneid – by these great gods and a heroine – and, strangely, by the great number of vows Hermia considers men to have broken compared to women, that she will keep her promise and meet Lysander the following day. Perhaps it would be like swearing on the Bible today. Hermia voices a strong oath. She will keep her word.
Analysis of Hermia’s Role in the Plot
Shakespeare loves to create intricate plots that include mix-ups and misunderstandings. His triumph in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is his ability to weave three stories into one.
Although the stories are separate, they overlap with each other. Thus, Hermia’s tragic situation – having to choose a loveless marriage, death, or a nunnery – is impacted by a world of fairies and their magic. This turns out for her benefit.
Marriage is difficult, at times, and starting out without her father’s approval and, as a fugitive, would have placed incredible pressure on these newlyweds. In addition, Hermia’s unfailing love for Lysander helps her endure, and she is rewarded in the end.
At various points throughout Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Hermia is a fearful, hopeful, bewildered, and joyful character. Her father, Egeus, and the king, Theseus, tell her that her only choices are to marry the smug Demetrius, become a nun, or die.
She replaces her fear with hope, deciding to forge her own path and choosing instead to elope with Lysander, her love.They escape into a magical wood, but Demetrius and Hermia’s friend Helena, who is in love with Demetrius, follow after them. The fairy king, Oberon, and his servant, Puck, soon intervene and cause confusion, and all the stories overlap and weave into each other. Hermia often delivers short monologues as she attempts to work through all these events and her corresponding emotions, vowing to stay true to her love and herself.
Lesson at a Glance
Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream tells the story of Hermia and her emotional journey to marry her true love. Through various scenes and short monologues, we learn about Hermia’s various character traits and how she acts in different scenes with her father, suitor, best friend, and future husband.
Enjoy the lesson and then discover how much you’ve retained by doing all of the following:
- Identify the three choices given to Hermia by her father, Egeus, regarding how she should live her life
- Describe the different character traits Hermia displays throughout the play
- Recall the roles that Oberon and Puck play in causing confusion for Hermia