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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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Some of the most prominent themes in A Midsummer Night's Dream are the omnipresence of love and desire and the tendencies of characters to manifest their defining traits. Helena and Hermia are two perfect examples of this. Hermia is the lover, and Helena the desirer, and both thrive off of their obsessions. In fact, both women are so tied to these traits that when they are taken away, their characters deflate and fall static.

From the beginning, Hermia defiantly denies her father's attempts at an arranged marriage, in favor of her whirlwind romance with and marriage to Lysander. In her defense, she uses words of chastity and moral purity to claim her fidelity and love towards Lysander and inability to wed Demetrius "I know not by what power I am made bold / nor how it may concern my modesty" (pp). The concern, or befitting, of Hermia's modesty, by not wedding Demetrius, is protecting the very essence of her womanhood from someone whom she feels isn't worth of the ultimate consummation of love Ð'- marriage (and the subsequent sex). This is continued in her next dialogue, where Hermia states that she would rather die "quote" (pp) or become a nun than give up her virgin "privilege" "quote" (pp). Hermia's claims of "privilege" and "sovereignty" validate her chastity and moral purity as something that should only be shared with Lysander, not Demetrius. However, the sovereignty of Hermia's claims also fits in with Demetrius' arguments regarding his rights to Hermia's hand in marriage: "quote" (pp). Demetrius' use of "sovereignty" and "right" turns the supposed "love" of Hermia and Demetrius' arranged marriage into a legal contract, where Hermia is property and social placeholder instead of a loving companion.

Lysander pitches in to support Hermia's claims of purity "Demetrius, I'll avouch it to his head.." "quote" (pp). Here, Lysander claims that Demetrius slept with Helena and is therefore a "spoiled and inconstant man" "quote" (pp). OED. EDITORS gloss "spotted" as "morally stained" "quote" (pp). The Oxford English Dictionary also defines "spotted" as "something disgraceful." This only emphasizes the uncouth premarital and in Hermia's line of logic, immoral relationship between Demetrius and Hermia. This moral impurity is a compromise to Hermia's chastity and perpetuates her dedication to love that is already evident in this passage.

Another instance of Hermia's dedication to her chastity and purity as a demonstration of comes in II.ii "quote" (pp). Hermia and Lysander's sleeping apart from one another increases their love for one another and makes their bond even stronger. Hermia's fastidious devotion to Lysander and her choice to run away with him demonstrates her embodiment of love: something which possesses her completely.

The reader's first encounter with Helena is quite the opposite: she is first described as "dotes / devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry upon this spotted and inconstant man" "quote" (pp).



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