Comparison and Contrast of Hermia and Helena in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’

Competing over a girl or a boy is a common aspect that offers similarities between characters, intriguing themes, comedy, and suspense to a plot, as demonstrated by the history of novels, films, plays, and folklore. A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare is a clear example of how the aspect can be so critical in shaping the plot. Aside from the two main women in the story, Helena and Hermia, who are competing for men, they are also portrayed as having distinct characteristics, which adds to the play's suspense (Dent 122). There is a constant change in the relationship between these women as they compete for the men that they love and yet remain as friends. This short paper will look into the two young women and see how they manage to be so different and having opposite personalities while being the best of friends. Right from the beginning of the story, a contrast is created where one woman is being depicted as being full of confidence while the other is in need of it. Hermia is represented as an audacious, confident lady by the mere fact that she is in love with a man that loves her. Helena, on the other hand, does not only lack confidence, but behaves as being desperate because the man she loves no longer feels the same to her. In the first scene, Hermia is boldly seen interjecting when Duke Theseus tries to argue that she should marry Demetrius because he is a “worthy gentleman” for her to marry by stating “So is Lysander” (Shakespeare, 5). Indeed, she does apologize for her boldness later in the play. Another scene that depicts the boldness and confidence of Hermia is in the woods when Lysander asks her to lie closer. In this scene, we see a young woman who is conscientious enough of the requirements of virtue besides being confident of the love from Lysander that she rebuffs his request. Considering the virtue, she desires to preserve her chastity until the matrimony day. She retorts by claiming: Lie further off, in human modesty; Such separation as well may be said Becomes a virtuous bachelor and maid (Shakespeare 13). Helena’s desperation and low confidence can be seen in the beginning of the play. She could not stand even a complement from her friend without relating it to the love issues. She claims that Hermia is beautiful than her and that could be the reason Demetrius is falling for Hermia. Helena pouts out when Hermia calls her ‘fair’ and questions how she could be considered fair when it is the fairness of Hermia that Demetrius is in love with. She says “Call me fair? That fair again unsay. Demetrius loves your fair. O happy fair!” (Shakespeare 7). Helena is so desperately in need of Demetrius’ love that she follows him into the forest which ultimately jeopardizes her chastity. Indeed, Demetrius points out: You do impeach your modesty too much To leave the city and commit yourself Into the Hands of one that loves you not (Shakespeare 12). Demetrius does not love Helena and is pursuing Hermia and Lysander reports him to the Duke, who claims to have been aware of the happenings. While the two ladies are best friends, Helena envies Hermia because Demetrius loves her. She feels like no one values her anymore and when she is told by Lysander and Demetrius that they adore her, she refuses to accept this as true (Dent 1225). The only way to get Demetrius to love Helena is by using some portion and Puck is given the task of making it happen by Oberon who says “Effect it with some care, that he may prove more fond on her that she upon her love” (Shakespeare 12). To demonstrate how close the two ladies were as friends, during the scene when the plan for Hermia and Lysander to elope had backfired because Demetrius had followed them to win her back, Helena states, “As if our hands, our sides, voices and minds/ Had been incorporate, So we grew together,/ Like to a double cherry” (Shakespeare 20).This shows the normal relationship that existed between these two women until the men came into the picture. They also did have a discussion of their physical differences and shortcomings which do give a comic aspect to the play besides providing the testimonies of how they make each other insecure and uncomfortable. By the fact that they are falling for different people is itself a difference of interests and tastes (Ryan 79). Yet, there is still some confusion of who does love who which gives an indication of the intention of the author to draw up characters that would contrast and oppose each other while also having common grounds. Another notable difference that is intertwined in the whole story is the different treatments that the two women receive from their lovers. Lysander treats Hermia well until when Puck muddles up the potion and Lysander starts loving Helena. Lysander is respectful to Hermia despite being controlling and arrogant. On the other hand, Helena, in Act two scene one acknowledges that Demetrius can ignore her, hit her and treat her badly, and true to this, he is chasing Hermia and ignoring her (Ryan 83). However, despite all this intrigues and enchantments, the once unstable mood at the beginning of the play is resolved at the end when everyone is happily married. In the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the two main women are presented as characters being at the center of a series of events that meet ad oppose each other. As one reads the play, he/she gets to learn the character of the two women as they interact and the relationships between themselves and with their lovers. While they are the best of friends, they are depicted as two characters with distinct differences in personality, interests, and dislikes.

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Works Cited Dent, Robert W. "Imagination in A Midsummer Night's Dream." Shakespeare Quarterly 15.2 (1964): 115-129. Retrieved from Ryan, Kiernan. Shakespeare's comedies. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009. Shakespeare, William. AMidsummer Night's Dream. Vol. 65. Cambridge University Press, 2003. Retrieved from .

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