Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream contains values and laws of a time where fathers, and men in general, hold a lot of power over women. Hermia and Helena are used as tools to enhance the power of the role of the father and masculinity in the world Shakespeare has created. At the start of the play Helena and Hermia are both popular characters, speaking frequently and constantly at the center of attention. Once the events in the greenwood take place, Helena and Hermia’s role is diminished and their voices are hardly heard in the remaining two acts of the play. This shift of focus displays how Hermia and Helena are symbolizations of the impact of the role of men on a woman’s life, and it rejuvenates love as being more important than the law underneath the non-swaying idea of the patriarchal set-up that is displayed. Beyond this, their absence at the end of the play depicts the dream-like quality Shakespeare is depicting, swaying the notion of reality and magic through the events that take place in the greenwood.
The role of Hermia and her situation with Lysander and Demetrius displays the first major significance surrounding the role of men in Shakespeare’s play. Hermia is completely in love with Lysander, and her father is aware of this. However, Egeus doesn’t blame Hermia for her own behavior and disobedience towards him. He says, “This man hath bewitched the bosom of my child. Thou, thou, Lysander, thou hast given her rhymes, and interchanged love tokens with my child” (1.1.28-30). Egeus takes away Hermia’s responsibility for her own actions, and denotes her to an object which Lysander can control, and essentially blames Lysander for her actions. Shakespeare portrays love like this at the beginning enhancing the lack of control that Hermia has, and also the power of male dominance and the way it was believed to captivate women.
Theseus continues to symbolize the way that other men view Hermia, and is complacent about the way that people view the beauty of women. Theseus tells Hermia, “To you your father should be as a god, one that composed your beauties” (1.1.48-49). Theseus is telling Hermia to do what her father says because he is the one who has made her beautiful, but he does not at all address the role her mother would have also had in making her beautiful, revealing underlying sexism in this time of Shakespeare’s play. He also discusses the law with Egeus that will force Hermia to either die or become a nun if she doesn’t listen to her father.
Even the male lovers enhance this law, and believe that they have a “right” to Hermia, rather than respecting Hermia’s choice. Demetrius doesn’t care that Hermia doesn’t actually love him, but he tells Lysander he has more of a right to her. “Relent, sweet Hermia--And, Lysander, yield thy crazed title to my certain right” (1.1.93-94). Shakespeare displays this aspect of that time period rather than behavior purposely acted by the male characters. This is important because...