An Analysis of Shakespeare Characters Hermia and Her Father

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To deepen your understanding of William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream," here is a character analysis of Hermia and her father.

Hermia, Believer in True Love

Hermia is a feisty young lady who knows what she wants and does whatever she can to get it. She is even prepared to give up her family and way of life to marry Lysander, agreeing to elope with him into the forest. However, she is still a lady and ensures that nothing untoward goes on between them. She keeps her integrity by asking him to sleep away from her: “But gentle friend, for love and courtesy/Lie further off in humane modesty” (Act 2, Scene 2).

Hermia assures her best friend, Helena, that she is not interested in Demetrius, but Helena is insecure about her looks in comparison with her friend and this somewhat affects their friendship: “Through Athens, I am thought as fair as she./But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so?” (Act 1, Scene 1) Hermia wishes the best for her friend and wants Demetrius to love Helena: “As you on him, Demetrius dote on you” (Act 1, Scene 1).

However, when the fairies have intervened and both Demetrius and Lysander are in love with Helena, Hermia gets very upset and angry with her friend: “O me, you juggler, you canker blossom/You thief of love—what have you come by night/And stol’n my love's heart from him” (Act 3, Scene 2).

Hermia is again compelled to fight for her love and is willing to fight her friend: “Let me come to her” (Act 3, Scene 2). Helena confirms that Hermia is a feisty character when she observes, “O, when she is angry she is keen and shrewd!/She was a vixen when she went to school./And though she is little, she is fierce” (Act 3, Scene 2).

Hermia continues to defend Lysander even when he has told her that he no longer loves her. She is concerned that he and Demetrius will fight, and she says, “Heavens shield Lysander if they mean a fray” (Act 3, Scene 3). This demonstrates her unerring love for Lysander, which drives the plot forward. All ends happily for Hermia, but we do see aspects of her character that could be her downfall if the narrative were different. Hermia is determined, feisty, and occasionally aggressive, which reminds us that she is Egeus’ daughter, but we admire her steadfastness and faithfulness to Lysander.

Headstrong Egeus

Egeus' father is domineering and overbearing to Hermia. He acts as a foil to the fair and even-handed Theseus. His proposal to bring the full force of the law on his daughter—the penalty of death for disobeying his orders—demonstrates this. “I beg the ancient privilege of Athens/As she is mine, I may dispose of her—/Which shall be either to this gentleman/Or to her death—according to our law/Immediately provided in that case” (Act 1, Scene 1).

He has decided, for his own reasons, that he wants Hermia to marry Demetrius instead of her true love, Lysander. We are unsure of his motivation, as both men are presented as eligible; neither one has more prospects or money than the other, so we can only assume that Egeus simply wants his daughter to obey him so he can have his own way. Hermia's happiness appears to be of little consequence to him. Theseus, Duke of Athens, placates Egeus and gives Hermia time to decide. Thus, the problem is resolved as the story unfolds, though this is no real comfort to Egeus.

In the end, Hermia gets her way and Egeus has to go along with it; Theseus and the others happily accept the resolution, and Demetrius is no longer interested in his daughter. However, Egeus remains a difficult character, and the story ends happily only due to intervention by the fairies. Had they not been involved, it's possible that Egeus would have gone ahead and executed his own daughter had she disobeyed him. Fortunately, the story is a comedy, not a tragedy.

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Jamieson, Lee. "An Analysis of Shakespeare Characters Hermia and Her Father." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Jamieson, Lee. (2020, August 28). An Analysis of Shakespeare Characters Hermia and Her Father. Retrieved from Jamieson, Lee. "An Analysis of Shakespeare Characters Hermia and Her Father." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 26, 2023).