Lysander from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' – Character Analysis

Hermia and Lysander. A Midsummer Night's Dream
Hermia and Lysander. J Simmons/Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Lysander bravely challenges Egeus over his choice of suitor for Hermia. Lysander professes his love for Hermia and exposes Demetrius as inconstant, having rejected Helena in favor of her friend.

LYSANDER
You have her father's love, Demetrius;
Let me have Hermia's: do you marry him.​

EGEUS
Scornful Lysander! true, he hath my love,
And what is mine my love shall render him.
And she is mine, and all my right of her
I do estate unto Demetrius.

LYSANDER
I am, my lord, as well derived as he,
As well possess'd; my love is more than his;
My fortunes every way as fairly rank'd,
If not with vantage, as Demetrius';
And, which is more than all these boasts can be,
I am beloved of beauteous Hermia:
Why should not I then prosecute my right?
Demetrius, I'll avouch it to his head,
Made love to Nedar's daughter, Helena,
And won her soul; and she, sweet lady, dotes,
Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry,
Upon this spotted and inconstant man.
(Act 1 Scene 1)

Character Motivation

Lysander encourages Hermia to run away with him to his aunt’s house, in order that the pair can be married. When in the forest Lysander tries his luck with Hermia, trying to get her to lay with him but he is unable to convince her.

When he wakes, he has been wrongly anointed with the love potion and falls in love with Helena. Lysander decides to leave Hermia unprotected on the ground to pursue Helena. This does not cover him in glory but potentially demonstrates the strength of the potion in that we know how much he loved Hermia but now the potion has moved him to be so repulsed by her that he is willing to leave her alone. There is an argument, therefore, that we cannot blame him for his actions under the powerful influence of the love potion, because if we could, we may not be happy when he is finally reunited with Hermia, as he has been so horrible to her under Puck’s influence:

LYSANDER
Hang off, thou cat, thou burr! vile thing, let loose,
Or I will shake thee from me like a serpent!

HERMIA
Why are you grown so rude? what change is this?
Sweet love,--

LYSANDER
Thy love! out, tawny Tartar, out!
Out, loathed medicine! hated potion, hence!
(Act 3 Scene 2)

When the love potion is removed and the couples are discovered, Lysander bravely explains to Hermia’s father and Theseus that he encouraged her to elope.

This action is very brave because it enrages Egeus — and Lysander knows that it will. Here, Lysander really demonstrates his bravery and determination to stick with Hermia no matter the consequences and this endears him to the audience once more. We know Lysander truly loves Hermia and their ending will be a happy one as Theseus will assuage Egeus’ anger.

LYSANDER
My lord, I shall reply amazedly,
Half sleep, half waking: but as yet, I swear,
I cannot truly say how I came here;
But, as I think,--for truly would I speak,
And now do I bethink me, so it is,--
I came with Hermia hither: our intent
Was to be gone from Athens, where we might,
Without the peril of the Athenian law.

EGEUS
Enough, enough, my lord; you have enough:
I beg the law, the law, upon his head.
They would have stolen away; they would, Demetrius,
Thereby to have defeated you and me,
You of your wife and me of my consent,
Of my consent that she should be your wife.
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Jamieson, Lee. "Lysander from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' – Character Analysis." ThoughtCo, May. 1, 2017, thoughtco.com/lysander-from-a-midsummer-nights-dream-2984575. Jamieson, Lee. (2017, May 1). Lysander from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' – Character Analysis. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/lysander-from-a-midsummer-nights-dream-2984575 Jamieson, Lee. "Lysander from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' – Character Analysis." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/lysander-from-a-midsummer-nights-dream-2984575 (accessed December 12, 2017).