A Midsummer Night’s Dream

context -writen in 1595-1596
Theseus -Duke of Athens-Conqueror of the Amazons-Must decide the fate of Hermia -A figure from Greek mythology famous for such deeds as the slaying of Minotaur: before we are presented by him we will already know him by reputation of a great hero-Respected middled aged gentleman-He cuts a distinctively unromantic figure who is sober in action, moderate in tone, and possessively scornful of lovers passion and ‘antiques fables’ -Well meaning and sensible -He gives eventual support to the lovers and rewards the craftsmen for their dramatic efforts -A figure of patriarchal authority-Hippolyta seems to be marrying him with little enthusiasm suggesting it may be a political marriage rather than a loving one: ‘i wooed thee (hippolyta) with my sword’ implies he defeated her in battle therefore deems it fair to be rewarded her love-He is eager to listen to Hermias side of the story but is also reluctant to contradict Egeus’ authority
Hippolyta -Legendary Queen of the Amazons. -leader of a nation of female warriors-Marries Theseus through defeat as a peace treaty: In a version staged in San Fran in 1966 she made her first entry as a caged prisoner-hippolytas defeat and marriage to her conqueror may be intended as a reassurance that the play will not ultimately support female rebellion against society-she has been successfully presented as an unwilling captive, resentful of millibary defeat and diplomatic marriage- H: ‘ four days will quickly steep themselves in night’ implies she is not nearly as impatient as Theseus-‘The two noble kinsmen’ by Edmund Spenser gives a view on the Amazons-her open mindedness towards the story of the lovers adventures in the wood, and her fear that the craftsmen will be humiliated in their performance marks her out as a woman who is thoughtful and kind-titania characterizes her with the vigorous word ‘bouncing’-
Egeus -Hermia’s Father-determined for hermia to marry demetrius-asks Theseus to have his daughter executed if she doesn’t obey him: ‘as she is mine i may dispose of her/either to this gentleman/or to her death’ – E clearly views H as a possession rather than a person who has feelings, and moreover these exaggerated views also suggest E is a fool who Hermia will undoubtedly defeat at the end-he is a stock character of comedy and a self righteous father determined to thwart Hermias choice of husband -he is merely a functional character who is not present for his interesting personality but instead to advance the story – he only appears twice in the play, once in the opening scene with theseus and then in act 5 scene 1 to accept theseus’s ruling hermia can marry lysander-theseus gave E ‘some private schooling’ 1.1.116-T tells E ‘I will overbear your will’ 4.1.176-Philostrate appears in the first quarto of the play, however in the first folio he is replaced by Egeus and Lysander, which gives E another chance to express his feelings
Hermia -In love with Lysander-Egeus daughter-threatened with death or imprisonment in a convent, but she says she would rather suffer the punishment than marry Demetrius: whose unwished yoke/ my should consents not to give my sovereignty’ – this reflects Egeus treating her like an animal, as she feels ‘yoked’ to a plough without choice-disobeys her father and marries the suitor of her choice, Lysander-she is mercurial in temperament-her self assertiveness may be due to the fact that she is the darker and shorter of the two women, or maybe she just takes after he father Egeus-she defies not only her father but the Duke Theseus-Helenas descrides hermia: ‘though she be but little,she is fierce’ – ‘ i know not by what power i am made bold’ 1.1.59-in the forest she firmly insists L sleeps separately from herBEFORE LOVE JUICE-dark skin and hair were considered unfashionable in this period however L and D perceive Hermia to be more attractive-AFTER-she becomes aggressive when she thinks D has killed L: ‘out, dog! out, cur!’ 3.2.65-she threatens Helena with violence at the thought that she has stolen L’s love from her: ‘why nails can reach unto thine eyes’ -magic distorts the mens reactions-Lysander constrasts her complexion and hair color with Helenas: ‘who will not change a raven for a dove?’-Lysander calls hermia an ‘Ethiopia’ ‘tawny tartar’ ‘dwarf’ ‘bead’ and ‘acorn’-her confusion at the end of the night is expressed through ‘methinks i see these things with parted eye/when everything seems double’
Lysander In love with Hermia but with out her father’s consent-Lysander’s name means Liberator – it is likely Shakespeare gave him this name as he is the man who saves Hermia from being imprisoned
Demetrius In love with Hermia with her father’s consent
Helena -has been rejected by D but still loves him-continues to pursue D to the extent of letting herself be humiliated-she has so much self esteem that when the love juice causes the men to fall in love with her she accuses them of playing with her-Helena’s name means Light, fittingly she has a fair complexion and is tall -at first she seems confident: ‘through Athens I am thought as fair as she’ -following her rejection from D she is comparatively timid and has less self esteem than Hermia-1) her betrayal of the elopement plans to D2) her undignified pursuit of D in the woods3) her inability to credit that D and L have fallen involve with her4) her lengthy appeal to Hermia to respect their childhood friendship5) culminating in a call for ‘pity’ 3.2.2356) an absurd forecast of her own ‘death’ 4.1.189Follows Demetrius into the forest.
Quince Director of the play “Pyramus and Thisbe”
Flute Plays Thisbe
Bottom Has a donkey’s head
Titania Queen of the Fairies
Oberon King of the Fairies
Puck Mischievous fairy who delights in playing pranks on mortals
Bottom Is set down for playing “Pyramus.”
Flute He has a beard coming.
Hermia Is called a “minimus, knot-grass maid” as well as a puppet, a bead, and an acorn because of her height.
Helena Is called a “painted maypole.”
Lysander Is awakened by Hermia in the forest and says to her that he “will go through fire I will for thy sweet sake.”
Quince Is mandated by Bottom to write prologue for him.
Snug the Joiner Wants the script for the “lion’s part” early as he is “slow of speech.”
Love -lovers use the standard language of Elizabethan poetry which features exaggerated comparisons of the beloved to objects in nature, mythology, and religion ( an exception is at the quarrel in the forest where they drop into a lower register of abusiveness): this is shakespeare’s way of gaining guaranteed laughter from the audience through the sudden shift of compliments to insults