Remember, this is the way I revised for exams, but that doesn’t mean it will be the most effective strategy for you.
Don’t just copy my notes: make your own adding or deleting things depending on what you consider significant about each character; or present your ideas differently in a spider diagram or webpage (Glogster is pretty good if you’ve got the time).
Demetrius is number one bad guy at the beginning of the play. He is a noble at the Athenian court. He is a pushy suitor of Hermia and although her other suitor (Lysander, who she favours) claims they are equal in terms of status and wealth, he has the backing of Egeus, Hermia’s father, who seems determined to prevent get his way about who his daughter marries.
There is a strong suggestion that he has been a bit naughty with Helena physically and now decided to bin her off for Hermia… it could just be rumours though…
What happens to him in the play?
I’d write this as short hand as you can, while still being able to understand it. Here, my notes will be of the long winded variety to help you, but you don’t need to be as detailed as long as it makes sense to you.
Long winded notes A1S1 In the opening scene, Egeus tells Duke Theseus that he has given consent for Demetrius to marry Hermia, but she is having none of it.
Useful notes A1S1 Egeus’ consent + Theseus’ – Hermia wants Lysander.
A1S1 In the opening scene, Egeus tells Duke Theseus that he has given consent for Demetrius to marry Hermia, but she is having none of it.
Demetrius seems spiteful towards Lysander and is smug that he has the ‘certain right’ to marry Hermia, but unconcerned that she detests him and is arguing vehemently for Lysander.
Lysander reveals rumours that Demetrius ‘made love’ to Helena, something Theseus has also heard.
Helena enters after Demetrius has left, but we learn she is obsessed and feels worthless as he has abandoned her and is jealous of his affections for Hermia. Somehow she thinks that telling him about Hermia and Lysander’s plan to flee with make him love her again (women!).
A2S1 He pursues the lovers, but Helena follows him. She professes her love and he tells her he’s not interest and complains he’s done nothing to give her hope of his affections. He threatens her, but also seems to suggest he’s not made love to her.
Oberon, who has been watching, decides that he will bewitch Demetrius so Helena can have her love, as she is so passionate and miserable.
A2S2 Puck mistakes Lysander to be Demetrius and plays accidental Cupid making him fall for Helena, leaving Hermia a bit miffed off.
A3S2 Demetrius finds Hermia alone in the woods and once again tries to woo, but she’s angry as she thinks he has slain Lysander. He decides not to risk following her as she’s in a bit of a mood, so he goes off to sleep.
While he sleeps Oberon and Puck put right their mistake and bewitch him too.
Lysander and Helena enter bickering in a manner similar to Demetrius and Hermia – him professing his love and her telling him to bugger off and stop mocking her.
Demetrius wakes and begins lavishing praise on Helena, but she believes he is in on the joke and gets annoyed. Demetrius and Lysander compete to demonstrate their love and then decide upon a fight to settle it (men!). Demetrius tells him off for being too mean to Hermia… hypocrite.
Puck tricks them all and rights his mess.
A4S1 Theseus and co. find all the lovers asleep and wake them. Everything is right and all love is requited now (yay!). Demetrius explains how he’s changed his mind and likes Helena now.
A5S1 Everyone gets married and enjoys Bottom’s masterful acting.
Arrogant – thinks he is more worthy than Lysander and that Hermia must eventually relent.
Cruel – used Helena and pretty vicious verbally when she follows him.
Romantic – confesses the depth of his love for Hermia and then very prosaic when bewitched into loving Helena.
Kind – tries to protect Hermia’s honour when Lysander takes over his role as malicious ex-lover and speaks rudely to her.
This is not a definitive list and you may find you want to add different ones – good! I’d record them fully, but you may also want to put a little supporting note to help remind you why each is significant. My supporting notes are deliberately a bit long to give you a clear idea of why I think each quotation is important.
Theseus A1S1 ‘Demetrius is a worthy gentleman’ – recognised as being of good status/wealth, confirmed further when Theseus asks for his help with wedding plans.
Demetrius to Lysander A1S1 ‘yield thy crazed title to my certain right’ – arrogance, thinks having a woman’s love is less important than having her dad’s permission.
Demetrius to Helena A2S1 ‘Do I entice you? Do I speak fair?’; ‘I am sick when I do look on thee’ – these two quotations show Demetrius’ frustration at Helena’s persistence, he claims he’s not led her on and then is just plain rude to try and get her to sod off.
Demetrius to Hermia A3S2 ‘Pierced through the heart with your stern cruelty’; ‘I had rather give his [Lysander’s] carcass to my hounds’ – the first shows Demetrius’ soft side, he’s being quite romantic in the same manner as Helena is to him – harsh words hurt him – and the second shows his horrible side as he admits he’d rather having Lysander eaten by his dogs than have Hermia find him again – nice chap.
Demetrius to Helena A3S2 ‘O Helena, goddess, nymph, perfect, divine!’ – Puck’s love potion inspired-Demetrius has changed his tune towards
Demetrius to Theseus & Egeus A4S1 ‘my love to Hermia, Melted as the snow’ – he explains how he’s had a change of heart (Egeus’ must be gutted) and nobody questions it at all…
Helena – you could call this a rocky relationship. He loves me, he loves me not, he still loves me not, now he’s taking the mick, now we’re getting married! Demetrius seems to have used her and then wants to forget about her and is extremely rude to and about her, until Puck gets involved and then everything is rosy and he’s absolutely lovely towards her.
Overview – Made love – he detests her – she’s miserable and obsessed – he fancies her best friend – she’s miserable obsessed – he threatens and abuses her – she’s miserable and obsessed – Puck makes him fall in love with her – she thinks he’s mocking her – both go to sleep and wake up in love and ready for marriage…. bound to be a divorce when the potion wears off!
Hermia – he loves her, but he has a funny way of fighting for her affections – through her dad. He pursues her when she tries to flee and praises her virtues, but she always seems to detest him as a result of her feelings for Lysander.
Lysander – it would be fair to say they don’t see eye to eye. Argue initially over Hermia. In the woods, after Lysander is bewitched, they argue about Helena and attempt to fight. At the end of the play, all their issues seem to have been resolved and as men from equal backgrounds are happy to share their wedding day. They play inverse roles – Demetrius initially an arsehole to Helena, then Lysander takes on that role towards Hermia when bewitched, then both seem to be immediately forgiven by their respective ladies when Puck puts things right.
Egeus – favoured suitor, so much so that he is willing to have his daughter threatened with death or celibacy in order to push it through.
Theseus – takes his side or Egeus’ side on the issue of marriage, but seems to think Demetrius has been cruel playing with Helena’s emotions. I get the impression they are closer than Theseus and Lysander as Demetrius is invited to help him plan his wedding and during the triple wedding at the end the Duke and Demetrius are the two leaders of the mockery of Bottom and co.