Who is Hermia?
Hermia is the daughter of an Athenian nobleman, Egeus. At the beginning of the drama she is deeply in love with Lysander, but is having to defend their relationship before Duke Theseus as her father is protesting against it.
She’s pretty feisty, especially when you consider that women in ancient times and in Shakespeare’s day were expected to be subservient to their husbands or fathers. Hermia is defying her father, arguing with her duke and shows no sign of backing down and marrying Demetrius.
Despite describing her life in Athens up to this point as a ‘dream’, she is willing to risk her privileged position and her life in the name of love. Possibly not the most sensible young girl as it doesn’t seem her relationship with Lysander is very old and she confirms in the woods that it hasn’t yet been consummated.
Just like Lysander and Demetrius, she has an almost identical background to Helena: both are daughters of noblemen, they are best friends and Helena tells us that people think they are both as hot as each other. However, we later find out one difference: Helena is taller and insults Hermia by calling her a dwarf.
Notice how these are an inversion of the characteristics of Demetrius. At the beginning of the play we see Lysander as the nice guy as his love is requited by Hermia, while Demetrius is snubbed and is also cruel when snubbing Helena.
When their roles switch and Demetrius feels like his love for Helena is requited, he becomes excessively nice and protects Hermia from Lysander’s verbal cruelty and threats. Lysander becomes a git!
The love of her life. At the start of the play they are besotted with each other and as a result are foolish enough to be prepared to give up everything in their lives (potentially give up their lives) for each other.
She gets a little pissed off with him when he declares his love for her best friend and starts telling her she makes him sick, but after he sleeps off his madness she’s happy to go back to her state of bliss.
Both have the same background and status and have been best friends since childhood. However, there is a bit of tension in their relationship at the beginning of the play as Helena’s man has taken a fancy to Hermia and Helena is just a tad miserable about it all and is wishing she could be Hermia.
Considering they are best friends and have been since they were little, they should be ashamed of how quickly they bicker and fight when ‘their’ men come between them.
She doesn’t seem to really have a relationship with him, he’s just taken a fancy to her and she has done her best to put him off. Bless him, he keeps pursuing her and is perfectly lovely to her, but she’s never going to come round to him after his arrogant stance of thinking that having her father’s favour should be enough for her to be with him.
Otherwise known as daddy! She is like a typical teenage daughter trying to defy him at every turn; his reaction is possibly a little bit over the top by today’s standards, as he is happy to either kill her off or send her to a nunnery (a fate worse than death?) if she doesn’t listen to him.
She’s quite happy putting him in his place, but ultimately he is hard, but fair. The law of the land says she should obey her father and Theseus tries to encourage her gently to see sense.
These are the quotations that have significance to me and would allow my essays to explore my opinions and ideas about Hermia. However, don’t just blindly rely on mine, think about what you consider to be significant and quotations that are memorable to you. I’d never recommend having too many quotations in your notes as you’ll forget the majority, better just to focus on remembering a few really good ones!
(A1S1) Hermia – ‘I would my father look’d but with my eyes.’ – cheeky girl, telling the Duke and her father what to do. She’s trying to say that she should be able to choose her partner, but that simply wasn’t the way of things back in the day.
(A1S1) Theseus – ‘Rather your eyes must with his judgement look.’ – Theseus puts her back in her place! There is some sense in it, as well following the rules, she is making a rash decision and therefore needs some sensible input.
(A1S1) Hermia – ‘O hell! to choose love by another’s eyes’ – she’s not happy about it.
(A1S1) Hermia about Demetrius – ‘The more I hate, the more he follows me’ – Hermia explains to Helena that she’s tried putting Demetrius off, but not very successfully.
(A2S2) Hermia to Demetrius – ‘If thou hast slain Lysander in his sleep… kill me too!’ – Lysander has abandoned her, thanks to Puck, and now she is afraid that Demetrius has killed him and is fairly dramatic about what she’d do if she lost her love: I bet she wouldn’t really.
(A3S2) Lysander to Hermia – ‘Hang off, thou cat, thou burr!’ – bewitched Lysander is pretty clear about his new feelings for Hermia. She is as frustrating to him as Helena was to Demetrius.
(A3S2) Hermia to Lysander – ‘What, can you do me greater harm than hate?’, ‘you juggler! you canker-blossom’ – Lysander threatens to hurt Hermia if she keeps on at him, but Hermia is again as dramatic as can be and claims nothing could harm her more than losing Lysander’s love. I had a girlfriend like that once, a bunny boiler! She also hurls her most powerful insults at him – juggler of hearts and a decaying flower.
(A3S2) Hermia to Helena – ‘my nails can reach unto thine eyes’ – cat fight! Best friends driven to this by two men, take note in your own love life.
Summary of Involvement
Act I Scene I
– Hermia pleads her case to Theseus so she can marry Lysander, but is told to obey her father’s wishes. She wishes Egeus could see the men with her eyes, but is told she should consider the wisdom of her father’s judgement.
– After being left alone with Lysander she is full of misery at the difficulties involved with love. When Lysander comes up with a plan to run away from Athens she jumps at it, despite having to give a life she’d described as a dream, all in order to be with this man.
– Misery guts, Helena, enters and pulls down the mood as she moans about Demetrius having lost interest in her. Hermia assures Helena that she has done nothing to encourage his affections to her, but Helena just wishes that she could be Hermia in a pathetic wallowing in her despair.
Act II Scene II
– Off to the woods, but that idiot Lysander hasn’t brought a map and they’ve got lost. Hermia needs to rest so they decide to sleep, with Hermia giving Lysander a quick rebuke for suggesting they sleep together.
– As she sleeps, Puck does his business and she is left alone. Hermia wakes from a nightmare where a serpent is eating her heart – that’ll be the magic!
Act III Scene II
– Demetrius has now find Hermia and they wander around looking for the others, and Hermia questions whether Demetrius has killed Lysander.
– Hermia wanders off and eventually returns as both men are now engaged in wooing Helena. As Lysander tells her to bugger off she is shocked and confused. Helena chastises her for being involved in the mockery, leaving Hermia even more confused and eventually she starts a slanging match with her best friend. Some funny slights about her height make her mad and ready to scratch Helena’s eyes out.
Act IV Scene I
– While all our Athenian lovers sleep, Puck has set things ‘right’. Well, not really right, he’s altered Demetrius’ affections, but it seems to cheer Helena up, so who are we to complain? Theseus arrives with a hunting party, with Hippolyta and Egeus in tow, and disturbs the lovers. Lysander explain what has happened, with Egeus immediately demanding he is punished. However, once Demetrius gives his side of events, Theseus overrules Egeus and commands that the lovers all get married at his ceremony! Hurrah! Hermia says she feels like she’s being seeing things with ‘parted eye’.
Act V Scene I
– Now everything is sorted and now all these rebelling women shut up and become the submissive little angels that they are expected to be. Be outraged feminists!