Lysander

Who is Lysander?

Lysander is initially our number one good guy. He’s one of our four Athenian lovers and enjoys Hermia’s affections at the beginning of the play, much to her papa (Egeus) and Demetrius’ annoyance.

As far as we know he has a virtually identical background to Demetrius, as an Athenian noble in Theseus’ court, but there is a suggestion that Demetrius is at least more connected given that Egeus favours him and Theseus wants to consult with him about his wedding plans.

In contrast to Demetrius’ arrogant attitude towards relationships, Lysander appears to respect Hermia and is willing to risk his privileged position by running off into exile with her when Theseus delivers his judgement on their situation.

Characteristics/Personality

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!

Romantic

Foolish

Kind

Cruel

Relationships

HermiaDemetriusHelenaEgeusTheseus

Hermia

The love of his 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.

However, once bewitched, this magic love makes him act equally foolishly. He now swears his previous state of mind was impaired by love and crushes Hermia by telling her how she makes him sick and he wants nothing to do with her.

Don’t worry though, Puck sets things straight and Hermia doesn’t seem to care about the nasty side of her dream man, after all maybe it was just a dream.

 

Demetrius

Both have the same background and status and on the face of it could be friends. However, they are torn by an argument about who should have Hermia; though the audience is definitely on Lysander’s side as having her father’s favour and not hers is a bit rubbish. They bicker in front of Theseus and both are so arrogant that they are determined to compete for her affections and later Helena’s (after Puck’s meddling). However, once Puck sorts out the love interests they quickly adapt to life as friends and there seems to be no animosity.

They seem to place inverse roles with Demetrius the initial arse who is horrible to the girl who loves him and pursues another relentlessly despite her protests and then Lysander taking up that role after the love juice is administered.

 

Helena

Lysander seems sympathetic to Helena’s plight in the opening scene, possibly just because she is Hermia’s best friend, and tells her about his plan to flee with Hermia to cheer her up as he thinks Demetrius will give up and go back to Helena.

Thanks to Puck’s magic, Lysander ends up besotted with Helena and cannot take no for an answer, pursuing her through the woods. She detests him for what she sees as his mockery toward her. However, by the end they are all friends again.

 

Egeus

We all dread meeting the girlfriend’s dad, but Lysander had a particularly hard time of it. Egeus seems to dislike him for no reason; well, maybe for dating Hermia without his permission and being a bit of a smart ass with his comments. Egeus wants him gone and Lysander makes it worse by insulting him and Demetrius and trying to make them look like fools.

 

Theseus

Okay, Theseus sides with Demetrius in the opening scene, but he basically has to. In a patriarchal society (or world, as it was in the sixteenth-seventeenth century and Classical Athens) a daughter should obey the wishes of her father and the ruler would make sure this was the case. He does seem a little closer with Demetrius as he asks his advice about his wedding, but he doesn’t treat Lysander without respect.

Key Quotations

These are the quotations that have significance to me and would allow my essays to explore my opinions and ideas about Lysander. 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) Egeus – ‘hath bewitch’d the bosom of my child’ – Egeus complains that Lysander has cast a spell on Hermia, a good link between magic and love.

(A1S1) Lysander – ‘You have her father’s love… do you marry him’ – what a card! Lysander puts Demetrius down in style by telling him he should go out with Hermia’s papa.

(A1S1) Lysander – ‘My fortunes every way as fairly rank’d’ – isn’t it unfair? He protests that Egeus has no reason to favour Demetrius.

(A2S2) Lysander – ‘my heart unto yours is knit’, ‘end life when I end loyalty!’ – they’ve just run off into the forest and Lysander is full of charm and commitment for his beloved Hermia.

(A2S2) Lysander to Helena – ‘run through fire I will for thy sweet sake’ – that didn’t take long! The love juice has made Lysander forget his feelings for Hermia and make this absurdly over the top promise to Helena.

(A2S2) Lysander about Hermia – ‘I do repent/The tedious minutes I with her have spent’ – not only has he forgotten her, but he is now being downright nasty about her.

(A2S2) Lysander about Hermia – ‘The deepest loathing to the stomach brings’ – wow! I don’t think I need to explain this one.

(A3S2) Lysander to Helena – ‘I had no judgement when to her I swore’ – love does that to you, or does it? Is this the bewitchment talking or is this sense. Love renders clear judgement obsolete. 

(A3S2) Lysander to Hermia – ‘thou burr! vile thing’; ‘loathed medicine! hated potion’; ‘never did desire to see you more’ – it says a lot about male attitudes that they treat women this way when they don’t want to get in their knickers!

Summary of Involvement

Act IAct IIAct IIIAct IVAct V

Act I Scene I

– Lysander is with Hermia to hear her father’s protest to Theseus. He defends his relationship by pointing out that he’s at the very least the equal of Demetrius in terms of status and wealth. Nice little quip about the fact that Demetrius should enjoy the love of Egeus and also points out Demetrius’ shenanigans with Helena.

– When left alone with Hermia he is the perfect, charming boyfriend. They both lament their situation and the fact that their love is proving so difficult. Lysander hatches a plan to run away and live together with his aunt, away from Athens.

– Shares their plan with Helena, to comfort her. If Hermia is gone, then surely Demetrius will return to Helena’s arms… surely!?

 

Act II Scene II

– Lysander and Hermia seem to have got lost on their way through the woods. As it is night they decide to sleep where they are and continue in the morning. At this point Lysander and Hermia are still sickly sweet to each other.

– However, Puck enters and bewitches Lysander’s eye with the love juice, believing him to be the Athenian man who was being horrible to a girl that Oberon had earlier witnessed and instructed him to rectify. Oh dear!

– As Puck leaves, Demetrius and Helena enter, and Lysander stirs and falls in love with the first thing he sees: Helena! He confesses his ‘love’ for Helena and assures her that his previous affection for Hermia was a period of ‘tedious minutes’. Helena is not impressed and tells him to stop taking the mick, then makes a swift exit. Lysander sees Hermia sleeping and tells her she now brings ‘loathing’ to his stomach when he looks upon her. Nice!

 

Act III Scene II

– Lysander has been pursuing Helena relentlessly with his wooing, but to no avail. He doesn’t seem to understand why she thinks he’s taking the piss and dismisses his love for Hermia as madness. However, by this time Demetrius has also bewitched and awakes to fawn over Helena. Helena takes this all as one big joke and curses them both, Lysander joins her criticism of Demetrius and tells him to stop winding her up.

– Oh no! Hermia enters and confronts Lysander asking him why he abandoned her. Lysander tells her that ‘love press[ed]’ him to go and tells her he loves Helena, while cruelly dismissing her and telling her he hates her. A mirror of the way Demetrius earlier speaks to the persistent Helena when they enter the forest.

– The men decide who gets Helena in a fight. Puck decides it is time to sort out the mess and tricks them away from each other and off to sleep again.

 

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!

 

Act V Scene I

– The lovers are now all happy at the triple wedding ceremony. They proceed to watch Bottom’s play and Lysander offers some cynical analysis and deconstruction of the performances and structuring of their drama.

Author: Mr Sir

Although I've only been teaching Literature since 2011 and did my degree in History, I think that makes me better placed than many Lit teachers to provide notes that make sense and aren't garbled and wrapped up with inaccessible terminology and effluent nonsense. After adventures in Uganda and Uzbekistan, I am now settling down in the Netherlands. However, currently I am just about as unsettled as I have ever been, with a new job, a new baby, a new country and a hundred other things going on! Ask me a question, collaborate or abuse me.

4 thoughts on “Lysander”

  1. So what is the significance of those acts in reference to the character like how can we directly use them in our answers?

    1. Sorry, I don’t quite follow your question. Do you mean: how can you use the personality info in your answers or something else?

      1. Oh well it’s not that important but i was just wondering those excerpts from Acts which u have given specifically those relating with Lysander-summary of involvement- is there any direct use of them in our answers or we can just relate from them wherever needed. If u still don’t get it just leave it(:

      2. Too late, but basically I included them as something that could be quickly accessed for those revising and to include in their own notes where relevant to their ideas. I think they sum up the main aspects of character/theme in relation to each character and are thus good to have to hand in an exam.

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