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Why does it seem like Egeus thinks the perfect woman would be loyal and obedient?

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mmertenmedberry0 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 30, 2013 at 8:00 PM via web

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Why does it seem like Egeus thinks the perfect woman would be loyal and obedient?

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jalden | College Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted April 18, 2015 at 8:37 PM (Answer #1)

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Because he says so and because he is willing to have his daughter sentenced to death or a nunnery if she continues to disobey him. This was typical of the attitude toward women in Elizabethan and pre-Elizabethan Europe. It is seen in Romeo and Juliet to a devastating degree. Shakespeare contrasts this father/daughter dynamic with other male/female dynamics, all quite different, in Midsummer, one of the greatest relationship plays of all time.

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katwood001 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

Posted July 1, 2015 at 4:02 AM (Answer #2)

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A Midsummer Night's Dream was written for Queen Elizabeth. Because of this, you have to take Egeus' comments with Elizabeth's perspective of women's rights when it comes to marriage. The play itself has a theme running through it discussing law vs love.  

Now Hermia is the embodiment of love. Her father, Egeus, is the embodiment of law. Much of Midsummer Night's Dream has characters that represent concepts and ideas as well as being figures in the play.  

Hermia is obsessed by Lysander. It is an irrational, imaginative fixation that has her father frustrated. (It does not follow traditional reason.)

Egeus is the epitome of law. Demetrius in his opinion is the better match and has the father's blessing. Because of the law, Egeus sees it as his right to control who his daughter marries. This clash ends up with him threatening to put her to death or in a convent.  

Because of Egeus' "Law oriented" character fixation, Hermia should be, in his opinion, Loyal and obedient. But... she isn't. She is headstrong and chooses to go her own way. Egeus, being law, makes the general statement that government would like those that it controls to be loyal and obedient. 

This interplay was Shakespeare's inside joke regarding Elizabeth's choice to be the "Virgin Queen" against the tradition of marrying and putting a man in power. Shakespeare is making the statement that it is impossible for the men in the court and religion to control a headstrong young woman, like Elizabeth. She, like Hermia, ends up getting her way. Egeus is overruled by Theseus (the supreme law of the land) in the end, just like Elizabeth through God retains her throne until her death.  

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