List of Characters
Hermia—a young woman in love with Lysander but ordered by her father to marry Demetrius
Helena—Hermia’s friend from childhood who is in love with Demetrius
Lysander—the youth in love with Hermia
Demetrius—the man chosen by Egeus for his daughter, Hermia, to marry despite her love for Lysander
Egeus—Hermia’s father who insists upon his paternal right to choose her husband
Theseus—the duke of Athens; engaged to Hippolyta
Hippolyta—engaged to Theseus
Philostrate—master of the revel (celebration for Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding)
Nick Bottom (the weaver)—manager of the play-within-a-play and portrays Pyramus in it; becomes the object of Titania’s love
Peter (the carpenter)—author and director of the play-within-the-play
Francis Flute (the bellows mender)—unwillingly plays the role of Thisbe in the play-within-the-play
Tom Snout (the tinker)—portrays a wall in the play-within-the-play
Robin Starveling (the tailor)—portrays the moon in the play-within-the-play
Snug (the joiner)—portrays the lion in the play-within-the-play because he roars well
Oberon—king of the fairies; married to Titania
Titania—queen of the fairies; married to Oberon
Robin Goodfellow (Puck)—a hobgoblin in Oberon’s service
Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Mote, and...
(The entire section is 199 words.)
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Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Theseus (THEE-see-uhs), the duke of Athens, a wise, temperate ruler. Although he mistrusts the fantasy and imagination of “lunatics, lovers, and poets,” he can perceive with good humor the love and duty inspiring the abortive dramatic efforts of his subjects, and he tries to teach his bride and queen, Hippolyta, the value of their good intentions.
Hippolyta (hih-POL-ih-tuh), Theseus’ bride, the queen of the Amazons, the maiden warriors whom he has conquered. She is a woman of regal dignity, less willing than her lord to be tolerant of the faults of Peter Quince’s play, although she is more ready than he to believe the lovers’ description of their night in the forest.
Titania (tih-TAY-nee-uh), the imperious queen of the fairies. She feuds with her husband Oberon over her “little changeling boy,” whom the king wants as his page. Enchanted by Oberon’s flower, “love in idleness,” she becomes enamored of Bottom the Weaver in his ass’s head and dotes on him until her husband takes pity on her and frees her from the spell. She is quickly reconciled with him, and they join in blessing the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta, their favorites among mortals.
Oberon (OH-beh-ron), the king of the...
(The entire section is 734 words.)
Note on the Character Analysis
Note: While the older couples in A Midsummer Night's Dream have greater depth than the Athenian youths and their female mates, none of the characters in this play is truly three-dimensional. True, Theseus presides, but he is absent from the three central acts of the work, while the majestic Oberon and Titania are so caught up in respectively causing and being victimized by the magic at hand that their characters are adumbrated. Above all, lyrical language and imagery is much more important in A Midsummer Night's Dream than in virtually any of Shakespeare's other works, including his other early comedies.
(The entire section is 100 words.)
Nick Bottom, the weaver, first appears in I.ii, with the other mechanicals, or clowns (Quince, Snug, Flute, Snout, and Starveling), as they are sometimes called. It is often noted that the mechanicals' names reflect their work. "Bottom," critics explain, refers to the bottom, or skein, around which yarn is wound. Bottom directs Quince to tell the group which play they will be performing and to tell everyone which parts they will be playing. Quince assigns the role of Pyramus to Bottom. Bottom seems enthusiastic about playing this part, and he volunteers also to play the role of Thisby and that of the lion. Quince convinces him, however, that he "can play no part but Pyramus" (I.ii.85).
Bottom appears again in III.i as the group of mechanicals gathers in the wood to rehearse. He tells Quince that the play needs a prologue to explain that the dangers in the play (Pyramus drawing his sword to kill himself, and the lion) are not real. After the group decides that the moonshine by which Pyramus and Thisby meet and the wall which separates the lovers must be played by people, the group proceeds with their rehearsal. Bottom bungles his first line, and Quince corrects him. Flute, playing Thisby to Bottom's Pyramus, doesn't do much better, to Quince's dismay. Puck, who has been watching, intervenes to change Bottom's head into the head of an ass. When the others see this, they run off, frightened. Bottom thinks they are playing a trick on him, trying to scare him,...
(The entire section is 934 words.)
Demetrius (Character Analysis)
Demetrius first appears in I.i with Egeus, Hermia, and Lysander. Egeus speaks highly of Demetrius, calling him "my noble lord" (I.i.24), and telling Theseus that it is Demetrius who has his consent to marry Hermia, Egeus's daughter. After Hermia has expressed her desire to marry Lysander, and the duke has outlined her choices (death, nunnery, or marriage to Demetrius), Demetrius asks Hermia to ''Relent'' and Lysander to ''yield / Thy crazed title to my certain right" (I.i.91-92). Lysander replies that Demetrius has in fact "Made love to … Helena, / And won her soul" (I.i.107-08). Theseus admits that he had heard of this and meant to speak to Demetrius about it. Nevertheless, he holds Hermia to her father's will. It is not clear why Demetrius transferred his affections from Helena to Hermia, but Helena seems obsessed with getting him back.
When Demetrius learns from Helena of Hermia's and Lysander's plans, he pursues his beloved, and Helena pursues him. Oberon overhears the conversation between Helena and Demetrius in which she repeatedly professes her love for him. After Demetrius discourages her, he runs off. Oberon then reveals his plan to have Puck anoint Demetrius's eyes with the love juice, so that Demetrius will return Helena's love. Puck instead finds Lysander and puts the juice of the flower on his eyes. As it happens, Helena, who has been chasing Demetrius but can pursue no longer, comes upon Lysander and wakes him. Lysander then falls in love...
(The entire section is 516 words.)
Helena (Character Analysis)
In the first scene of the play, we are introduced to Helena's problem: she desperately loves Demetrius, but he is in love with her friend Hermia. Both Lysander and Helena herself reveal that Demetrius was at one time involved with Helena. Lysander tells Theseus that Demetrius "Made love to … Helena, / And won her soul" (I.i.107-08). Helena says that before Demetrius looked upon Hermia, "He hail'd down oaths that he was only mine" (I.i.242-43). In an attempt to win back some of Demetrius's affection, Helena tells him of Hermia's plan to meet in the wood and elope with Lysander. According to Helena's plan, Demetrius pursues Hermia, and Helena follows Demetrius. Continuing to scorn her, Demetrius runs off. In the midst of her pursuit, Helena comes upon the sleeping Lysander, who has mistakenly been anointed with the love juice by Puck. When Lysander wakes up and sees Helena, he falls in love with her instantly. Meanwhile, Demetrius has also been affected by the love potion and also falls in love with Helena. As the two men vie for Helena's attention, Hermia appears and is completely confused by Lysander's sudden scorn of her. Seeing all this, Helena becomes convinced that the others are mocking her. She asks Hermia if she has forgotten their friendship (III.ii.201-02), apparently forgetting that she herself betrayed the friendship by revealing Hermia's plans to Demetrius. Soon, however, Puck and Oberon rectify the situation by reversing the affect of the love juice on...
(The entire section is 417 words.)
Hermia (Character Analysis)
Hermia's dilemma is introduced early in the first scene of the play, as her father Egeus complains to the duke that she refuses to marry Demetrius. She maintains that she is in love with Lysander, who she argues is as worthy as Demetrius. Claiming that she does not know "by what power I am made bold'' (I.i.59), she asks Theseus what will happen to her if she does not comply with her father's wishes by marrying Demetrius. Theseus gives her two options: death or lifelong imprisonment in a nunnery. Remarking that she would rather live in a convent all her life than be with Demetrius, Hermia remains constant in her love of Lysander, and later quickly agrees to his plan to escape Athens and elope. As they are discussing this plan, Helena appears, lamenting that Demetrius loves Hermia. Hermia tells her friend to "Take comfort; he no more shall see my face; / Lysander and myself will fly from this place" (I.i.202-03). Helena uses this information in an attempt to gain favor with Demetrius.
When Lysander and Hermia become lost in the woods, he suggests they stop and rest, and Hermia virtuously insists that they do not lie next to one another. She awakens calling out to Lysander after dreaming that "a serpent eat [ate] my heart away, / And you sate smiling at his cruel prey" (II.ii.149-50). When Lysander does not answer, Hermia fears the worst and sets out to find him. When she does, she is confused to find that he claims love for Helena and hatred of her. She...
(The entire section is 486 words.)
Hippolyta (Character Analysis)
The play opens as Hippolyta and Theseus are discussing their upcoming marriage. Theseus comments that he
woo'd thee [Hippolyta] with my sword,
And won thy love doing thee injuries;
But I will wed thee in another key,
With pomp, with triumph, and with revelling.
Theseus is referring to the fact that he conquered Hippolyta in his war with the Amazons. Hippolyta's only lines in this act are in response to Theseus's comment that they will be wed in "Four happy days" (I.i.2). She says simply, in a few lines, that the time will pass quickly. Hippolyta does not appear again until IV.i. She accompanies Theseus and others on a hunt in the wood, and she fondly remembers a moment from her past as queen of the Amazons when she was hunting "with Hercules and Cadmus" (IV.i.112). She comments on the musical quality of the baying of the hounds on that hunt, that she had "never heard / So musical a discord, such sweet thunder" (IV.i.116-17). Theseus then praises his own hounds, when Egeus stumbles upon the four sleeping young lovers.
Hippolyta appears again in Act V, first discussing with Theseus the story of the young lovers, commenting that it was "strange and admirable" (V.i.27). During the performance of "Pyramus and Thisby," Hippolyta makes various remarks throughout the play, sometimes scoffing ("This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard'' [V.i.210]) and sometimes...
(The entire section is 393 words.)
Lysander (Character Analysis)
Lysander first appears in I.i with his love Hermia, her father Egeus, and his competitor for Hermia's love, Demetrius. Egeus accuses Lysander of bewitching his daughter, of writing poems for her, exchanging love tokens with her, singing to her by moonlight at her window. After Hermia is given the choice of death or imprisonment in a convent if she refuses to marry Demetrius, Lysander pleads his own worth to Egeus: ''I am, my lord, as well deriv'd as he, / As well possess'd; my love is more than his; / My fortunes every way as fairly rank'd" (I.i.99-101). Furthermore, he accuses Demetrius of having an affair with Helena, in order to demonstrate Demetrius's inconsistency. None of this changes Egeus's mind or Theseus's decision. Lysander then proposes to Hermia that they flee Athenian law and secretly elope, and Hermia agrees to the plan.
After losing their way in the wood, Lysander suggests to Hermia that they stop and rest and tries to convince Hermia to let him lie next to her: "One turf shall serve as pillow for us both, / One heart, one bed, two bosoms, and one troth" (I.ii.41-42). Hermia virtuously denies him this, so they sleep some ways apart from each other. At this point Puck appears and, mistaking Lysander for Demetrius, squeezes the juice of the flower on his eyes. When Helena, pausing in her pursuit of Demetrius, happens upon Lysander, she wakes him and he falls in love with her. Confused, she flees and he follows. Meanwhile, Demetrius has also...
(The entire section is 497 words.)
Oberon (Character Analysis)
Oberon, the king of the fairies, first appears in II.ii. He is arguing with his queen, Titania, over a changeling (a child exchanged by fairies for another) who she possesses and he desires. When she refuses to give up the changeling, Oberon devises a plan to steal it from her. He sends Puck off to find a certain flower whose juices, when squeezed on the eyes of Titania, will make her fall in love with the next creature she sees. Oberon plans to take the child when Titania is so spellbound. After outlining this plan, Oberon observes Helena's pursuit of Demetrius and his scornful dismissal of her. Oberon decides to use the flower to make Demetrius love Helena, and instructs Puck to find a man wearing Athenian garments (Demetrius) and place the flower's juice on his eyes. Meanwhile, Oberon finds the sleeping Titania and squeezes the flower on her eyelids, hoping that she will ''Wake when some vile thing is near" (II.ii.34).
Oberon next appears in III.ii. He listens to Puck's report: Titania has fallen in love with a "monster" (III.ii.6) whom Puck has created. Puck then relates the tale of how he came upon Bottom and the others, and how he transformed Bottom. When asked about the Athenian, Puck replies that he has taken care of him as well. But Puck and Oberon almost immediately learn that Puck has not anointed Demetrius. Oberon resolves to fix the situation by placing some of the love juice on Demetrius's eyes. The four lovers together, Oberon sees...
(The entire section is 583 words.)
Puck (Character Analysis)
Puck, a sprite also known as Robin Goodfellow, first appears in II.ii as he and a fairy discuss the troubles Oberon and Titania are having. The fairy gives us some indication of Puck's character as she describes how Puck "frights the maidens of the villagery" (II.ii.35) among other activities. When Titania refuses to give up the changeling Oberon wants, he comes up with a plan to steal the child, and enlists Puck's aid in doing so. Puck's first task is to retrieve the very special flower, which he does quickly. Meanwhile, Oberon has learned of the trouble between Demetrius and Helena, and he instructs Puck to use some of the flower on Demetrius (described as wearing Athenian clothes) so that he may return Helena's love. But Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius, and puts the juice on his eyes. Soon after, Puck comes upon Bottom, Quince, and the other mechanicals, who are rehearsing their play. He changes Bottom's head into that of an ass, thereby scaring away the other members of the company, who he then proceeds to taunt and chase through the wood. Before long, Bottom and Titania find each other, and Puck reports all of this to Oberon in III.ii.
At this time, Puck's error (his mistaking Lysander for Demetrius) is revealed, and Oberon decides to place the juice of the flower on Demetrius's eyes to rectify the situation. Puck is instructed to lead Helena toward Demetrius, which he does, and Lysander (now in love with Helena) follows. Puck is delighted at...
(The entire section is 540 words.)
Theseus (Character Analysis)
The play opens as Theseus and his bride-to-be, Hippolyta, are discussing their upcoming marriage. Theseus comments that he ''woo'd thee [Hippolyta] with my sword, / And won thy love doing thee injuries" (I.i.16-17), referring to the fact that he conquered Hippolyta in his war with the Amazons. But now they are to be married, and their discussion is interrupted by Egeus, who comes to Theseus for help in sorting out the affairs concerning Egeus's daughter, Hermia. After hearing Egeus present his case, he points out to Hermia that she should be obedient to her father and that Demetrius "is a worthy gentleman" (I.i.52). Hermia asks Theseus how the law will affect her if she refuses to marry Demetrius, and Theseus outlines her options: death, or lifelong confinement to a nunnery. He advises her to abide by her father's wishes but gives her several days to make her decision.
Theseus does not appear again until IV.i, when he, Hippolyta, and Egeus find the four young lovers in the wood. When Theseus hears what they have to say and after Egeus demands that Lysander be punished for his attempted elopement of Hermia, Theseus announces that the couples will be married alongside him and Hippolyta. He goes back on his earlier decision to support Egeus in trying to force Hermia to marry Demetrius. As for Egeus's request that Lysander be punished, Theseus simply says, "Egeus, I will overbear your will" (IV.i.179).
As the last act opens, Theseus and Hippolyta...
(The entire section is 754 words.)
Other Characters (Descriptions)
Attendants appear in several scenes during the play, and are sometimes mentioned in the stage directions as "others" or as Theseus's train. In IV.i, Theseus addresses attendants directly, instructing them to do various tasks. The attendants have no speaking parts.
Cobweb is one of Titania's fairies. Cobweb is introduced to Bottom in III.i, and in IV.i, Bottom instructs Cobweb to kill a bumble bee and retrieve its "honey-bag" (IV.i.10-13).
Duke of Athens (Theseus, Duke of Athens)
Egeus is Hermia's father. He appears in I.i, complaining to Theseus that his daughter will not marry Demetrius. Egeus explains to the duke that Lysander has "bewitch'd'' (I.i.27) Hermia with his poetry and his moonlight serenades, among other things. Finally, Egeus comes to the point and makes his request of Theseus: "As she is mine," Egeus says, "I may dispose of her; / Which shall be either to this gentleman [Demetrius], / Or to her death, according to our law … " (I.i.42-44). After Theseus gives Hermia another option, to enter a nunnery, he suggests she follow her father's wishes and marry Demetrius. Later, in the company of Theseus and Hippolyta, Egeus finds his daughter sleeping in the wood. Nearby are Lysander, Demetrius, and Helena. When Lysander awakens and confesses that he and Hermia were in the process of fleeing Athens to elope, Egeus demands that Lysander...
(The entire section is 2265 words.)