Please comment upon the dream of Hermia in Act Two.William Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In Act II, scene 2 of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," Hermia and Lysander become tired; while Lysander tells Hermia,

One turf shall serve as pillow for us both;/One heart, one bed, two bosoms, and one troth (II,ii,44-45)

However, Hermia, ironically, insists that they sleep separated "for her sake."  Of course, Puck, who is following Oberon's plan of revenge upon Titania, enters as they are asleep, placing nectar upon Lysander's eyes so that when he awakens, he will fall in love with the first person he sees.  In scenes like this one, Shakespeare alters the cadence of his language, making it more song-like.  Spells were often sung on the stage as they were written in pentameter couplets or free forms that were easily put to music.

Interestingly, as well, is the fact that the women are passive in this scene, with men performing all the action.  For instance, Lysander is anointed with Oberon and Puck effecting this action.  But, Hermania remains in her spot, and Helena, who enters with Demetrius, simply begs him to stop chasing her. As she stops to catch her breath, she bends and awakens Lysander who then falls in love with her, an act in which she only has a passive role.

When Hermia awakens, she screams for Lysander to help her to pluck" this crawling serpent from my breast" (II,ii,148) instead of trying herself.  In her dream she has seen Lysander smiling sadistically as it eats her heart. And, when Lysander is not present, the portents of Hermia's dream seem most ominous, pointing to the illusions and superficiality of the love of the young people as well as the passivity of the female characters.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Hermia, lying in the forest near Lysander, dreams of a snake eating her heart.  In the dream, Lysander does nothing to stop the snake.

As Hermia sleeps, Puck anoints Lysander's eyes.  When Lysander awakes, he sees Helena, falls in love, and pursues her, leaving Hermia sleeping.

The dream can be interpreted in many ways.  Here are two:

You can say that the snake stands for betrayal and duplicity.  In this argument, you can say that this is referring to how she will awake and find that Lysander no longer loves her but loves Helena instead.

Freudian interpretations of the dream emphasize the snake as a phallic symbol and talk about Hermia's sexual desires.

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fir23 | (Level 2) eNoter

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