Discuss the gender issue in A Midsummer Night's Dream.List some instances of Shakespeare's sympathy for women in the play?

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bigdreams1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator


Shakespeare showed us the plight of women in a patriarchal society by showing us the anguish they went through after the men around them either dominated or took advantage of them.

Let's start with Hippolyta. She was the Queen of the Amazons...a ruler in her own right...and yet she was kidnapped and forced to wed the Duke of Athens as part of the spoils of war. She had to give up her power and control and bend to the will of a more powerful man.

With Hermia, we see a girl forced (by law) to marry a man that her father (Egeus) chose for her. She tries to plead her case before the Duke, but her voice is lost when the Duke invokes the law and tells her she either has to obey the will of her father, be put to death, be banished, or join a convent. Lost and upset, she is left to run away with her true love and face dangers in the forest in order to have the life she wants.

Helena is unkindly played by Demetrius. First He woos her with jewelry and gifts, but when a better opportunity comes along (Hermia) he dumps her and chases a new target. When Helena tries to get him back, he throws insults at her and leaves her in tears.

Even the fairy king, Oberon, takes advantage of his queen Titania. They both want the changeling child, but he resorts to magic to trick her. By putting the love potion on her eyes, and making her fall in love with an ass, he humiliates her...steals the child...and gets his way.

However, it is through Oberon that we also have a heart for the spurned Helena and the sad Hermia. Oberon can't take Helena's tears, so he asks Puck to put the love potion on the eyes of the man she wants so she will be out of her misery.

And at the end of the play, Oberon gets everyone back with the person they love for a happy ending, despite the suffering the women have had.

Read the study guide:
A Midsummer Night's Dream

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