How can I write an analysis about the relationship between Helena and Demetrius in Act 2, Scene 1 of A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare?

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meg526 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Part of the fun of writing a literary analysis is choosing the approach you wish to take. You could choose a reader response analysis, discussing your impressions of the work, a feminist critique, discussing the representation of women in the piece, or even a historical analysis, discussing why Shakespeare used Ancient Greece as the setting for this love triangle. 

Let's look at the context of the interaction between Demetrius and Helena. Helena, named as an allusion to Helen of Troy, has been in love with Demetrius for a long time, but Demetrius doesn't return her affection. Demetrius insults and humiliates Helena, even threatening to assault her if she does not leave him alone:

You do impeach your modesty too much
To leave the city and commit yourself
Into the hands of one that loves you not;
To trust the opportunity of night,
And the ill counsel of a desert place,
With the rich worth of your virginity (Act 2, Scene 1, line 218).

The fairy king, Oberon, overhears their interaction, and he feels sorry for Helena, calling Demetrius a "disdainful youth" (line 266). Oberon decides to give Demetrius a love potion that will make him love Helena even more than she loves him (line 271).

Given the content of the scene, one angle for analysis would be the idea of virtue. What is virtuous behavior? How do Helena and Demetrius exemplify or go against virtuous behavior? Another angle would be to examine how the interplay of fairy and human relationships compare and contrast. Why does Shakespeare have fairies meddling in human affairs?

Read the study guide:
A Midsummer Night's Dream

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