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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare
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How is love presented by Egeus as controlling in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

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Egeus represents a controlling view of love because he tries to force his daughter to marry Demetrius.

To Egeus, love means telling someone what to do. He loves his daughter, so he knows what’s good for her. He wants her to marry the man he chose, rather than the man she is in love with. When she refuses, he brings her before the king of Athens, Theseus. Theseus basically tells her that she has to do what her father says, or else!

To you your father should be as a god;
One that composed your beauties, yea, and one
To whom you are but as a form in wax
By him imprinted and within his power
To leave the figure or disfigure it.
Demetrius is a worthy gentleman. (Act 1, Scene 1)

The fact that Hermia is in love with Lysander means nothing to either of them. Theseus is in love too. In fact, he is about to get married to Hippolyta. Yet he still orders Hermia to marry Demetrius. This is because in his kingdom, the father gets to choose who the daughter marries. It’s the law and he’s just enforcing it.

As far as Egeus is concerned, she can learn to love Demetrius. He’s a great guy. She responds when Theseus says Demetrius is “worthy” by saying that Lysander is worthy also. Both men try to force Hermia into love, but she won’t have it.

Egeus does not relent. He gets very angry when his daughter tries to run away with Lysander. He also sees Helena with Demetrius.

Enough, enough, my lord; you have enough:
I beg the law, the law, upon his head.
They would have stolen away; they would, Demetrius,
Thereby to have defeated you and me,
You of your wife and me of my consent,
Of my consent that she should be your wife … (Act 4, Scene 1)

Theseus has a different opinion of it. It is time for his wedding, and love is in the air. He decides that love should not be controlling. It should come from the heart. He overrules Egeus, and commands that Hermia will marry whoever she wants.

Although it may seem terrible to us, Egeus's views were actually quite common in those days. A girl was the property of her father until she wed, and then she was the property of her husband. A love-match was rare, and it would have to advance the families politically.

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