In A Midsummer Night's Dream, what is an example of an internal conflict, and who is involved with that conflict? 

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sciftw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An internal conflict is a conflict that takes place within a character.  It is also commonly referred to as a man vs. self conflict.  The previous post has a good example of an internal conflict from this play, so I'd like to add a different conflict.  

Act 1, Scene 1 introduces readers to an internal conflict of Helena's.  Readers are told that Hermia loves Lysander, and Demetrius loves Hermia, but Helena loves Demetrius.  It's a bit more complex than the standard love triangle.  Hermia's father would like her to marry Demetrius, but she and Lysander are in love with each other.  They decide to run away together; however, they make the mistake of telling Helena about the plan. 

And in the wood, where often you and I
Upon faint primrose-beds were wont to lie,
Emptying our bosoms of their counsel sweet,
There my Lysander and myself shall meet;

Here is where the internal conflict comes in.  Helena is torn.  On one hand, Hermia is her friend, and she wants her to be happy.  On the other hand, Helena wants to do whatever it takes to win the affections of Demetrius.  Helena debates about whether or not she should tell Demetrius about Hermia and Lysander.  If she does tell him, then he is likely to go running off after Hermia.  She would be betraying Hermia's trust.  On the other hand, Helena reasons that Demetrius will have to be thankful toward her about her news.  She is hoping that will perhaps allow him to take more notice of her.  

I will go tell him of fair Hermia's flight:
Then to the wood will he to-morrow night
Pursue her; and for this intelligence
If I have thanks, it is a dear expense:


litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An internal conflict is Hermia’s decision of whether or not to marry Demetrius.

An internal conflict is a character vs. self conflict, or a decision a character has to make.  May internal conflicts originate from external conflicts, or conflicts with other characters or society.

This is Hermia’s conflict.  She has been ordered to marry Demetrius, even though she loves Lysander.  She has to make a choice.  This choice is driven by two main external conflicts: her conflict with her father, and her conflict with society.  Her father Egeus has demanded that she marry Demetrius and she has no choice in the matter.  He has the power to do this because Athenian law says she has to obey her father.

Theseus, Duke of Athens, informs Hermia that to her, her father “should be as a god” and since “Demetrius is a worthy gentleman,” she should not argue (1:1).  Hermia asks him what will happen to her if she disobeys him.  He is blunt with her.

Either to die the death, or to abjure

For ever the society of men. (1:1)

He tells Hermia to think carefully and make up her mind.  She has to decide whether to die, marry Demetrius, or become a nun.  In the end, Lysander gives her another choice: run away with him.  That is the choice she makes—or tries to.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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