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The powerlessness of the women in A Midsummer Night's Dream and the women in that society comes from the laws that made female daughters utterly subservient to the wishes of their father or guardian, and wives to their husbands. Shakespeare relies on this custom in the opening scenes of the play to show the antagonistic, restrictive atmosphere from which true love, embodied by Hermia and Lysander, seeks to escape, leading to the actions of the rest of the play. The powerlessness of Helena over her own feelings for Demetrius, who, no matter what she does, spurns her, is an example of another kind of powerlessness that not only she, but all the lovers, male and female, experience in the play, the purpose of which is to show how little control any of us have in the face of romantic passion. Titania, a woman fairy and Queen, is not portrayed as powerless at all, and yet she succumbs to Oberon, albeit through trickery, which tells us that, through the manipulation of passion, here created by the magic of Puck's flower, she also is rendered powerless. We might interpret A Midsummer Night's Dream as suggesting that all people are essentially powerless in the face of tempestuous emotions, most particularly the emotion of romantic passion.
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