What does Demetrius do after Hermia leaves, and why is this important to the play (act 3, scene 2)?
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, act 3, scene 2, Hermia runs away from Demetrius in fury, accusing him of having killed Lysander. Demetrius says that there is no point in his “following her in this fierce vein” and, deciding to stay awhile, lies down and sleeps. Oberon then tells Puck that he has made a mistake and orders him to find Helena and bring her to him, while he squeezes the juice of the flower into Demetrius’s eyes so that he will fall in love with her.
Puck does bring Helena, but with Lysander in hot pursuit. Helena is just as furious with him as Hermia was with Demetrius, thinking that he is mocking her by pretending to be in love. When Demetrius awakes, he sees Helena and immediately begins a speech full of similar cloying and conventional sentiment.
O Helena, goddess, nymph, perfect, divine!
To what, my love, shall I compare thine eyne?
Crystal is muddy. O, how ripe in show
Thy lips, those kissing cherries, tempting grow!
Far from effecting a reconciliation, as Oberon intended, this further infuriates Helena, who now assumes that both Lysander and Demetrius have joined in mocking her. Lysander and Demetrius do nothing to remove this impression by squabbling over her, and when Hermia enters, Helena is convinced that she is a part of their cruel joke:
Lo, she is one of this confederacy!
Now I perceive they have conjoin'd all three
To fashion this false sport, in spite of me.
Injurious Hermia! most ungrateful maid!
Have you conspired, have you with these contrived
To bait me with this foul derision?
Although the confusion is now at its height, these events are important in resolving the plot, as the observations of Oberon and Puck allow them to work out the optimal pairing of these four lovers and finally restore Lysander to Hermia and Demetrius to Helena. In the very next scene, everything that has happened here is to seem nothing more than a dream.
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