A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

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What does Helena accuse Hermia of in Act 3, Scene 2 of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream ?

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Helena awakens in this scene to find Lysander and Demetrius both madly in love with her. Helena has no way of knowing this is due to Puck having dropped a love potion into their eyes, so she naturally thinks it is incredible that both men could have had such a deep and radical change of heart.

She accuses Hermia of participating with Lysander and Demetrius to play a cruel joke on her. She believes the two men are pretending to be in love with her. She thinks that Hermia is going along with the act. Helena's surmise makes sense, as the men's words seem exaggerated and over-the-top, as well as out of character.

Glancing back poignantly at the long friendship she has shared with Hermia, Helena feels especially betrayed by what she thinks is her friend's mockery. In a parallel with Titania's friendship with the recently deceased mortal mother of the young Indian boy, Helena asserts the special value of female friendship. Women, she says, should stick together and not join with men in turning against and ridiculing other women. She is surprised and hurt at Hermia's actions.

In normal circumstances, Helena's reading of the scenario would be correct, but not on this unusual night. Hermia is loyal to her friend and not participating in a cruel joke. She does understand, as Helena does not, that the two men are in love with Helena.

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Act 3, Scene 2, Helena accuses Hermia of conspiring with both Lysander and Demetrius in mocking her. In other words, Helena does not believe that either Lysander or Demetrius are being sincere when they proclaim they love her. Helena believes they are both doing it to mock her, meaning to make fun of her in a very hateful and mean-spirited manner. Furthermore, Helena believes that Hermia is in on the joke and is also making fun of her, as we see in Helena's lines:

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. (III.ii.195-197)

Not only does Helena accuse Hermia of conspiring with Lysander and Demetrius to hatefully make fun of her, she also accuses Hermia of forgetting their childhood friendship. She demands of Hermia how she could have forgotten all the hours they spent together sharing everything, "As if our hands, our sides, voices, and minds / Had been incorporate" (210-211). At the end of her accusation speech, Helena asks Hermia how she could allow herself to break up their precious friendship "[t]o join with men in scorning [her] poor friend?" (219). By "scorn," Helena means showing contempt or hatred. Therefore, Helena is accusing Hermia of joining forces with both the men to mock Helena, thereby showing Helena hatred and contempt and breaking up their friendship.

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