In A Midsummer Night's Dream, what impression do you get of Hermia and Helena when Demetrius and Lysander both protest their love for Helena?

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robertwilliam eNotes educator| Certified Educator

It's Act 3, Scene 2. Initially Hermia's rage - toward Demetrius - becomes quite clear, though it's nothing to what comes up later on. She ain't such a little princess:

HERMIA (to DEMETRIUS)
Out, dog! out, cur! Thou drivest me past the bounds
Of maiden's patience. Hast thou slain him, then?

Helena's insecurity and self-pity is also obvious from the first...

HELENA:
O spite! O hell! I see you all are bent
To set against me for your merriment...
Can you not hate me, as I know you do,
But you must join in souls to mock me too?

Yet Helena can be extremely manipulative. She chides Hermia for not being worthy of the name of woman:

HELENA (to HERMIA)
It is not friendly, 'tis not maidenly;
Our sex, as well as I, may chide you for it,
Though I alone do feel the injury.

...yet she's not above dropping in a casual insult about Hermia's height. She isn't so innocent either. And Hermia's reaction shows that she really is up for a violent fight:

HERMIA:
How low am I, thou painted maypole? Speak.
How low am I? I am not yet so low
But that my nails can reach unto thine eyes.

And then Helena's manipulativeness comes to the fore, begging the boys - who earlier she thought was joking - to protect her. She really does play the girl card:

HELENA:
I pray you, though you mock me, gentlemen,
Let her not hurt me. I was never curst;
I have no gift at all in shrewishness;
I am a right maid for my cowardice;
Let her not strike me.

Hope it helps!

Read the study guide:
A Midsummer Night's Dream

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