What options does Theseus give Hermia and why in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

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sciftw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Egeus bring his daughter, Hermia, to Theseus because she refuses to marry the man that her father wants her to marry, Demetrius.  Instead Hermia has fallen in love with Lysander and wants to marry him.  Egeus goes to Theseus and asks Theseus to uphold the law and let Egeus put Hermia to death for being a disobedient child.

I beg the ancient privilege of Athens,
As she is mine, I may dispose of her:
Which shall be either to this gentleman
Or to her death, according to our law
Immediately provided in that case.

Instead of immediately pronouncing the death sentence on Hermia, Theseus gives her three options.  First, be killed. Second, marry Demetrius.  The third choice is to become a nun with a vow of celibacy.  

You could look at that as benevolence since Theseus did give an option other than marriage or death.  On the other hand Theseus admits that he believes because of Hermia's beauty that celibacy is way worse than a marriage to Demetrius.  

But earthlier happy is the rose distill'd,
Than that which withering on the virgin thorn
Grows, lives and dies in single blessedness.

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