Why is Egeus angry with his daughter in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

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pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Egeus is a man of Athens.  He is angry with his daughter, Hermia, because she does not want to marry Demetrius.  He has arranged for the two of them to get married, but she does not want to marry Demetrius.  Instead, she is in love with Lysander.

She will soon run away with Lysander into the forest.  She does this because both her father and the ruler of Athens tell her she must marry Demetrius.

Once the two of them, plus Demetrius and Helena, are in the forest, the main part of the play can begin.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Egeus is a nobleman of Athens who becomes angry with his daughter, Hermia, because she is not obedient to him. While his wish is that his daughter marry Demetrius—who, despite having once loved Helena, does truly love Hermia—Hermia does not love Demetrius. Instead, she is in love with Lysander. In his anger, Egeus marches into the court of Theseus, Duke of Athens, and requests that his will be obeyed or the "ancient privilege of Athens" be evoked against his daughter:

As she is mine, I may dispose of her;
Which shall be either to this gentleman [Demetrius]
Or to her death, according to our law
Immediately provided in that case. (1.1.42-45)

When Hermia responds to this demand by saying that she wishes her father "looked but with my eyes," she also declares that she will not yield to her father's wish—"My soul consents not to give sovereignty" (1.1.84). Nevertheless, she is told by the duke that she must comply with her father's desires or she will suffer the consequences of death or of having to "adjure/Forever the society of men" (1.1.67-68) by becoming a nun.

Hoping to escape the patriarchal matchmaking of Egeus, Hermia and Lysander decide to elope. Before running off, Hermia informs her friend Helena what she is about to do. Helena follows them, desiring to regain Lysander, who once loved her. A number of complications result as the human world conflicts with the fairy world in the woods, but eventually all is made right.

At the end of the play, Egeus learns that Lysander and Hermia tried to flee Athens. Irate, he insists the couples should be punished. However, Theseus tells Egeus,

I will overbear your will,
For in the temple, by and by with us,
These couples shall eternally be knit [married].....
Away with us to Athens....
We'll hold a feast in great solemnity....(5.1.170-174)

Later, Theseus degrees that Demetrius and Helena are finally married, as are Lysander and Hermia.

Sources:
Wiggin42's profile pic

Wiggin42 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Valedictorian

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Egeus is Hermia's father. He wants his daughter to marry Demetrius because he finds favor in him and because it would be a good economic match for his daughter. However, Hermia is in love with Lysander and does not wish to marry Demetrius. In anger, Egeus goes to Theseus to convince his daughter to marry Demetrius.