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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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Hermia's desires and conflicts in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Summary:

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hermia desires to marry Lysander, defying her father Egeus's wish for her to marry Demetrius. Her conflict lies in choosing between obeying her father's command, which could lead to her death or a nunnery, and following her heart, risking societal and familial disapproval.

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What are Hermia's desires in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

One of Hermia's wants is to have her father respect Lysander as she does. We see her exhibit this want in the very opening scene. Her strong desire to have Lysander respected makes her bold enough to argue Lysander's worth before Duke Theseus. When Theseus argues in Hermia's father's favor, saying that "Demetrius is a worthy gentleman," Hermia boldly responds with one line, "So is Lysander," showing us just how much Hermia wants her father to respect Lysander (I.i.53, 54).

Another one of her wants is the ability to marry Lysander without interference or judgement, as we see when she agrees to run away with him out of Athens to his aunt's house.

A third wish that we can attribute to Hermia is the desire for Demetrius to stop pursuing her. After Lysander has disappeared in the woods, and Hermia begs Demetrius to tell her where he is, Demetrius asks what reward he will get for doing that. Hermia best relays her hatred for Demetrius and her wish to be left alone by him in her reply that what he will get as a reword is:

A privilege, never to see me more.
And from thy hated presence part I so;
See me no more, whether he be dead or no. (III.ii.80-82)

Hence, we see that most of Hermia's wishes and desires in this play revolve around her love for Lysander and wanting to marry him instead of Demetrius.

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What is Hermia's main conflict in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

While Shakespeare purposefully does not attribute any truly unique characteristics to Hermia's personality nor any of the other related characters in this aspect of the play, there are a few personality traits that can be identified.  First of all, she is bold and blunt and willing to rebel against her father's wishes in order to be with the man she loves.  Her pent up frustrations over having a father who is stubborn and unwilling to acknowledge her own wants and needs may have lead her to develop this strong, rebellious personality.  Hermia is not afraid to speak her mind, even to Lysander who is to be her husband.  She tells him straightforwardly that she does not wish to lie near him in the woods in order to remain virtuous and pure until their wedding night.

Based on Hermia's behavior throughout the play, one may develop the idea that she is haughty and perhaps even a little spoiled.  She wants things to go her way and she will do whatever it takes to ensure that they do.  Hermia's "complex" may be that she believes she is entitled to what she wants or that she is rebelling against a paternal figure who has suppressed her desires and has led her to fight harder for what she wants.

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What was the conflict involving Hermia's disobedience to her father in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

Hermia is in love with Lysander and they want to be married. Hermia's father wants her to marry Demetrius, who has fallen in love with her and been given her father's consent to marry her. The law in Athens stated that a father had the right of life or death over his daughter and could have her killed if she disobeyed him. As she refuses to marry her father's choice of husband for her, her father brings her before the Duke of Athens and asks that she be put to death. The Duke offers another option for her besides death and that is to enter a nunnery forever. Hermia must choose between three hateful options.

This is the conflict that sets the events of the play in motion.

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How does Hermia defy her father in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

The plot of this excellent comedy is started or initiated by the way in which Hermia defies her father. In Act I scene 1 of the play, we are introduced to the main Athenian characters and the issue that has provoked Egeus, Hermia's father, so sorely. He craves an audience with Theseus, the Duke of Athens, because of the way his daughter is defying him. Hermia, although she knows that her father wants her to marry Demetrius, is refusing to comply with his wishes, and actually wants to marry Lysander. Note what Egeus says about Lysander:

With cunning hast thou filched my daughter's heart,

Turned her obedience, which is due to me,

To stubborn harshness.

Thus Hermia is defying Egeus in refusing to marry the man that he wants her to, and insisting on marrying the man whom she loves. How this problem will be resolved will occupy the rest of the play.

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