Illustration of a donkey-headed musician in between two white trees

A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

Start Free Trial

Discussion Topic

Hermia's responses to Lysander's actions in the forest reveal significant aspects of her character

Summary:

Hermia's responses to Lysander's actions in the forest reveal her loyalty, determination, and strong sense of self. When Lysander suggests they sleep close together, she firmly maintains her chastity, demonstrating her moral integrity and independence. Her reactions highlight her deep commitment to her values and her love for Lysander, showcasing her as a strong and principled character.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What does Hermia's response to Lysander's forest sleep proposal reveal about her?

It tells us that, although she may be highly unconventional in some respects, there are limits to her transgressions. Hermia is deeply in love with Lysander and doesn't want to consummate that love until they are married. The main reason why she chose to run off with Lysander to the forest in the first place was because she wouldn't have been able to marry him back in Athens due to her father's disapproval.

For his part, Lysander insists that his intentions are honorable. He simply wants to sleep by Hermia's side. But Hermia doesn't want to take any chances, so she insists that Lysander sleep apart from her in order to preserve their modesty. This tells us that Hermia is clearly a virtuous woman by the standards of her day, and she takes her virtue very seriously indeed.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What does Hermia's response to Lysander's forest sleep proposal reveal about her?

This question depends heavily on the chosen subtext that the director choses for Hermia in this scene in Act II Scene 2. Certainly the words she says suggest that her refusing to sleep too close to Lysander shows that she is a modest and respectful woman, not wishing to violate the rules of her society and culture. However, a director could chose to have Hermia deliver those lines in a much more flirtatious way through use of body language and tone of voice to present a character who is using her sexuality to lead Lysander on and play with him.

But gentle friend, for love and courtesy

Lie further off, in human modesty;

Such separation, as may well be said,

Becomes a virtuous bachelor, and a maid,

So far be distant, and good night sweet friend;

Thy love ne'er alter, till thy sweet life end.

So you need to ask yourself how, if you were the director, you would direct Hermia in this scene. It all comes back to the question of subtext and how you interpret it.

Last Updated on
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

What does Hermia's response reveal when Lysander falls in love with Helena?

In Act 3, sc. 2, Hermia discovers that Lysander professes to love Helena.  He says he no longer loves, and even dispises, Hermia.  She is dumbfounded. She says, "You speak not as you think. It cannot be."  This tells us that she was sure of Lysander's love for her.  Apparently Lysander had convinced her without doubt that he loved her before he awoke with the juice of Oberon's magic flower on his eyes.  When Helena accuses Hermia of joining with Lysander and Demetrius to make fun of her by having the two men proclaim love for her, Hermia is again completely perplexed and says, "I am amazed at your words." Continually through the conversation that is going among the four lovers, Hermia asks the essential question of how it is possible that Lysander now professes to love Helena.  Hermia's confusion again attests to the fact that she had felt secure in Lysander's affections.  Then, rather than get angry with Lysander for his changing of affections, she turns on Helena and accuses her of using her feminine wiles, along with her height, to lure Lysander.  This tells us that Hermia does love Lysander.  Hermia doesn't ever stop professing love for him, so she, unlike him and Demetrius, is constant in her love.  When Robin says, "Lord, what fools these mortals be!", he isn't just talking about Bottom and his troupe.  The fickleness of Lysander and Demetrius is meant to show foolishness, too.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on