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Character Relationships in A Midsummer Night's Dream

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  • 0:04 All About Relationships
  • 0:36 Oberon and Titania
  • 1:44 Theseus and Hippolyta
  • 2:32 Lysander and Hermia
  • 3:47 Demetrius and Helena
  • 5:01 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Summer Stewart

Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

In William Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream,' the relationships between Oberon and Titania, Theseus and Hippolyta, Lysander and Hermia, and Demetrius and Helena move the play forward. In this lesson, we're going to learn more about these couples.

All About Relationships

If there is anything going on at the core of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, it's relationships. While there are a dozen ways to interconnect the relationships in the play, we are going to focus on the main relationships between Oberon and Titania, Theseus and Hippolyta, Lysander and Hermia, and Demetrius and Helena. These four couples deal with heartache, bickering, pining, and other factors surrounding love. Let's look at each of these relationships to get a better understanding of how they work within the play.

Oberon and Titania

Oberon and Titania are the royalty of the play. Oberon is the fairy king and Titania is the fairy queen. Throughout much of the play, the couple is bickering over a young changeling boy that Titania wants to keep as her own, while her husband wants to enlist him as a private page.

Through their fighting, we learn that Oberon and Titania have a bit of an open relationship. When Oberon implores Titania to spend time with him, she reminds him of his affairs and says, ''But I know/ When thou hast stolen away from fairy land,/ And in the shape of Corin sat all day…'' Their relationship definitely isn't normal by traditional standards. Not to mention, it seems that their fighting is mainly due to a fierce stubbornness on both of their parts.

When Titania refuses to give into Oberon's wishes, he decides to get back at her by drugging her with a love potion that causes her to fall in love with the first thing she sees. It ends up being Nick Bottom, who has been turned into a donkey from the head up. During this time, Oberon gets a real laugh out of the situation before stealing away the young boy Titania wanted to keep.

Theseus and Hippolyta

The relationship between Theseus and Hippolyta is one that was created out of force. Theseus defeated the Amazons, a society ruled by women, and took their queen, Hippolyta, as his wife. We learn this when Theseus says, ''Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword/ And won thy love doing thee injuries…'' Theseus honestly thinks that he has wooed Hippolyta by taking her using brute force!

The relationship between Theseus and Hippolyta serves as a good example of gender roles and expectations in society. Since Theseus overturned a female-dominated society and took their queen by force, it demonstrates that society believes that men should be in the dominant role, while women should hold a less powerful position. Moreover, women serve as tools and spoils of war.

Lysander and Hermia

The love between Lysander and Hermia seems the most real in the play. Lysander woos Hermia with trinkets and love songs. The two are inseparable, except for one little problem: Hermia's father has arranged her to be married to Demetrius. In fact, Egeus, Hermia's father, insists that Lysander ''hath bewitch'd the bosom'' of Hermia. In other words, he has used love to trick her into being disobedient.

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