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Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream: Character Traits & Analysis

Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

In this lesson, we will examine Demetrius in ''A Midsummer Night's Dream.'' We will examine Demetrius' characteristics and what he might symbolize in the play.

Story Summary

Demetrius is a man who seems to fall out of love as quickly as he falls in love. It is due to his fickle nature that this entire story takes place.

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a story about a love circle between Helena, Demetrius, Hermia, and Lysander. Helena and Demetrius used to date and were in love, but then Demetrius dumped her. He is now engaged to Hermia, thanks to her father arranging the marriage. But Hermia is in love with Lysander, and he is in love with her. Oberon creates a love potion to make Demetrius fall in love with Helena again. But, instead, the potion is administered to Lysander, so he falls in love with Helena, completing the love circle. In the end, the love potion is properly administered to Demetrius so that he falls in love with Helena. Then, Lysander and Hermia end up together as well.

Since Demetrius scorned Helena, and instead ran after a woman already in love with another man, this created a complicated love triangle which led to this entire story.

Character Traits

Demetrius is an Athenian man. Egeus, Hermia's father, favors him and he seems like the perfect gentleman. Theseus, the Duke of Athens, who is the one to decree that Hermia must marry Demetrius, says 'Demetrius is a worthy gentleman'. For some reason, he has been able to pull the wool over Theseus' and Egeus' eyes and appear as the perfect gentleman. Lysander, understandably, does not like Demetrius at all. The wool has not been pulled over his eyes, and he insists that Demetrius is a 'spotted and inconstant man'.

Demetrius used to be in love with Hermia's best friend, Helena. Hermia insists that she has not encouraged Demetrius at all; in fact she insists to her friend 'I frown upon him, yet he loves me still'. In fact, Hermia is in love with someone else, Lysander, and wants to make sure her friend knows that she has not gone chasing after Demetrius.

Through this, we also realize that Demetrius is a fickle yet persistent man. He is fickle in his love; it appears as though he quickly switched attention from Helena to Hermia. Helena describes his actions by saying 'So he dissolved, and showers of oaths did melt.' He had made promises to Helena, but upon laying eyes on Hermia, those promises were broken. Yet we do need to admire his persistence in that he pursue Hermia's hand despite the fact that she does not encourage him.

Helena continues to love Demetrius but he treats her very poorly
Demetrius and Helena

As the play continues, we realize that Demetrius is not a very nice guy. The way he treats Helena is horrible. When attempting to convince Helena to stop chasing him, he threatens to 'leave (her) to the mercy of wild beasts'. He tells her 'I am sick when I do look upon thee'. He cannot even stand the sight of her, thus love has turned into hate.

For whatever reason, he decided it would be better to marry Hermia, so he began to pursue her. Yet he was not able to win her affections, so instead he wins the favor of her father. He scorns a woman whom he had supposedly once loved, and when he can't get his way with another women, he finds a way to go behind her back to win her hand by winning her father's affections.

Demetrius has loved both Helena and Hermia at some point in the play
Demetrius

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