Helena & Demetrius Relationship in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

She loves him, but he wishes her dead. Then, he loves her but she thinks it is a joke. It seems like these two lovers cannot get on the same page at all. Read on to learn more about Helena and Demetrius's relationship in Shakespeare's ''A Midsummer Night's Dream.''

Love Makes Fools of Us All

Have you ever wanted something you couldn't have, something you would do just about anything to get your hands on? That is how Helena, one of the main characters of William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, feels about Demetrius. She's so desperate to make him hers that she'll do anything and follow him anywhere, even though he wants nothing to do with her. This lesson will focus on the relationship between Helena and Demetrius in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Helena, a Lady Scorned

Helena is a school friend of Hermia, the female lead in the play. Hermia loves Lysander, but her father has ordered her to marry Demetrius. Now to complicate things, Helena is in love with Demetrius, even though he does not return her feelings. Helena is as pretty as Hermia and is taller (which seems to matter to both girls), but she feels like Demetrius is blind to her good qualities and looks only at Hermia.

So, when Hermia confides in Helena that she and Lysander are going to run away and elope, Helena decides to bring the news to Demetrius. She's hoping to curry favor with him for telling him their plan, but instead he scorns her and runs off into the forest after Hermia and Lysander, hoping to stop them. Helena vows to be as loyal as his 'spaniel' and dog-like, follows Demetrius. She does know his faults, and admits he is 'base and vile', but loves him nonetheless.

Helena follows Demetrius into the woods
Helena follows Demetrius into the woods

Demetrius, a Scornful Youth

At one point in the past (the play is rather vague on this point), Demetrius was a suitor of Helena. We don't know how far their relationship went; even though Lysander claims he 'made love' to Helena and 'claimed her soul', this could be a physical act as well as a form of flirting. (He later mentions Helena's virginity, so you'd be safe to guess the former.) But after making arrangements with Egeus to marry his daughter Hermia, Demetrius throws over Helena's love to woo Hermia.

And actually, Demetrius is pretty nasty to Helena when she follows him to the forest. He tells her that it makes him 'sick' to look at her face, and that he hopes 'wild beasts' attack her while she is in the forest. It isn't until he comes up against the fairy Puck's magic that things change for this unhappy not-couple.

Puck's Meddling

King of the fairies, Oberon is in the woods with his servant Puck. Oberon happens to overhear the exchange between Helena and Demetrius and decides to help. He orders Puck to put love-drops into Demetrius's eyes and make him fall in love with Helena.

Puck initially messes up and anoints Lysander and Demetrius, making for some tense interactions between the four lovers in the forest. In fact, when both Demetrius and Lysander pledge their love to Helena, she believes that they are making fun of her. Helena and Hermia end up quarreling, and they both fall asleep, miserable.

But eventually, Puck remedies the mistake and takes the spell off Lysander.

Puck makes Demetrius fall in love with Helena
Puck makes Demetrius fall in love with Helena

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