impatiently awaits his wedding to Hippolyta, which will take place in
four days' time. He tells Philostrate to get the young people of
Athens in a mood for a celebration.
enters with his daughter Hermia, and Lysander and Demetrius. He
complains to the Duke that he has given consent to Demetrius's request
to marry Hermia, but Lysander has made it his business to win Hermia's
love, and has succeeded. Egeus does not believe Lysander is genuine in
his protestations of love. He tells the Duke that according to Athenian
law, he has a right to do with his daughter whatever he pleases. If she
will not marry Demetrius, he will condemn her to death.
attempts to persuade Hermia to accept her father's wishes. But she is
in love with Lysander and cannot change her feelings. She appeals to the
Duke to tell her the worst that may happen to her if she refuses
Demetrius. Theseus replies that she must either die or become a nun.
Those are her only choices. Hermia says she will choose the latter
option rather than marry a man she does not want. Theseus gives her
until his own wedding to think it over, at which time she must make her
begs Hermia to relent, while Lysander makes a mocking remark aimed at
Demetrius. Egeus intervenes and remonstrates with Lysander, but Lysander
does not back down. He says he is in every way Demetrius's equal, and
what is more, Hermia loves him. He also reveals that in the past,
Demetrius sought Helena's love, and now Helena dotes on him.
says he has some business to discuss with Egeus and Demetrius, and he
again warns Hermia to be ready soon to make up her mind. They all exit,
leaving Lysander alone with Hermia. The two lovers commiserate with each
other over their difficult position. Lysander comes up with a plan. He
has a wealthy aunt who lives some distance from Athens, outside the
jurisdiction of Athenian law. There they could marry. He tells Hermia to
meet him in the wood outside of Athens the following night. Hermia
promises to be there.
enters. She makes it clear that she is envious of Hermia, since Hermia
has Demetrius's love. Hermia confesses her frustration, since the more
she tries to push Demetrius away, the more he loves her. She and
Lysander confide in Helena about their plan to meet in the wood.
After Hermia and
Lysander leave, Helena reflects on the fickle ways of love, and then
decides to inform Demetrius of the other couple's plan, so that he
will pursue Hermia into the wood. He might even thank Helena for the
information she gives him.
scene contains what is called the exposition. It introduces the
characters and supplies the information necessary to the understanding
of the play. The existing situation is explained; the problems and
dilemmas of the characters are laid out.
celebratory tone with which the play begins, which looks forward to a
marriage, is abruptly curtailed by the tangled situations of the young
lovers and the cruel inflexibility of Egeus. Hermia responds in the only
way she can, to affirm the power of love over the oppressive rule of
law, the vibrancy of youth over the dead hand of the older generation.
Egeus is the kind of character who often appears in comedies. This type
of character is sometimes known as the blocking figure. He attempts to
obstruct the flow of love and desire and thwart the inevitable happy