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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

I) Introduction

In most of Shakespeare’s works there were few females, this is because in the late 1500s and early1600s women were not permitted to act in London. Despite the standard imposed on women by the society, Shakespeare created many female characters that were intelligent, smart, and daring. In the play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, men and women are assigned roles, some of the most portrayed themes are objectifying of women, and male dominance.

II) Women as agents of and advocates for their own destiny

Early in the play, Hermia is being forced to marry Demetrius. She openly protests against the marriage proposal forced upon her by her father, and she demands to know what will be her fate if she defies the order to marry Demetrius who she does not love. Shakespeare intends to build up an argument about Hermia as a feminist model. Hermia represents a character that portrays the possibilities of women being agents and advocates for their own destiny.

In Shakespeare’s play, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, male dominance exists between couples, as well as between father and daughter. “As she is mine I may dispose off her: Which shall be either to this gentleman or to her death, according to our law” (ActI SceneI, lines 42-44). The law and the society allows for a father to decide the fate of his children. This shows a weakness in the society because one is not able to decide his or her own destiny. Egeus’s possessiveness towards his daughter Hermia illustrates that the life of a woman, her sexual and emotional preferences are controlled by a male figure. In this play men are treating women as objects, and women are supposed to look at them as if they are powerful creatures. “To you your father should be as a god,” (ActI SceneI, line 47). Theseus, just like Hermia’s father is contented with the culture of male dominance. He is proud of winning his bride in the battle with the Amazons. After Theseus triumphs over the female warrior, he marries her. Marrying the Amazon warrior satisfies his ego.

 Titania and Oberon had an argument because of Titania’s attention towards an Indian boy. Oberon, who is the king of the fairies, uses his authority as a husband to force her to give up the Indian boy, and he is astonished when she disobeys him and leaves. Oberon expectation is that women should be dominated by men, and they must be submissive. Oberon does not accept defeat and uses the magic love portion to trick Titana into giving him the Indian boy. This shows that men are ready to do anything to ensure they win over women in all perspectives. Treatment of women as objects is more evidently portrayed in Demetrius and Lysander. Demetrius had sworn to love Helena before the play began. Now he no longer loves her and wants to marry Hermia despite Helena’s loyalty to him. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” portrays a clear picture of how men are never serious with love, they promise to love different women within moments just like Demetrious.

In this play, when women are married, or they have promised their love to a man, they behave as if they are weak. Hippolyta, the warrior Queen, is okay with the fact that Theseus has captured her and wants to marry her. Theseus boasts of how he had taken her by war and that he can not wait to marry her, but her only reply is that the nights will pass quickly. Hippolyta's opinion is not inquired, and she does not say much throughout the play. Hippolyta does not bother to have her voice heard. She seems comfortable with the treatment she gets from Theseus. This shows how women have accepted their fate to be dominated by men.

Shakespeare shows Helena as being faithful to Demetrius, but Demetrius is not ready to commit himself to loving her. Helena states that, men are supposed to woo women, but not the other way. Still, she continues to chase him harshly, unrelenting to the cruel treatment she gets from him. Women in this play lack self-esteem, this is evident because even after Demetrius leaves Helena she is not angry with him; instead she blames herself for not being beautiful enough. When both Demetrius and Lysander show their affection towards Helena, she thinks they are teasing her.

Helena suggests that women should stick together and support each other, because solidarity would make it difficult for men to take advantage of them. "And will you rent our ancient love asunder, to join with men in scorning your poor friend? It is not friendly, 'tis not maidenly: Our sex, as well as I, may chide you for it, though I alone do feel the injury" (ActIII, SceneII line 220). Hermia and Helena are best friends and they explain their friendship as having two bodies but sharing the same heart. Unfortunately, they let men and jealousy jeopardize their relationship. Hermia accuses Helena of stealing her boyfriend, and Helena betrays their friendship. Helena and Hermia do not seem to realize that, those men who have destroyed their loyalty to each other, are the same men who are hurting them.

Titana seems to be in control for some moments. She has made a decision of keeping the Indian boy whose mother was a friend of hers. She has decided that there is no way she was going to give in to Oberon's demands. After Oberon tricks her; she loses focus, and her attention is immediately shifted to Nick Bottom. Titana, the Queen of the Night, is naive enough to fall for Bottom after having taken the figure of an ass. After Titana wakes from this spell, she reunites with Oberon, not considering that he had forcefully taken the Indian boy from her. This shows that eventually she is also overruled by Oberon.

At the end of the play Robin goodfellow's epilogue states that "The country proverb known, That every man should take his own, In your waking shall be shown. Jack shall have Jill; Nought shall go ill: The man shall have his mare again, and all shall be well" (ActIII. SceneII 458-463). This statement shows that a man shall have his wife as he has his horse. The relationship between men and women is like that of the owner and the owned. Everything is considered to be normal when men dominate in marriages.

The play, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" also illustrates that the breakup between Oberon and Titana had caused a commotion in the world. This aspect is meant to show that couples can have the world at harmony by their sober relationship. In this play, the gender roles are particularly obvious, and it shows how the society expects women to behave. The jealousy between Hermia and Helena cause them to betray their relationship and abandon their lifelong friendship. This shows that women accept their role as the weaker sex. They let men ruin their bonds, break their hearts, and get away with it. Men are glad to dominate women and set rules for them. There is love between a man and a woman, and usually it does not last long, when a man and a woman find true love that lasts, it can bring happiness into their lives.

The conclusion of play portrays the success of a process by which the feminine pride, powers evident in Amazon warriors, disobedient wives, possessive women, and stubborn daughters are brought under the control of male figures.

The play “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is a comedy, but it has serious lessons about human life and relationships. The play breaks down individual personalities and gender that reveals the central conflict in the plot.