Lysander is Hermia's boyfriend and he really wants to get hitched. Since Hermia's dad isn't having it, Lysander runs off with Hermia to elope. In the woods, he's drugged (by mistake) when Puck squeezes love juice in his eyes, causing him to love Helena until Puck finally gives him an antidote.
Lysander is a lot like Romeo, a character Shakespeare conceived around the time he wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream. Although Lysander faces some major obstacles in his pursuit of love, he's a hopeless romantic. The first time we hear about him, we learn that he's won Hermia's heart by giving her pretty knick-knacks and sweets, and has even serenaded her at her window "by moonlight" (1.1). (Hmm. Seems like we have the makings of a balcony scene here, don't you think?) Lysander also happens to be the most poetical of all the lovers:
Ay me! for aught that I could ever read,
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth. (1.1.134-136)
This is one of the most famous lines of the play, and for good reason. Lysander's declaration pretty much sums up the play's idea that lovers always face difficult hurdles on the path to happiness—whether it's a disapproving parent, rival lover, or some other obstacle. We're also interested in the way Lysander locates his love for Hermia in a long, rich "tradition." For Lysander, love is epic and the stuff of great literature and history. Check out what he says about the nature of love:
Or, if there were a sympathy in choice,
War, death, or sickness did lay siege to it,
Making it momentary as a sound,
Swift as a shadow, short as any dream,
Brief as the lightning in the collied night,
That, in a spleen, unfolds both heaven and earth,
And ere a man hath power to say "Behold!"
The jaws of darkness do devour it up.
So quick bright things come to confusion. (1.1.143-151)
Lysander clearly recognizes that lovers face a million obstacles and can be quickly separated by "war, death, or sickness." Lysander also knows that, even though love can be explosive, like "lightening," it's usually short-lived: "So quick bright things come to confusion." The idea that life and love are transient, by the way, is a major theme in Romeo and Juliet, where Friar Laurence says the following about Romeo's passion: "These violent delights have violent ends" (2.6.9).
Knight in Shining Armor?
When Lysander and Demetrius fight over the same girl (first Hermia, then Helena), Shakespeare pokes fun at tales of chivalric romance, where two knights in shining armor joust to determine who gets the girl. Most literary scholars recognize that Shakespeare borrowed from Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale," where Palamon and Arcite fight in a tournament over Emily, a girl they've both fallen in love with.
This brings us to our next point. After Puck sloshes the magic love juice all over the forest and Lysander and Demetrius go chasing after Helena, it's really hard to tell the difference between the two guys. As much as the lovers like to think that they are unique, Shakespeare basically tells us that all foolish young lovers are alike.Timeline
It’s the middle of the night, and you’ve drifted off into a deep sleep. You’re dreaming of a magnificent summer day of relaxing on the beach or maybe hiking a mountain trail.
Then your alarm goes off.
You’re slapped back into reality. Your once-peaceful dream is now bordering on a nightmare. There are exactly 28 hours and 12 minutes left to turn your own midsummer night’s dream into an essay about Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
I’m assuming you already know that there are a ton of characters in this play. But rather than a run-down on everyone who appears in the story, let’s focus on five of the key A Midsummer Night’s Dream characters (who also might become the focus of your own paper).
A Few Words About A Midsummer Night’s Dream
“The course of true love never did run smooth.” (Act I, Scene I)
This quote pretty much sums up the gist of the play.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is all about the trials and tribulations of love—how people act when they’re in love, what they’ll do for love, how people treat each other when they’re in love (or supposedly in love), and the fact that things might appear differently to people when they’re in love.
All this talk about love means you should pay close attention to this theme as you think about each character and how he or she interacts with other characters throughout the play.
Don’t forget: when you review the play and its characters, pay special attention to the stage directions. These comments about how characters move in and out of the play can help you make connections between characters and the plot and subplot.
All You Need to Know About These 5 A Midsummer Night’s Dream Characters
The descriptions in the cast of A Midsummer Night’s Dream characters can be helpful for a number of papers.
For instance, if you’re writing a literary analysis, you might need to focus on a theme or symbolism, and your understanding of characters is crucial to writing a paper about either one of these topics.
If you’re writing a character analysis, you need to get inside the characters’ heads and know them personally. (If you want an example of what a finished character analysis looks like, check out these two annotated examples.)
Want a quick how-to literary analysis refresher? Read Writing About Literature: 9 Things You Need to Know.
Okay, now that you’re thinking literature and thinking about the focus of your own paper, let’s look five key A Midsummer Night’s Dream characters.
Characters 1 and 2: Hermia and Lysander
Hermia is deeply in love with Lysander, but her father isn’t too thrilled about her choice of lovers. Hermia’s father (Egeus) wants her to marry Demetrius.
In order to force Hermia into marriage, he offers her three choices: marry Demetrius, die, or spend the rest of her life in a convent. (Some choices, right?) She’s not too happy with any of these less-than-desirable options and runs away with Lysander.
Lysander is also in love with Hermia. But when the two run away into the forest, Puck mistakenly gives Lysander a love potion, causing Lysander to temporarily fall in love with Helena.
The spell is ultimately reversed, and Hermia and Lysander end up happily married by the end of the play.
Mini-analysis:Hermia and Lysander illustrate the trials and tribulations of young love. It’s kind of like Shakespeare’s other young lovers, Romeo and Juliet. They love each other, but their families don’t approve. And they’ll do anything to be together.
If you want to learn more about the comparisons between Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, check out A Comparison of William Shakespeare’s Plays A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet.
Hermia also symbolizes the specific difficulties that young girls and women face. She’s expected to obey her father at all costs. She’s also expected to be beautiful.
During the time Lysander is under influence of the love potion, Hermia worries about her appearance, fearing that Lysander has fallen in love with Helena because Helena is more attractive.
Characters 3 and 4: Helena and Demetrius
When the play starts, Helena and Demetrius have already parted ways. Demetrius has left Helena to pursue Hermia. He’s the stereotypical young male who moves from one lover to another, without thought of how his actions affect others.
He’s so cruel, in fact, that he completely rejects Helena, even threatening her just to keep her away from him.
Helena has fallen hard for Demetrius, and even though he’s not the guy most people would want to get back, she does whatever she can to win his love. She even betrays her friend, Hermia. (Talk about mean girls!)
In the end, Puck gives Demetrius a good dose of Oberon’s love potion so that Demetrius will fall back in love with Helena.
Helena and Demetrius also end up happily married at the end of the play.
Mini-analysis: Helena illustrates what people will do for love. Even though Demetrius treats her like dirt, she still pursues him. Her love for him seems unconditional.
Like Hermia, Helena symbolizes women’s plight when it comes to love. Helena is expected to be quiet and submissive, and to wait for her love to come back to her. She isn’t expected to fight for what she wants (even though most of us probably aren’t sure why she’d want Demetrius back).
Want to know more about love in the play? Read The Struggles of Understanding the Concept of Love in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a Play by William Shakespeare.
Character 5: Puck
Don’t get your hopes up, hockey fans. The character of Puck has nothing to do with hockey. Puck is a spirit and jester of Oberon (the King of the Fairies).
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, he’s ordered by Oberon to help Helena by placing a love potion on the eyes of Demetrius so that Demetrius will again fall in love with Helena. Puck messes it up, though, and puts the potion on Lysander.
In the end, Oberon orders Puck to fix the mistake.
Mini-analysis: Puck has supernatural powers and enjoys playing practical jokes on people simply for the fun of watching what happens. He doesn’t necessarily care if the results are positive or negative. He pretty much just enjoys messing with people. His attitude can be summed up when he says, “Lord, what fools these mortals be!” (Act III, Scene II)
In the end, it’s Puck who has the final words of the play:
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
In these closing lines, Puck addresses the audience, perhaps apologizing for his misdeeds. He also alludes to the fact the we (the audience) have been sleeping the entire time. Thus, the whole play the audience has witnessed may simply be a midsummer night’s dream.
Read more about Puck in The Role of Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare.
Before You Drift Off to Another Dream
I know you’ve been working hard to get your paper finished, but don’t drift off into another dream of lounging by the pool just yet.
It’s always important to put the final touches on your paper—no matter which A Midsummer Night’s Dream characters you write about—so before you submit it to your prof, make sure you revise your work.
First make sure you’ve supported your thesis statement by using evidence from the play.
Then check for the basics, such as proper format and proper spelling and grammar. Also check for style. Choose the perfect words, make sure you eliminate wordiness, and use appropriate transitions.
Like true love, the course of writing a paper usually doesn’t run smoothly, either. But if you’re looking for help smoothing out the rough edges of your essay on A Midsummer Night’s Dream characters, let the expert editors at Kibin lend a hand.
Psst... 98% of Kibin users report better grades! Get inspiration from over 500,000 example essays.