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Today is my birthday.  This is one of my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays. How do they go together? You might wonder. Glad you asked.

My mom gave me a necklace  on which is inscribed this quote:  “Though she be but little, she is fierce.”  It’s Helena, talking about Hermia, her erstwhile rival in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”.  The girls are about to come to blows.  Then Lysander, the would-be love interest of Helena (lost yet?) has this to say to Hermia:

LYSANDER
Get you gone, you dwarf,
You minimus of hindering knotgrass made,
You bead, you acorn!

Um, ouch. Nobody penned an insult quite like Shakespeare. Hermia, up until the start of Act III, had two men in love with her.  Helena had no one. To make things complicated, both men, Lysander and Demetrius, fall in love with Helena, she of the “long legs”.  Whatever.  It’s all the fairies’ doing.

OBERON
This is going even better than I planned. But have you put the love juice from the flower on the eyes of that Athenian, as I asked you to do?

ROBIN

Yes, I found him when he was asleep—so that’s taken care of too—and the Athenian woman was sleeping near him. When he woke up, he must have seen her. – (No Fear Shakespeare translation.)

Whoops.

Fairy King Oberon wanted Lysander to fall in love with Helena.  But Puck put it on the wrong guy:  Demetrius. Great.  Oberon put the love juice on Lysander’s eyes, too. Then Demetrius saw Helena.  Poor Hermia, she called “little” and “low”.  What’s a girl to do?

You’ll have to read the play to find out.  Okay, or watch the movie.  The version with a young Mickey Rooney as Robin Goodfellow, aka Puck, is the best.  Alright.  You convinced me.  Here’s Wikipedia’s synopsis of the play:

Hermia is a fictional character from Shakespeare‘s play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The dialogue makes it clear that she is shorter than Helena. She is caught in a romantic accident where she loves one man, Lysander, but is loved by Demetrius, whose feelings she does not return.

Hermia loves Lysander, but her father, Egeus, wants her to marry Demetrius. Hermia’s refusal of her father’s command would result in her death sentence or residence at a nunnery by Athenian law. re Lysander and Hermia run away into the forest. On the way they meet Demetrius’ former fiance and Hermia’s best friend Helena, whom Demetrius abandoned to woo Hermia. Helena is still hopelessly in love, but Hermia tells her not to worry, as Lysander and she will flee and Demetrius will no longer see her face. Helena tells Demetrius, hoping that he will realize her love for him if she tells him the truth, but Demetrius pursues Hermia and Lysander into the forest with Helena following.

When both Demetrius and Lysander chase after her, Helena accuses Hermia of being part of a cruel joke. Hermia feels betrayed by the accusation and retorts that she would never hurt her friend that way. Because Lysander and Demetrius’s love for Hermia was so great, Helena believes that the two are also mocking her, along with Hermia.

Puck finally places the antidote on Lysander’s eyes – but not on Demetrius’s. They all wake up the next morning… This is the day Hermia is to make her choice to marry Demetrius, enter a nunnery or die. The lovers wake up dazed, unable to explain how they got there, and muttering about a strange dream. But Demetrius, now permanently under the love-flower’s spell, says that he loves only Helena, so everything ends well with Hermia and Lysander together. Hermia and Lysander then marry…

Hermia is named after Hermes, the Greek god of exchange and dreams. This connects with the economic reasons Demetrius and Lysander desire her, as well as their demands to be in control of her psyche, or dreams.

Does the Hermia quote apply to me?  Maybe.   Also, not sure I’m an economic boon to anyone. I’ll let you be the judge of that. But I think, in the end, I like this play because it has a happy ending.  It’s also pretty funny. And the short girl wins.

 

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