Hippolyta’s Function in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Hippolyta’s Function in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
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A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play by William Shakespeare. The play centers around the marriage of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to Hippolyta, the Amazon queen. Hippolyta’s function in the play is twofold. First, she represents the idealized, changeless woman who is the object of male desire. Second, she serves as a foil to the other female characters in the play, who are all in the process of change. Hippolyta is a static character who does not change throughout the course of the play. She remains largely passive, appearing only in scenes that involve Theseus. This passivity is in stark contrast to the other female characters in the play, who are all actively engaged in the pursuit of love. Hippolyta’s function as the idealized, changeless woman is most evident in Scene 1 of Act 5. In this scene, Theseus declares his love for Hippolyta and compares her to a statue. He says, “I woo’d thee with my sword,/ And won thy love doing thee injuries;/ But I will wed thee in another key,/ With pomp, with triumph, and with reveling” (5.1.22-25). Theseus here is acknowledging that he conquered Hippolyta through force, but he insists that he will now marry her in a more traditional way. He compares her to a statue because she is the perfect, idealized woman who has remained unchanged throughout the course of the play. In contrast, the other female characters have all undergone some kind of change. Hermia has changed from a headstrong young woman to a meek and submissive wife. Helena has changed from an unrequited lover to a confident young woman who has won the love of her man. And Titania has changed from a haughty queen to a doting mother. In contrast, Hippolyta has remained the same throughout the course of the play. She is the idealized, changeless woman who is the object of male desire.

The Idealized, changeless woman of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play about love, magic, and change. The character of Helena best embodies these themes. Helena is in love with Demetrius, who does not love her back. She is willing to do anything to win his affections, even going so far as to follow him into the forest where the play’s magical action takes place. As a result of the magic, Demetrius falls in love with Helena, and Helena’s love for Demetrius is finally requited. However, this love is short-lived; once the magic wears off, Demetrius goes back to hating Helena. Helena is thus a victim of change: she experiences the highs and lows of love, but ultimately ends up back where she started.

Despite all of this, Helena remains largely the same character throughout the play. She is dogged in her pursuit of Demetrius, even when it is clear that he does not want anything to do with her. She is also unshakeable in her belief that Demetrius is the only man for her, despite the fact that he has repeatedly shown himself to be unworthy of her affections. Helena’s constancy is ultimately what brings her happiness, as it is only when she finally gives up on Demetrius that he begins to love her. Helena’s changelessness is thus a strength, not a weakness.

The character of Helena thus represents the idealized, changeless woman. She is a victim of change, but she does not let it affect her. She remains true to herself and her own desires, and as a result, she is ultimately rewarded. Helena’s story is a reminder that love and happiness are possible, even in the face of change.

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