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E316 Fall 2010 Students' Blog

Melyssa Guzman on A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 1

Published by admin_main on Thu 02 Sep, 2010

2. In Act one, scene one, Hermia's father Egeus enters as a typical "new comedy-style" senex iratus. (angry old man) What specific demands does he make when he bursts onto the scene? What penalties does he threaten? How seriously are we to take his threats and more generally, how should we understand the symbolic authority he represents?

Egeus enters the play with his underdeveloped solution to his daughter's misbehavior. He calls aside both Lysander and Demetrius to discuss who he has chosen to marry his daughter and why he chose who he did. To Lysander he said:

With cunning hast thou filch'd my daughter's heart,<br> Turn'd her obedience, which is due to me,<br> To stubborn harshness: and, my gracious duke,<br> Be it so she; will not here before your grace<br> Consent to marry with Demetrius,<br> I beg the ancient privilege of Athens,<br> As she is mine, I may dispose of her.<br>


Hermia was faced with either marrying Demetrius or be put to death. Hermia protests and with a suggestion from Theseus, she declares that she would rather marry God than marry Demetrius. Lysander tries to defend himself as a worthy suitor to Hermia but does so in Vein.

Egeus' demands are to be taken slightly seriously. On one hand, he means to follow through with his penalties and he really does see himself as the soul decision maker in his daughter's life. On the other hand, he represents the irrationality and complications of the arranged marriage system as well as the unjust control men have over women. To prove my point, we will review the response Theseus made to Hermia when she presented with her father's decision.

What say you, Hermia? be advised fair maid:<br> To you your father should be as a god;<br> One that composed your beauties, yea, and one<br> To whom you are but as a form in wax<br> By him imprinted and within his power<br>

To leave the figure or disfigure it.

It becomes clear that although she is asked to state her opinion on the matter, she is reminded that her father is the all knowing, God-like figure in her life and his decisions are steadfast. We can conclude that it is assumed that women are incapable of choosing their own suitor and require the assistance of their fathers or another male figure in order to make the right decision. This being said, Egeus character is that to be taken seriously in the since that he will uphold his repercussions, the symbolic nature of his character is that of satire; mocking the injustices of the control man have over women.

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