Midsummer's Misogyny: Helena And Hippolyta In Hell

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Midsummer’s Misogyny: Helena and Hippolyta in Hell A Midsummer’s Night Dream is one of Shakespeare’s most beloved comedies, filled with fae folk, moonlight, and the confusion of love. Beneath the laughter of the Dream, however, lies a troubling image of women. Though each woman ends the play united with a lover and supposedly happy, Shakespeare sketches femininity as a powerless thing that is often found groveling at the feet of masculinity – even the ostensibly powerful fae queen Titania does not escape being humiliated and subjugated by her king. In considering the comedy as a whole, however, Hippolyta and Helena stand out from Dream’s cast of characters as particularly egregious examples of problematic female treatment, both by their male…show more content…
We first encounter Hippolyta as the play opens; she and Theseus are discussing their impending marriage. However, the attitudes of the two seem to be in direct opposition. Theseus laments“how slow/This old moon wanes! she lingers my desires” (1.1.3-4) while Hippolyta answers that the four days and nights before the wedding will pass quickly (1.1.7-11). She makes no mention of love, excitement, or indeed any emotion at all toward her future husband. Theseus continues to crow, telling Hippolyta that though he “woo’d her by the sword,” the wedding will be a thing of “triumph and revelry” (1.1.16-19). Here, already, we see a major female character being paraded and treated as spoils of war. Hippolyta, the great warrior, is reduced to a sexual captive. Unfortunately, nothing improves for Hippolyta as the play progresses; she stands silent as Hermia pleads her case before Theseus, a case not terribly unlike her own. At no point does she intercede for a young woman on the brink of a forced marriage, or even give clue to any interior shifts that might enlighten the reader as to her feelings on the subject. She remains muted, diminished in both voice and power, as Theseus and Egeus discuss a father’s legal right to “dispose of” his female

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