A Midsummer Night’s Dream

by: William Shakespeare

Antagonist

Just as Midsummer lacks an obvious protagonist, it also lacks an obvious antagonist. Identifying the play’s antagonist seems especially difficult, since so many characters act in antagonistic ways toward each other. However, if the play’s clearest protagonists are Hermia, Helena, and Lysander, and if the play is ultimately about making their love possible, then the clearest antagonists are those who most directly stand in the way of their love. The characters directly thwarting Hermia, Helena, and Lysander are Egeus, Theseus, and Demetrius. These three characters conspire to break the amorous bond between Hermia and Lysander and also deny Helena her heart’s desire. The play opens with Egeus, angry that Hermia disobeys his command to marry Demetrius. Egeus asks Theseus to intervene, and the duke threatens Hermia with punishment in the event of her continued disobedience. Demetrius is perhaps to greatest antagonist of all, since it was his change of heart, from Helena to Hermia, that initiated all of the drama with Egeus and Theseus and caused Helena’s suffering. Only after fairy magic reunites Demetrius with Helena can the crisis that opened the play be resolved. Once the happy lovers return to Athens, Theseus puts the matter to rest. Only Egeus, now powerless, still dissents.