A Midsummer Night’s Dream

by: William Shakespeare

Hermia

So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord,
Ere I will yield my virgin patent up
Unto his Lordship, whose unwishèd yoke
My soul consents not to give sovereignty. (I.i.)

After Theseus commands Hermia to obey her father’s wish for her to marry Demetrius instead of Lysander, Hermia utters these words of defiance. Specifically, she rejects the idea that men should have any influence over who she loves and how and when she decides to “yield [her] virgin patent up.” By claiming “sovereignty” over her own soul, Hermia issues a powerful statement of female autonomy.

If then true lovers have been ever crossed,
It stands as an edict in destiny. (I.i.)

Following the scene where Theseus issues an ultimatum and outlines Hermia’s punishment if she persists in her disobedience, Hermia confesses to Lysander that fate must have doomed their love. Hermia’s reference to fate and the possibility that she and Lysander are cosmically “crossed” echoes the language of Romeo and Juliet, the play Shakespeare wrote just before Midsummer. Of course, while the earlier play about “star-crossed lovers” ended tragically, this play ends happily.

And are you grown so high in his esteem
Because I am so dwarfish and so low?
How low am I, thou painted maypole? Speak. (III.ii.)

Hermia directs these lines toward Helena in the midst of their intensifying quarrel in Act III. While Helena frequently complains that she is less beautiful than Hermia, here Hermia uses punning language to imply her frustration at being shorter than Helena. But Hermia’s words are also barbed. When she calls Helena a “painted maypole,” she comments on her height as well as her use of cosmetics, implying that any beauty Helena has comes from makeup. The cruelty evident in these words indicates that the friends have hit rock bottom, descending to the point of base name calling.

Methinks I see these things with parted eye,
When everything seems double. (IV.i.)

In Act IV, after morning has arrived and the fairy charms have worn off, Hermia still feels the residue of the night’s confusion. She likens this feeling to the experience of seeing double. With these words Hermia references the prominent theme of doubling threaded throughout the play, embodied by the doubling of the human and fairy realms as well as the double pair of lovers.