A Midsummer Night’s Dream

by: William Shakespeare

Helena

Although Puck and Bottom stand out as the most personable characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, they themselves are not involved in the main dramatic events. Of the other characters, Helena, the lovesick young woman desperately in love with Demetrius, is perhaps the most fully drawn. Among the quartet of Athenian lovers, Helena is the one who thinks most about the nature of love—which makes sense, given that at the beginning of the play she is left out of the love triangle involving Lysander, Hermia, and Demetrius. She says, “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,” believing that Demetrius has built up a fantastic notion of Hermia’s beauty that prevents him from recognizing Helena’s own beauty (I.i.234). Utterly faithful to Demetrius despite her recognition of his shortcomings, Helena sets out to win his love by telling him about the plan of Lysander and Hermia to elope into the forest. Once Helena enters the forest, many of her traits are drawn out by the confusion that the love potion engenders: compared to the other lovers, she is extremely unsure of herself, worrying about her appearance and believing that Lysander is mocking her when he declares his love for her.