A Midsummer Night’s Dream

by: William Shakespeare

Five Key Questions

Summary Five Key Questions

1) What is Egeus so upset about in the play’s first scene?

Egeus is upset because his daughter, Hermia, has challenged his authority. When Egeus approaches Theseus at the beginning of Act I, he has just learned that Hermia rejected his preferred suitor, Demetrius. Presumably Egeus prefers Demetrius for reasons related to wealth and status. But, as Lysander points out, he possesses just as much wealth and status as his rival. What’s more, he also possesses Hermia’s heart. “Why,” he asks, “should not I then prosecute my right?” Yet Lysander’s rational and compelling argument does little to calm Egeus’s fury. Possibly Egeus’s anger derives less from Hermia’s preference for one lover over another, and more from her public rejection of his authority. By rejecting Egeus’s authority, Hermia spurns the patriarchal laws of Athenian society. Theseus indicates as much when he reminds her, “To you your father should be as a god” (I.i.).