A Midsummer Night's Dream

Theseus Character Analysis

Read our modern English translation.
The Duke of Athens and the fiancé and later the husband of Hippolyta, Theseus is a strong and responsible leader who tries to be fair and sensitive. Though it is his duty to uphold the law, and he does so when both Lysander and Demetrius love Hermia, as soon as the lovers sort themselves out, he overrules Egeus' demand that Hermia marry Demetrius and let the lovers decide for themselves whom to marry. He also treats the laborers decently, despite the fact that their play is atrocious. Though a fearsome warrior (he captured Hippolyta, an Amazon queen, in battle), he is devoted to making her happy. Theseus is, however, extremely literal-minded, and gives little credence to the "fantasies" the lovers recount of their night in the forest.

Theseus Quotes in A Midsummer Night's Dream

The A Midsummer Night's Dream quotes below are all either spoken by Theseus or refer to Theseus. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Simon & Schuster edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream published in 2004.
Act 1, scene 1 Quotes
But earthlier happy is the rose distilled
Than that which, withering on the virgin thorn,
Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness. (76)
Related Characters: Theseus (speaker), Hermia
Page Number: 1.1.78-80
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Act 4, scene 1 Quotes
I know you two are rival enemies:
How comes this gentle concord in the world,
That hatred is so far from jealousy,
To sleep by hate, and fear no enmity? (129)
Related Characters: Theseus (speaker), Lysander, Demetrius
Page Number: 4.1.148-151
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Act 5, scene 1 Quotes
More strange than true. I never may believe
These antique fables nor these fairy toys.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact. (2)
Related Characters: Theseus (speaker)
Page Number: 5.1.208
Explanation and Analysis:

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

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Theseus Character Timeline in A Midsummer Night's Dream

The timeline below shows where the character Theseus appears in A Midsummer Night's Dream. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, scene 1
Love Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
In the royal palace of Athens, Duke Theseus enters with the Amazon Queen Hippolyta, his fiancé, and Philostrate, his master of revels. Theseus... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Theseus sends off Philostrate to organize entertainment for the wedding. After Philostrate leaves, Theseus says to... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
...enters, with his daughter Hermia and her two suitors Lysander and Demetrius. Egeus explains to Theseus that he wants his daughter to marry Demetrius, but that she loves Lysander, who has... (full context)
Men and Women Theme Icon
Theseus speaks to Hermia, advising her to obey her father, and adding that Demetrius is a... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Hermia wishes her father could look at Lysander through her eyes, but Theseus responds, "Rather your eyes must with his [your father's] judgment look" (1.1.59). (full context)
Love Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Hermia asks what will happen if she refuses to marry Demetrius. Theseus gives the following choices: become a nun, be put to death, or marry Demetrius. When... (full context)
Men and Women Theme Icon
Theseus admits he's disturbed by these facts, but says he cannot change the laws of Athens.... (full context)
Act 1, scene 2
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
...are meeting about the play they hope to perform as part of the celebration for Theseus and Hippolyta's wedding: The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe. (full context)
Act 4, scene 1
Love Theme Icon
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
...Oberon dance together, and Oberon pronounces that on the next night they will dance at Theseus's castle in honor of Duke Theseus's wedding and the weddings of Lysander and Hermia and... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Theseus, Hippolyta, Egeus, and many others enter, about to hunt. But they recognize the sleeping lovers... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
Dreams Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
At the palace, Theseus and Hippolyta discuss the tale the lovers have told about their night in the wood.... (full context)
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
The lovers enter, and Theseus asks them what entertainment they'd like to see that night. Philostrate brings forward a list... (full context)
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
When Theseus learns that the players are simple manual laborers trying to do more than they are... (full context)
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
...actors don't even exist: "All for your delight we are not here" (5.1.114). Though as Theseus, Hippolyta, and the lovers remark, the prologue would have been normal if it had been... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
...lovers will speak though a hole in the wall that he represents with his fingers. Theseus and Demetrius comment that the Wall is the wittiest wall they've ever heard speak. (full context)
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Bottom enters as Pyramus, and curses the Wall for dividing him from his love. Theseus comments that since the Wall can talk it should curse him back. Bottom, overhearing, turns... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
...tomb) to elope. Hippolyta states, "This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard" (5.1.222). Theseus responds, "If we imagine no worse of them than they of themselves, they may pass... (full context)
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
...that the lantern he holds is moonshine, while he is the man in the moon. Theseus and the others make fun of the speeches. (full context)
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
...to the stage. She sees Pyramus lying dead. In despair she stabs herself, and dies. Theseus and the lovers continue to make fun of the play all the while. Finally, Bottom... (full context)
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Theseus says that it is almost "fairy time" (midnight), and therefore time to go to bed.... (full context)