The relationship between men and women echoes across both the mortal and fairy worlds of A Midsummer Night's Dream. More specifically, both the fairy and mortal plots in the play deal with an attempt by male authority figures to control women. Though Theseus and Hippolyta appear to share a healthy loving relationship, it is a love built upon a man asserting power over a woman: Theseus won Hippolyta's love by defeating her in battle. Oberon creates the love juice in an attempt to control his disobedient wife. Egeus seeks to control his daughter's marriage. And while the play ends happily, with everyone either married or reconciled, the love on display is of a very particular kind: it is a love in which women accept a role subservient to their husbands. To a modern audience this likely seems rather offensive, but an Elizabethan audience would have generally accepted that men are the head of the household just as the king is the head of society.
Also, A Midsummer Night's Dream suggests that love can also take a terrible toll on same-sex friendships. Even before the lovers get into the forest, Helena betrays her friend Hermia for love. And once they do get into the forest, all the intense feelings nearly cause the men to duel and brings the women almost to blows as well.
Men and Women ThemeTracker
Men and Women Quotes in A Midsummer Night's Dream
Than that which, withering on the virgin thorn,
Grows, lives, and dies in single blessedness. (76)
Devoutly dotes, dotes in idolatry,
Upon this spotted and inconstant man. (109)
Could ever hear by tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth. (132)
But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so.
He will not know what all but he do know.
And as he errs, doting on Hermia's eyes,
So I, admiring of his qualities.
Things base and vile, holding no quantity,
Love can transpose to form and dignity.
Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind. (227)
We should be wooed and were not made to woo.
I'll follow thee and make a heaven of hell,
to die upon the hand I love so well. (226)
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania some time of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell'd skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in. (235)
Titania waked and straightway loved an ass. (33)
To set against me for your merriment:
If you we re civil and knew courtesy,
You would not do me thus much injury.
Can you not hate me, as I know you do,
But you must join in souls to mock me too?
If you were men, as men you are in show,
You would not use a gentle lady so;
To vow, and swear, and superpraise my parts,
When I am sure you hate me with your hearts.
You both are rivals, and love Hermia;
And now both rivals, to mock Helena:
A trim exploit, a manly enterprise,
To conjure tears up in a poor maid's eyes
With your derision! none of noble sort
Would so offend a virgin, and extort
A poor soul's patience, all to make you sport. (147)