It is no surprise that women have been struggling to gain equal rights for many years. Even up until today there are many aspects, where women are treated in a different way than men. In the Elizabethan Era, which was the time Shakespeare wrote his plays, women were not allowed to vote or to work. Women were less like humans but more like objects in the possession of their fathers, husbands or their brothers, which can also be seen in Shakespeare’s play ‘’A Midsummer Night’s Dream’’. Shakespeare showed his view of women through his works, which furthered the movement of women’s equals rights.
The play ‘’A Midsummer Night’s Dream’’ is set in Ancient Greece with Theseus, the Duke of Athens having control over everyone and everything. An issue right at the beginning is, that Hermia, the daughter of Egeus, refuses to marry Demetrius, a man her father has chosen for her because she is in love with Lysander. The role that women are expected to fulfil gets clear right at the first scene of the first act.It shows that women have no rights at all. Hermia is perceived as her father’s possession, which means that she has to obey her father, who ‘’should be as a God’’ for Hermia. She is not allowed to think and say what she wants to. But she builds the courage to disobey her father.
Hermia’s statement shows, that she is willing to fight for her right to marry the person she wants, even though it is against what the Duke commands her. She even speaks her mind in front of him, to show that she knows what is expected from her, which shows a strong sense of personal independence.By that it gets clear, that Hermia is not interested in fulfilling the role of the women in the 16th century, which is being obedient to men. It makes Hermia a more likeable person, because her character in the play shows a lot of dedication of having a right to do or say whatever she wants.However Helena, a childhood friend of Hermia, turns out to be the opposite of her. She is deeply in love with Demetrius, who hates her and instead is interested in Hermia.It seems like Helena does not understand that Demetrius is not interested in her and follows him around, which shows that she is completely dependent on him. In the first scene of the second act, her dependence on Demetrius becomes very obvious.Unlike Hermia, Helena does not consider herself to be independent that fights for her right to be treated with respect.
Therefore Helena fulfils everything, women in the Elizabethan Era were expected to fulfil, like for example being a dependent, obedient woman who does not have a will of her own. In Helena’s case it is due to unreturned love and her obsession with Demetrius: ‘’[…] for love I follow’d him’’ (Act 3, Scene 2).
Two women in the play, Hermia and Helena are completely different when it comes to subordinating to the male superiority. While Helena plays the role of the obedient and inferior woman, Hermia is showing a strong tendency to be disobedient towards the Duke Theseus and her father Egeus. She is having a free will and is ready to speak her mind even in front of Theseus. It was Shakespeare’s intention to create the likeable and strong character, Hermia and the more unlikeable character, Helena to emphasize his point of view towards the movement of women’s equal rights.Even though Shakespeare got criticized for the way he portrayed female characters in his plays, women played an important role for moving the plot forward, which can be seen as subtle critics on the society’s view of women in the Renaissance.