Hippolyta: Character Analysis in A Midsummer Night's Dream

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      Introduction. Hippolyta is the Queen of Amazons. She fights a war with Theseus but loses this battle against him. Impressed by his bravery on the battlefield, Hippolyta agrees to marry Theseus. She is patient about getting married but Theseus is impatient and wants the wedding day to approach faster. This is the most important point of contrast between Theseus and Hippolyta. Hippolyta is extremely patient while Theseus is impatient. She is a ruler herself and therefore it can be said that she is both powerful and witty.

      Valor. Hippolyta is a brave woman and only agrees to marry Theseus after she loses a battle against him. However feminist literary critics have also pointed out that Hippolyta's portrayal in the play is symbolic in nature. Her agreeing to marry Theseus is representative of the fact that female strength and courage have been subordinated by male domination. We also see this being shadowed by Titania and Oberon wherein Oberon seems to be stubborn about getting his demands met by hook or by crook. He finally makes Titania surrender her Indian attendant thereby humiliating her.

      Hippolyta is also interested in sports such as stag-hunting which are predominantly considered to be 'masculine sports'. Hippolyta enjoys stag hunting and even pays keen attention to the Spartan breed dogs which Theseus has. She tells Theseus that she had once accompanied Hercules and Cadmus to a Cretan wood for hunting bears. It is during this visit that she had the fortune of hearing the Spartan hounds bark. She says that there barking was such a 'musical discord and sweet thunder'.

      Love. Hippolyta also represents the virtue of love. When the two couples, Lysander and Hermia; and Demetrius and Helena, recount their experience in the woods, Hippolyta is the only person who actually believes their story to be true. However, she is also idealistic in nature. Just like love is an ideal, she also wants to cling to the ideal of perfection. While she is watching the play about the love story of Pyramus and Thisbe, she expects the actors to perform without any flaws. She does not acknowledge the fact that these actors are merely artisans who are already going beyond their limits to justify their parts.

      Conclusion. Hippolyta's character is the most complex character. She has been interpreted differently by different critics. While for some critics, Hippolyta has been portrayed as a strong character, some other critics have also asserted that Hippolyta is indeed a strong character. However, the misogyny prevalent in the society is reflected in the plot of Hippolyta and Theseus. Hippolyta is a strong woman who is a victim of male domination. She finally has to succumb to the pressure of being a 'trophy-wife' while giving up her qualities of valor and courage.

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