Theseus: Character Analysis in A Midsummer Night's Dream

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      Introduction. Theseus is the Duke of Athens and therefore is the character in the play who commands the most respect. We are introduced to this character in the very beginning of this play. It is Theseus' speech that opens the play. In this speech, we realize that Theseus is to get married to the 'fair Hippolyta' or beautiful Hippolyta. We also understand that Theseus is deeply in love with Hippolyta and is getting impatient for his wedding day to approach faster. He compares the dreary night to an old but rich widow who continues to live, depriving her son, the rightful heir to the property from enjoying his right. He is mindful of his duty of being the king and therefore urges Hermia to obey the wishes of her father even though towards the end of the play; he makes love conquer over everything else and grants Hermia the permission to marry Lysander. He only appears at the beginning and end of the play; removed from the middle part, the dream-like section of the play. Theseus represents power and order in the play.

      Theseus, a fighter and a ruler. Theseus is the duke of Athens and therefore it is needless to say that he is a symbol of power and domination in the play. His marriage to Hippolyta is not a simple marriage, as is the case with most rulers. He has won Hippolyta after displaying his valor on the battlefield. Hippolyta is impressed with his courage and therefore agrees to marry him. However Theseus character is not a character which is intensely aggressive. He is most certainly brave but does not wear it as a badge or display bouts of heroism mindlessly. He is also a man who enjoys merriment. On the occasion of his wedding with Hippolyta, he provides special attention to the minute details of the entertainment programs planned. Even at the end of the play, Theseus is very careful about which play to watch. It is only after a careful deliberation does he approve of the play 'Pyramus and Thisbe'. He is a ruler who believes in magnanimity; pomp, show and glamour. He wants to incorporate elements of magnificence in his wedding to Hippolyta. Theseus comes across as a strong but jolly-natured king.

      He is very earnest in fulfilling his responsibilities of a king. He is a competent and strong ruler who is also fair and just towards his subjects. Egeus, Hermia’s father goes to Theseus to complain against his daughter as she is not obeying him to marry Demetrius. Theseus hears this story in full detail and then tells Hermia that she must worship her father like a God who has molded her and given her a definite form and shape. However, he is not condescending towards Hermia and communicates with her gently and patiently. He also tells Hermia that if she does not succumb to her father's demands then she will have to lead a life of celibacy. He does not abhor this life and actually says that women who abstain from worldly pleasures are 'thrice blessed'. He also adds that women who get married and bear children lead a happier and more fulfilled life. This shows that Theseus is a man who is oriented towards raising a family with love and forging familial bonds. He is also very sensitive towards Hermia's feelings and grants her time to reconsider her decision although it seems that Theseus knows that Hermia will not change her mind. In the end of the play; he favors Hermia over Egeus and allows her to marry Lysander. He does so because he realizes that the love between Hermia and Lysander is intense and genuine. He also renders the Athenian law obsolete in front of their love.

      Rationality. Theseus is a rational, practical and wise man who believes in using his rational capability to take decisions. He does not support imagination in any way and also makes a speech discouraging the reliance on human imagination. He does not easily believe the narrative which the two couples; Lysander and Hermia, and, Demetrius and Helena recount. He says that imagination is a quality common to three categories of people-madmen, lunatics and lovers. It is by the virtue of imagination that they give a definite structure to abstract and vague concepts. Although Theseus appreciates the utility of imagination, he does not endorse imagination in any way.

      Wisdom. Theseus is a very wise ruler and extremely considerate as well as mindful of others. When he is watching a group of artisans perform the play; Tyramus and Thisbe' with Hippolyta, he does not get offended with their unrefined performance. Rather he seizes this opportunity to explain to Hippolyta that one must appreciate a speaker's stumbling during their speech as they are mindful of the great duty that they have to perform. Unlike Hippolyta and others who judge everyone by the performance that the artisans have put up, it is only Theseus who appreciates the sincerity of the artisans instead of condemning their performance. This particular episode in the play exemplifies Theseus' wisdom.

      Conclusion. To conclude, it can be said that it is the character of Theseus who is the most balanced of all characters in the play. He is a rational, sane and down-to-earth ruler. He believes in the virtue of love thereby allowing Hermia to marry Lysander. He is also a witty man and extremely devoted to Hippolyta. He upholds virtues of love, earnestness, justice, valor and integrity.

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