A Midsummer Night's Dream
A Midsummer Night's Dream Gender Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line). Line numbers correspond to MIT's online edition.
What say you, Hermia? be advised fair maid:
To you your father should be as a god;
One that composed your beauties, yea, and one
To whom you are but as a form in wax
By him imprinted and within his power
To leave the figure or disfigure it.
Demetrius is a worthy gentleman. (1.1.4)
Theseus says that fathers are like "gods" and daughters are like globs of wax. (This is a pretty common idea in 16th-century literature, where kids are often said to look like their fathers because they're "imprint[ed]" by their dads' images, much like as humans are said to be made in God's image.) Here, Theseus's metaphor is sinister because he says that, because Egeus had the power to make Hermia in his own image, he also has the "power" to "disfigure" her (body/face) if he feels like it.
Take time to pause; and, by the nest new moon--
The sealing-day betwixt my love and me,
For everlasting bond of fellowship--
Upon that day either prepare to die
For disobedience to your father's will,
Or else to wed Demetrius, as he would;
Or on Diana's altar to protest
For aye austerity and single life. (1.1.8)
Hermia is left with very few choices if she refuses to marry the man her father has chosen for her. Here, we learn that she must either wed Demetrius or choose from the following: 1) become a nun, or 2) die. It seems that Egeus and Theseus attempt to control Hermia's sexuality by trying to force her into an unwanted marriage or, alternatively, a nunnery, where she will be forced to live a life of "austerity."
You have her father's love, Demetrius;
Let me have Hermia's: do you marry him. (1.1.1)
Lysander makes a pretty good point here – Egeus and Demetrius get along far better than Demetrius and Hermia. In fact, Hermia has been left out of the marriage negotiations altogether. The contract has been put together by two men.