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Discuss Demetrius(TM) treatment of Helena in Act Two Scene One, how would an Elizabethan audience react differently to a modern audience?

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A Midsummer Night's Dream Discuss Demetrius' treatment of Helena in Act Two Scene One, how would an Elizabethan audience react differently to a modern audience? In this essay I will be discussing and exploring Act Two Scene One in one of William Shakespeare's plays 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. I will be focusing on how Demetrius treats Helena throughout the scene and analyzing how an Elizabethan audience would react differently to a modern audience. Considering the play was written in the 1590's and set in Legendary Athens William Shakespeare had to be wary about the language he used about love and marriage in the Elizabethan era. In Act One Scene One, Egeus underlines the fact that he "consents" for his daughter Hermia to marry Demetrius. Even with knowing Hermia and Lysander had fallen for each other, this was going against the Elizabethan law. Egeus is "full of vexation" over this, this outlines the fact of Egeus power over Hermia. An audience within the Elizabethan era would find this perfectly acceptable behavior, as Egeus being a male has a higher status than Hermia being a woman. Where as a modern audience within today's society would find this completely unacceptable and disagree with what Egeus was doing. Furthermore Lysander states his background and wealth is equal to Demetrius' "My fortunes every way as fairly ranked", Egeus still persists on Demetrius to wed Hermia "I do estate unto Demetrius". ...read more.


Helena pleads with Demetrius to love her "I am your spaniel" she is desperately asking him to treat her like a dog, she is saying that no matter how badly he treats her she will still feel the same love for him. Whilst she pleads with Demetrius, he is extremely offensive in his language towards Helena "for I am sick when I do look on thee" much the same as the modern expression "you make me sick". Helena on the other hand feels sick when she cannot look upon Demetrius "sick when I look not on you." Still she is persistent and won't give up, she feels that she can win over Demetrius. In the eyes of a modern audience the way Demetrius speaks to Helena is perceived as outrageous. Contrastingly an Elizabethan audience would find this acceptable and would have no problem what so ever with this. Women in the 1590's were seen as second best to men, being less important. We have to take into account that this was Centuries before women were allowed to vote, let alone have any equality to men. Demetrius reminds Helena that he is in love with Hermia but still Helena persists in her pursuit to gain the love of Demetrius. However Demetrius has other plans, "Where is Lysander and fair Hermia. ...read more.


Shakespeare never really details this potion, so audiences are left wondering whether Demetrius' love for Helena is merely lust. In conclusion both audiences at the end of the play would probably have the same attitude to wanting the play to conclude with a happy ending. The main theme of the play is "The course of true love never did run smoothly". All of the conflict in the play leads back to the troubles of romance. This may be a big reason why this play is still remembered today, even though modern audiences have different views to an Elizabethan audience, people still believe the saying of "The course of true love never did run smoothly" and the fact that we can relate back to how Helena must feel during the play. Throughout the play a modern audience would be shocked to see Helena being so submissive where as an Elizabethan audience would find that to be normal. We as a modern audience would find Demetrius' treatment towards Helena appalling, yet a man of our society or Elizabethan would find her actions very annoying. During the play I felt Helena portrayed herself as a very weak individual, but realized that in the setting of the play that would not be seen as abnormal. Although Demetrius' was very insensitive to Helena it is understandable that he found her constant need for love and approval irritating. ...read more.

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