In Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare portrays this idea of love as being a hardship where the character Helena represents the sad truth of a one-sided love. For example, Helena loves Demetrius but he has his eyes set on Hermia. Meanwhile, Hermia loves Lysander but her father wants her to marry Demetrius. Throughout the play we see that women are ready to give up everything to chase after a man for the assurance of love.
Helena is a character who falls in love with Demetrius. He however has no interest in Helena as he is madly in love with Hermia. On the contrary, Hermia wants to get married to the lovely Lysander and so they decide to elope. Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius and if she does not accept this order by her father then the “law of Athens yields you up (Which by no means we may extenuate) To death, or to a vow of single life.” This means that if Hermia were not to obey her father, she would have to die or be sent to a nunnery.
Helena is desperate for Demetrius’ love but he does not acknowledge it. She constantly seeks for his attention but does not receive it. Instead, Demetrius showers Helena in insults but she does not let that get to her. In the beginning of the story, Helena’s desperation is visible when she seeks out advice from Hermia about winning over Demetrius’ love. She wants to understand how Demetrius loves her so much and how the feelings Demetrius has for Hermia can be transferred to Helena. Helena soon finds out about Hermia’s plan to elope with Lysander and gets infuriated. She admires how love can be delightful and romantic for a few people. She wonders “How happy some o’er other some can be! Through Athens I am thought as fair as she. But what of that? Demetrius thinks not so. He will not know what all but he does know. And as he errs, doting on Hermia’s eyes.” Helena wants to know what makes her so different from Hermia who is happy in love.
Helena is a very thoughtful firm lady. After discovering Hermia’s plan to elope with Lysander. She decides to share this news with Demetrius to use as her way to get him to fall in love with her. She intends to lead him to Lysander and Hermia.She hopes to get Demetrius alone and make him fall in love with her. In her head, Helena is thinking “I will go tell him of Hermia’s flight: then to the wood will he tomorrow night pursue her; and for this intelligence if I have thanks, it is a dear expense: But herein mean I to enrich my pain, to have his sight thither and back again.” In act 2, Demetrius gets agitated and begins to talk ill about her and commits that he can never love her but she does not give up. Helena is adamant to stay loyal to Demetrius and it’s almost as if she believes she has an obligation to serve him and die for if necessary. She says “I am your spaniel; and Demetrius, the more you beat me, I will fawn on you. Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me, neglect me, lose me; only give me leave…”. The theme of women being submissive to men appears once again.
Helena in some perspective may seem like she is pathetic and pitiful but in another perspective, she seems determined and courageous. Shakespeare uses Helena to represent that women will go that extra mile for the men they love. They will spare their life for the desire of love. Love makes them obedient to men.