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Like Hippolyta is to Theseus, Lysander is to Hermia. His only real role in the play is to become Hermia's husband. He is strongly disliked by Egeus, Hermia's father, because he is a challenge to the father's choice. Egeus claims that Lysander has "bewitched the bosom" of Hermia and "filched" her. Wise and in control of his emotions, Lysander allows these allegations to go unanswered. In fact, the first time he speaks in the play is when he begs Demetrius to "let me have Hermia's (love)." Later he puts forth his case to Theseus that in every respect he is equal to Demetrius and has the added benefit of enjoying Hermia's love. Additionally, he informs the Duke about the unworthy nature of Demetrius, who has proved himself fickle; he has earlier loved Helena, Hermia's good friend, but quickly deserts her when he is chosen by Egeus as Hermia's future husband. When he cannot at first convince the Duke to grant him permission to marry Hermia legally, he comes up with the plan to run away with Hermia to the home of his aunt, who lives seven leagues away; there, he and Hermia can be married, for they will be outside the cruel law of Athens.
In the wood, Lysander, like Hermia, becomes a helpless victim when Puck mistakes him for Demetrius and puts the magical flower juice on his eyelids. When he wakes, he believes that he is madly in love with Helena; when Hermia tries to talk to him, he is outwardly rude to her. But he can be forgiven, for he is not in control of his emotions, but is a victim of circumstance. Once the spell is removed from Lysander, he proves his worth by returning Hermia's love and confessing to the Duke about their plans to run away and marry.
Helena is the good friend of Hermia who is greatly grieved because her lover, Demetrius, has deserted her in favor of Hermia. An emotional women, she wallows in self-pity, never trying to solve her problems. She merely keeps wishing that she had the charm of Hermia to keep Demetrius for herself. When Hermia and Lysander tell her about their plans to run away and be married, she chooses to reveal the plans to Demetrius in hopes of winning him back. Demetrius, however, only goes into the woods to find Hermia and Lysander. The helpless Helena merely follows behind him. As she pursues Demetrius in the woods, she pleads with him to love her again. When he tells her he does not love her, Hermia says, "I am your spaniel; and . . .the more you beat me, I will favor on you." Although such pleading fails to impress Demetrius, Oberon, the King of the Fairies, hears her sad words and is moved by her situation. He decides to help her and asks Puck to squeeze the magical juice of the flower into the eyes of Demetrius so that he will fall in love with Helena. Unfortunately, Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius and makes him fall in love with Helena.
When Lysander professes his love for her, Helena is sure he is playing a cruel trick on her. When Demetrius falls under the fairy spell and also professes his love for her, Helena assumes that both men are conspiring together against her. Later, when Hermia comes on the scene, she also accuses her of being a party to the mischief. She is so focused on herself and her own problems that she fails to realize that Hermia is being treated badly too. It is no wonder that Hermia argues with Helena, accusing her of stealing Lysander's love.
When the spell is removed and Demetrius still professes his love for her, Helena is overjoyed. She exclaims, "I have found Demetrius, like a jewel." She is even more delighted when Demetrius proposes to her and when Theseus suggests that the two of them marry at the same time he marries Hippolyta. Helena's dream has come true.
When the play opens, Demetrius is pictured as a fickle young nobleman. He has been in love with Helena, but quickly deserts her when Egeus suggests that he marry Hermia. Although he is eager to wed her, Hermia has no interest in him. She has chosen Lysander to become her husband.
In comparison with Lysander, however, Demetrius seems to have more going for him; the law, the Duke, and Egeus are originally on his side, which gives him self-assurance. He is proud and nonchalant when Lysander speaks about his earlier affair with Helena and how he has deserted her. He demands of Lysander, "Relent sweet Hermia: and Lysander yield / Thy crazed title to my certain right." Demetrius does not seem to care that Hermia feels no lover for him.
In his eagerness to marry Hermia, Demetrius is rude to Helena and treats her badly. Ironically, when Oberon intervenes and brings him finally under the magic spell, he falls in love with Helena and sees the faults of Hermia. When his spell is broken, he still loves Helena and accepts the love that Hermia has for Lysander. When he proposes to Helena and agrees to be married at the same time as Theseus, Demetrius redeems himself.