Shakespeare’s a Midsummer Night’s Dream

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They are totally and constantly clear which of the two men they love even though the men referred, may change due to the magic drop. At the beginning of the play, Hermia is told that she has a few days left for deciding if she would obey her father and marry Demetrius rather than Lysander. Paternal consent was an absolute necessity for the marriage of a daughter in Elizabethan days and the Duke in the play stresses upon this point of patriarchal importance:

To whom you are but as a Form in Wax,
By him imprinted, and within his Power
To leave the Figure or disfigure it. (I-I-49-51)

Mother’s role in the birth of a daughter seems to be rather obscured here. It is spoken as though the child is the property of the father alone, one of his possessions with which he could decide to do whatever he chooses. Regus accuses Lysander with the obvious show of this right over the daughter:

Turn’d her Obedience, which is due to me,
To stubborn Harshness. (I-I- 38-39)
The harshness of the father’s unrelenting decision is clear when he says:
As she is mine, I may dispose of her,
Which shall be either to this Gentleman
Or to her Death.. (I-I-42-44)

Again the gender plays an important role here. Being a daughter is a decidedly much lesser role than being a son. The daughters are protected, shielded, but were dominated and decisions about their lives were informed to them and they were expected to abide by those paternal decisions. Hermia was given the choice of either to die the Death or to abjure forever the Society of Men or ‘she can endure the Livery of Nun.’
Those were the days when chastity was valued the most. The Queen, who had given up her pleasures and male company, for ruling the country as an absolute monarch, was ruling the social and cultural scenes of England too. We see in the play Hermia being definitely possessive about her virginity. Female virginity was a necessity for a good match and a subsequent married life. Male virginity was not a forced factor but definitely was valued.
Conversation between Helena and Hermia in the I scene, shows that Hermia is rather simultaneously smug and unhappy with two men loving her and Helena is longing to be Demetrius’ lover. (The more I love, the more he hateth me). Helena could not stomach the fact that Dimetrius has gone with Egeus to the court of the Duke to win Hermia’s hand. In her desperation to win his attention, she does not hesitate to beg her friend for advice:

I teach me how you look, and with what Art
You sway the Motion of Demetrius’ Heart (I-I-192-193)

Rivalry and a kind of mild hatred begin from this point between the two. Hermia and Helena have a kind of ‘homosocial world of peer-group friendship’. Their innocent relationship continues very comfortably, till the heterosexual relationships disturb it, mainly when Hermia’s longing for Lysander brings distance to her relationship with Helena. Most of the time, they had friendship with men without much of intimacy and this is not disturbing their chastity in any way. It is like a celebration of companionship. But, the friends refrain from discussing their choices of men or discuss the men themselves. Prior to the influence of the drug, the two friends do not seem to be having any desire to relinquish their respective partners. During the wars of love, there had been jealousy and insecurity between them, which grows into a definite competition.