TSR Wiki > Study Help > Subjects and Revision > Revision Notes > English > Helena and Hermia's Relationship in Midsummer Night's Dream
Hermia and Helena's relationship has changed greatly after the intervention of Puck with the love potion. Once best friends, they have become each others enemies, and all for the love of Lysander and Demetrius.
- Hermia and Helena were best friends when they were at school.
"All school-days' friendship, childhood innocence?"
(Act 3, Scene 2, Line 201, Helena)
- They had complete trust in each other, telling each other their deepest secrets.
"Is all the counsel that we two have shared,
The sisters' vows, the hours that we have spent,"
(Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 198 - 199, Helena)
- They worked together on everything they did including sewing and singing.
"Both on one sampler, sitting on one cushion,
Both warbling of one song, both in one key,"
(Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 205 - 206)
- To some people, Helena and Hermia became the same person, saying the same things, thinking the same thoughts and having the same morals and principles.
"As if our hands, our sides, voices, and minds
Had been incorporate. So we grew together,"
(Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 207-208)
- Behaving in the same way, they spent as much time as possible together. This time passed quickly, whilst the time spent apart was slow and seemed pointless.
"When we have chid the hasty-footed time
For parting us-O, is all forgot?"
(Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 200 - 201, Helena)
- Although Helena and Hermia were two separate people, they were,
"a union in partition"
compared to a double cherry.
"Two lovely berries moulded on one stem."
(Act 3, Scene 2, Line 211, Helena)
- Their friendship was so strong that they seemed to be connected, the same person in two different bodies.
"So with two seeming bodies, but one heart,"
(Act 3, Scene 2, Line 212, Helena)
- This had lasted all their lives until the intervention of Lysander and Demetrius.
The strong friendship between Helena and Hermia quickly disintegrated when they became involved with the two men. The love potion was meant to help, but Puck's mistake managed to completely reverse the relationship. When both Demetrius and Lysander were under the influence of the "love-in-idleness" flower, Helena believed that both were mocking her.
"You both are rivals and love Hermia
And now both rivals, to mock Helena."
(Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 155 - 156, Helena)
- When Hermia seems to take the same attitude, even though she doesn't know what's going on, Helena accuses her of betraying all women by entering into it.
"Our sex, as well as I, may chide you for it,"
(Act 3, Scene 2, Line 218, Helena)
- Helena and Hermia quickly enter into a massive argument, accusing each other of stealing their love.
"You thief of love. What, have you come by night
And stolen my love's heart from him?"
(Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 283 - 284, Hermia)
- Their childhood friendship is forgotten in an instant, completely torn apart by the two men. It is not the love potion which has had this effect on the women directly, it is the performance of the two men, arguing over Helena who have caused the break up. This exhibition of feelings upsets and confuses both Helena and Hermia. Hermia feels cheated, and Helena is the first person she can find to blame.
"O me, you juggler, you canker-blossom,"
(Act 3, Scene 2, Line 282, Hermia)
- Helena, however, thinks everything is some kind of cruel trick against her, and remains slightly calmer than Hermia.
"Lo, she is one of this confederacy.
Now I perceive they have conjoined all three
To fashion this false sport in spite of me."
(Act 3, Scene 2, Lines192 - 194, Helena)
- As she is taller than Hermia, she calls her a "puppet".
"Fie, fie, you counterfeit, you puppet, you!"
(Act 3, Scene 2, Line 288, Helena)
- Hermia takes this insult as though it is the reason that Lysander doesn't love her anymore.
"Her height, forsooth, she hath prevailed with him."
(Act 3, Scene 2, Line 293, Hermia)
- She goes on to call Helena a "painted maypole" and is obviously very worked up and angry.
"And with her personage, her tall personage,"
(Act 3, Scene 2, Line 292, Hermia)
- Helena is afraid of what Hermia might do to her, and Hermia is not short of threats in her vicious mood.
"How low am I? I am not yet so low,
But that my nails can reach unto thine eyes."
(Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 297 - 298, Hermia)
- Helena does not want to fall out and does not understand why their past was so quickly forgotten.
"Good Hermia, do not be so bitter with me.
I evermore did love you Hermia,
Did ever keep your counsels, never wronged you"
(Act 3, Scene 2, Lines 306 - 308, Helena)
- Hermia, however, feels hard done by. She feels that Helena has caused her true love to turn against her, and if Helena disappeared, everything would be fine. "Why, get you gone. Who is't that hinders you?"
Act 3, Scene 2, Line 317, Hermia)
- Helena also has the solution of running away, but can't as she foolishly still loves Demetrius.
Helena and Hermia's relationship has changed completely, entirely because of the effect of the love potion on Lysander and Demetrius. The friendship shown before the argument contrasts greatly to the hostility afterwards. The change has been for the worse, completely destroying the women's trust in each other, and all because of a fight between two men, caused by a mischievous spirit.
Categories: English Revision Notes | A Level English Revision Notes
Shakespeare introduces Helena to us as the character that nobody loves. She also has the most time to philosophize on the nature of love, maybe because she's not too busy actually being loved by anybody. Unlike Lysander, who speaks majestically of love (but in the specific contexts of history and poetry), Helena is prone to generalized statements. She dismisses love as a foolish child, but she isn't as delightful a character as As You Like It's Rosalind (who thinks the same thing). Why? Because love makes Helena a fool. It's hard to be sympathetic to her when she's so busy being self-pitying all the time.
Within the spectrum of lovers, Helena is the best representative of unrequited love. People who are in love might be fools (as witnessed by the other three youths), but people who are kept out of love are another brand of foolish.
In the play, even when Demetrius and Lysander both fall for Helena, she can't believe them. It seems Helena has spent so much time rationalizing why she isn't loved that, when the thing comes along (real or not), she can't embrace it and enjoy it for what it is. She becomes even more self-pitying when she believes that she has gone from a loner to a joke. Even at the end of the play, when Demetrius still loves her, Helena is skeptical.
Helena is Shakespeare's answer to what happens when things get too cerebral and self-indulgent around love—nobody loves a needy whiner. Helena needs to overcome her own insecurities. She should genuinely deal with them, instead of rationalizing them away by assuming she's just inferior to prettier women. Then, she might be able to relax and just enjoy love. There's a lesson for everybody here: Hermia needs to calm down, Lysander needs to toughen up, Demetrius needs to get off his high horse, and Helena needs to accept the confidence that comes with being loved.Timeline