A Midsummer Night's Dream Major Characters
Theseus: As the Duke of Athens, Theseus opens the play on the eve of his wedding to Hippolyta. Egeus begs of help from him with his daughter. Theseus tells Hermia that she must obey his father’s wishes, join a nunnery, or die, and sets the command to Athenian law. Therefore, because of Theseus’s decree, Hermia won’t just be defying her father’s wishes; she will be breaking Athenian law. Because of this decree, she runs away with Lysander. However, Theseus is also the one who finds the four lovers in the morning of the magical summer evening and changes his mind. He declares that the three couples (including himself and Hippolyta) will be married immediately in the palace. Theseus also demands the players’ meager production of Pyramus and Thisbe later that day.
Hermia: The daughter of Egeus, Hermia is the object of desire initially for both Lysander and Demetrius. She is an Athenian and is in love with Lysander, going directly against her father’s will. She is described as small with dark hair and 'though she be but little, she is fierce' (Act 3, Scene 2, line 325). When angered, she can be very juvenile and physical with her temperament. She also believes strongly in loyalty, chastity, and faith. She is damaged deeply when the two men who normally swoon over her, leave her alone in the woods in the night to seek her childhood friend, Helena. She ends up winning: she marries Lysander with the wishes of Theseus, Hippolyta, and supposedly her father, Egeus, as well.
Lysander: Lysander is virtually indistinguishable from Demetrius, save the women who love them. He is in love with Hermia and plans to elope with her outside of Athens. They escape into the woods at night. He wants to sleep next to her, yet because of her chastity, he must sleep alone, away from her. Therefore, he is the first 'victim' of the magic love juice, and wakes up enamored with Helena. He immediately ditches his beloved Hermia to follow Helena in the woods, insulting Hermia with the most vile words. He also physically fights with his once-friend Demetrius for the love of Helena, but eventually ends up marrying his true, original love, Hermia.
Demetrius: A young man of Athens who is in love with Hermia and adored by Helena. He is the choice of Egeus for Hermia, and believes he should marry her. He once shared a night with Helena and has been followed by her since then. Helena tells him about the escape of Hermia and Lysander into the woods and then follows them there, followed by Helena. He constantly puts down Helena until he is smitten by love. He and Lysander physically dual in a comic fashion for Helena, because they are both under the influence of the magic. He ends up with Helena.
Helena: The childhood friend of Hermia and her greatest nemesis throughout most of the play. She is desperately in love with Demetrius, who just so happens to be in love with Hermia, who wants him to leave her alone. Helena follows him all over, like a puppy dog, hoping that he will notice her. She is the object of scorn and malice initially by Demetrius, and then is suddenly adored by both Demetrius and Lysander. She is a sensitive character, for she believes that everyone is playing a trick on her, when the changes are all due to the magic juice. She is tall and thin and called a 'painted maypole' in a fit of rage by Hermia. She is also the character who reminds both Hermia and the readers that they were once very close friends. She eventually learns how to play the men in the game of love. She ends up with her beloved Demetrius, yet only because of the magic.
Bottom: The comic relief in this romance/comedy. He is described as 'the shallowest thick-skin of that barren sort' by Athenians and 'simply the best wit of any handicraft man in Athens' by his lower-class peers. He loves to talk, hear his own voice, and consequently wants to play all the parts in Pyramus and Thisbe. He must settle for the title character, Pyramus, acting with over-dramatic flair in the concluding scene of the play. Since he constantly talks about nonsense, the fairies play him with. His head is transformed into an ass’s head as Titania falls in love with him. In this fantastical state, he is adorned with flowers and tended by fairies, until the magical midsummer night concludes, and he returns to a normal weaver of Athens and player for the Duke.
Puck: Also known as Robin Goodfellow, he is a mischievous fairy who seems to start the accidental chain of events of mistaken amorous identity in the woods. Another fairy recognizes him and says, 'You are that shrewd and knavish sprite / Called Robin Goodfellow. Are not you he / That frights the maidens of the villagery' (Act 2, Scene 1, lines 33-35). He can change his shape and voice to suit his fancy. These characteristics help him manipulate the Athenians in the woods and allow him to place the magic juice in everyone’s eyes.
Oberon: King of the fairies, Oberon controls much of the events that ensue in the woods. He brings in the magic flower juice that makes people fall in love, he plays tricks on his queen, he orders Puck to make amends, and he ultimately wins the Indian boy. There is rumor that he was in love with Hippolyta, the soon-to-be duchess of Athens. However, he ultimately loves Titania and ends his joke on her and commands that all the lovers be happy together in Athens.
Titania: She is the fairy queen, mate of Oberon the fairy king. She is beautiful, jealous, and strong-willed. She desperately wants to keep the little Indian boy and goes to great lengths fighting with Oberon to do so. Titania is always attended by many fairies beckoning to her calls. Oberon plays a trick on her by placing the fairy juice in her eyes and allowing her to make a mockery of herself by falling in love with the transformed Bottom.
Hippolyta: The fiancée (and later wife) of the Duke of Athens, Theseus. She was an Amazon warrior queen before Theseus defeated her in battle, also winning her heart. She serves mainly as the female voice in the Athenian palace, but does little to move the plot forward.
Egeus: The father of Hermia who begs for help from the Duke, Theseus, interrupting his wedding. He gives his daughter the choice of marrying Demetrius, whom he has chosen, joining a nunnery, or dying. He loses merit at the end of the play, for she gets her man and the law backs her up.
Little Indian Boy: Although he never says one line in the play and oftentimes never appears, he is the catalyst for the argument between Oberon and Titania, which sets off the magical chain of events.