Objective: This exercise invites students to learn more about the world of the play and the particular barriers facing Hermia.
Materials: Access to the text excerpt from Act 1, Scene 1 (below)
- Remind students that this excerpt is between Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and Hermia, an Athenian citizen. Hermia's father, Egeus, has brought a complaint forward to Theseus because she refuses to marry Demetrius according to his wishes, going against the laws of Athens. Hippolyta, Lysander and Demetrius are also present for this conversation. It takes place at the very beginning of the play.
- Read the excerpt together aloud.
- Ask students to share or note down what they notice in terms of power and gender.
- Invite students to reflect on the debriefing questions independently, in conversation with a partner or in small groups, or in a written reflection.
Act 1, Scene 1
What say you, Hermia? Be advised, fair maid:
To you your father should be as a god;
Demetrius is a worthy gentleman.
So is Lysander.
In himself he is;
But in this kind, wanting your father's voice,
The other must be held the worthier.
I would my father look'd but with my eyes.
Rather your eyes must with his judgment look.
I do entreat, your grace to pardon me.
I know not by what power I am made bold,
But I beseech your grace that I may know
The worst that may befall me in this case,
If I refuse to wed Demetrius.
To die the death.
Therefore, fair Hermia, question your desires;
Hermia goes to speak, but is interrupted.
Take time to pause, and by the next new moon
The wedding day betwixt my love and me,
Upon that day either prepare to die
For disobedience to your father's will,
Or else to wed Demetrius, as he would.
- What does this scene tell us about the world of the play? What kind of a place is Athens, particularly for young women?
- If you were one of Hermia's friends, what advice would you give her? How would you help?
- If you were Hermia, what would you do?
- What do you think Lysander is thinking during the scene? Why doesn't he say anything?
- What do you imagine Hermia was going to say to Theseus before he continued speaking?