Hippolyta is a dominant character in the play; A Midsummer night’s dream. Some views on the play may suggest that Shakespeare represented her as the Queen- Queen Elizabeth I. This may be illustrated through Act 4 Scene 1 where Hippolyta marries Theseus and becomes the Queen of the Amazons. Shakespeare bases Hippolyta’s character on the ancient Plutarch’s portrayal of her in his ‘life of Theseus’. This ideology covers the big mythological battle between Theseus and the Amazons.
In the play Hippolyta uses long silences when speaking, this could show her expressions towards her wedding; there is no hurry for her wedding night. There are slight disagreements between Hippolyta and Theseus in the play where it is shown that they have a tense relationship, and the long silences used represents anger. ‘Four days will quickly steep themselves in night, four nights will quickly dream away the time’ is a memorable quote in the play. It can be viewed by some readers that it represents the disagreements between the couple; showing animosity, tension and anger.
In the Elizabethan times, society was patriarchal; where the males were the dominant figure heads. The Elizabethan views on the Amazons were that they are a symbol of passion that should be governed by reason. In this idea the reason would be men; therefore Hippolyta has an acceptance of being a ‘trophy wife’ to Theseus where he is in control. As men are known as reason, women are known for emotion. Women should be governed by men in Elizabethan times and therefore in today’s society the text could be perceived in different ways. The Faerie Queen’ a narrative poem by Edmund Spencer had the same idea that women should be governed by men as they were produced in the same era.
Hippolyta shows how men are controlling as in act 4 scene 1 she shows the power in which men have; ‘I was with Hercules and Cadmus once, when in a wood of Crete they bayed the bear’. This illustrates the ideology of the Elizabethan era, where no only are men controlling and powerful but also protective. A critic Louis Adrian Montrose had a view on the play in which Hippolyta’s submission to Theseus enacts as a fantasy about a female ruler submitting to male authority.
This is what Queen Elizabeth I refused to do. Hippolyta can be seen to be a bit of a romantic, when Titania confesses about one of her sexual affairs and accuses Oberon of having a steamy relationship with Hippolyta; ‘the bouncing Amazon… Your warrior love’. The Elizabethan audience would expect the queen of Amazons to be defeated as she represents passion and therefore this is used as reassurance. The account of ‘moon’ is used and interpreted in many different ways in the plays, Hippolyta says ‘Moon… like a silver bow’.
This is reassurance that she is not going to get defeated as this creates an image of a bow carrying Amazon women. The educated Elizabethan audience would see the moon as an image of Diana; she is the Goddess of Hunting, fertility and justity. However the moon can represent that itself. She also uses the moon many times in the play to represent good spirits, ‘the moon shines with a good grace’. Hippolyta can be seen as a nice and thoughtful character as she shows a concern for Hermia at the beginning of the play.
Although Hippolyta is sympathetic for the lovers, she turns out to be quite a snob as she critics the mechanicals throughout their bumbling and amateur performance. As she says ‘I love not see wretchedness o’er charged.. , when duty in his service perishing. This means that Hippolyta hates to look at poor people especially when they are such lousy actors. She also shows an open mindedness for the lover’s adventures. She may show a fear that the mechanicals might be humiliated.
Courtney from Study Moose
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