Internet Shakespeare Editions


The course of true love?


The centre of the plot is rather like a Roman comedy--with romantic trimmings. There are two young lovers, hindered in their love by the crusty old man, the senex*, and they plot to escape his tyranny.

But the second plot, the misdirected love of Demetrius and Helena, and the whole invention of a love-juice, is wholly new, and much more in the tradition of romantic comedy. Even in this one plot, Shakespeare has created different layers--Roman and romantic--in the recipe for comedy.

Like the lesser plot of Theseus and Hippolyta, the situation and character of the lovers draws attention to the traditional relationship between the sexes*.


  1. Senex

    Latin for "old man." Click on the link "Roman comedy" for more.

  2. Gender and power issues

    • Egeus claims absolute control over his daughter; would an Elizabethan audience have agreed?
    • (Click on the link "Fathers and daughters" for more).

    • The relationship of Hermia and Lysander seems relatively well-balanced, but what of Helena's submission to Demetrius: "Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me . . ." (2.1.205)?
    • (Click for more)