* Hermia has a dark complexion, in contrast with Helena’s blondness. When Lysander was under the influence of Puck’s potion, he had said “Away, you Ethiope!” and ” Thy love? Out, tawny Tartar, out!” Act Three, Scene 2, Line 266. An Ethiope is a dark-skinned person, here is it clearly intended as an insult. Tawny Tartar is another insulting reference to Hermia’s dark complexion. Tawny is a light brown to brownish orange colour. A Tartar is a member of any of the Turkic and Mongolian peoples of central Asia who invaded western Asia and eastern Europe in the Middle Ages and also a person regarded as ferocious or violent.

* Hermia is short, compared to elegant Helena’s tallness and slenderness. Self-conscious about her short stature, Hermia suspects that Helena has wooed the men (esp. Lysander) with her height. She says “Her height, forsooth, she hath prevailed him. And are you grown so high in his esteem Because I am so dwarfish and so low?” Act Three, Scene 2, Lines 296 to 298.

* Hermia has a fiery temper. Helena had remarked “O, when she’s angry, she is keen and shrewd. She was a vixen when she went to school; And though she be but little she is fierce.” Act Three, Scene 2, Lines 328 to 330. Helena was scared that Hermia might do her some bodily injury for Hermia claimed that even if she is low, she is tall enough to claw into Helena’s eyes. (Act Three, Scene 2, Lines 300 and 301.)

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* Hermia believes strongly in loyalty, faith and especially chastity. In the forest, she insists that Lysander sleeps further away from her for ‘human modesty’. “Such separation as may well be said, Becomes a virtuous bachelor and a maid.” Act Two, Scene 2, Lines 65 and 66.

* Hermia is brave, opposing her father’s choice of her husband and refusing to marry Demetrius, even if it meant death of a lifetime in the nunnery. “So will I grow, so live, so die, my lord, Ere I will yield my virgin patent up, Unto his lordship whose unwished yoke, My soul consents not to give sovereignty.” Act One, Scene 1, Lines 79 to 82.

Helena

* Helena is tall and fair. Hermia had said “How low am I, thou painted maypole? Speak!” Act Three, Scene 2, Line 299. This is a reference to Helena’s tallness but also an accusation that her fair complexion was due to the use of cosmetics.

* Helena is the one who thinks most of the nature of love. She believes that Demetrius has built up a fantastic notion of Hermia’s beauty that prevented him from recognizing her own. Helena also believes love is blind. “Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind, And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.” Act One, Scene 1, Lines 234 and 235.

* Helena is extremely sensitive and unsure of herself, worrying about her appearance and believing that Lysander is mocking her when he declares his love for her. “Where was I to this keen mockery born? When at your hands did I deserve this scorn?” Act Two, Scene 2, Lines 129 and 130.

* Helena wallows in self-pity but never tries to solve her problems. She merely keeps wishing that she had the charm of Hermia to keep Demetrius for herself. “I frown upon him, yet he loves me still. O that your frowns would teach my smiles such skill!” Act One, Scene 1, Lines 194 and 195.

* Helena highlights the gender differences that vex women of the time. Unlike men who can woo whomever they please, women are not allowed to fight for love. By following Demetrius into the woods, she has broken the rules of her sex. “We cannot fight for love, as men may do; We should be wooed, and were not made to woo.” Act Two, Scene 1, Lines 241 and 242.

* Helena believes childhood friendships between women should be stronger than the fickle love of men. Thus, she was upset when she thought Hermia had joined forces with her two admirers to mock her. “Injurious Hermia, most ungrateful maid, Have you conspired, have you with these contrived, To bait me with this foul derision? Is all the counsel that we two have shared – The sister’s vows, the hours that we have spent, When we have chid the hasty-footed time, For parting us – O, is all forgot?” Act Three, Scene 2, Lines 196 to 202.

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