Shakespeare character::Hippolyta


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Shakespeare character In William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Hippolyta is engaged to Theseus, the duke of Athens. In Act I, Scene 1 she and he discuss their fast-approaching wedding, which will take place under the new moon in four days (I.i.2). Theseus declares to Hippolyta that, although he "wooed her with his sword," he will wed her "with pomp, with triumph, and with revelling" and promises to begin a celebration that will continue until the wedding (I.i.19).

Although Hippolyta figures only marginally through the middle of the play, she resumes a strong role in Act V, scene I. There she and Theseus discuss some preceding events, namely the magical romantic confusions that the Athenian youths report from the night before. Theseus is skeptical about the veracity of their tale, but Hippolyta questions whether they would all have the same story if indeed, the night's adventures were imagined. She argues that the youths' agreement on the way the night's events unfolded proves that things occurred just as they say.

The fact that Hippolyta stands up to Theseus and disagrees with him here is significant. In Shakespeare's time it was common practice for a wife to be submissive, as expressed in The Taming of the Shrew. This play is unusual in its portrayal of strong women. Hippolyta, in particular, is strong, coming as she does from a tribe of fierce, empowered women of which she was the queen. In a feminist analysis, Louis Montrose contends: "Amazonian mythology seems symbolically to embody and to control a collective anxiety about the power of a female not only to dominate or reject the male but to create and destroy him."<ref>Montrose, Louis Adrian. "A Midsummer Night's Dream and the Shaping Fantasies of Elizabethan Culture: Gender, Power, Form" in Rewriting the Renaissance. Ed: Margaret Fergusun, Maureen Wuiling, Nancy Vickers. Chicago 1986: 65-87.</ref> Hippolyta attracts Theseus with her feminine allure and charm to such a degree, however, that he is completely smitten with her. Despite her forceful nature, then, she becomes the object of Theseus' passion. By marrying Hippolyta, Theseus is laying down his sword, "the weapon which gave him power and authority over her," and essentially surrendering. By the end of the play, Hippolyta has added to her power, becoming the queen of a new realm, Athens.

The character of Hippolyta also appears in The Two Noble Kinsmen, a play co-written by Shakespeare and John Fletcher.

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