Sunday, February 05, 2012

Own it Helena – You’re the New It Girl

Helena (A Midsummer Night’s Dream) is one of my all-time favorite characters in Shakespeare; often over-looked, at least in her mind.

The not-quite-as-classically-attractive Helena is best friends with the All-American (in this case All-Grecian) beauty, Hermia. She has a paramour, Demetrius, who is interested in her beauty until he meets her best friend Hermia, and crushing, decides to transfer his affection to her. Problem: Hermia has her own true-love Lysander, who consequently, might be a better catch.

How does Helena respond? Whine, whine, whine.

Oh, Hermia
! Why am I not as pretty as you? Why aren’t myne eyne as beautiful as thyne sphyrey eyne?

Oh, Demetrius! Pay attention to me! Treat me poorly while I chase you, just don’t leave me please! Treat me as you treat your dog, just treat me!

Hermia to Helena

Demetrius to Helen

A couple of love-potions and fairy tricks later: Demetrius and Lysander are both in love with Helena --praising her beauty and virtues. And she is beautiful and virtuous; she just doesn’t recognize it comparing herself to Hermia.

How does Helena react to this new found love and attention from two “worthy” bachelors? She swears. “Oh Spite, Oh Hell!”

Helena is not used to the attention, she can’t handle the attention, she doesn’t want the attention; the lime-light isn’t comfortable resting on her or her on it.

My conclusion: Helena is so typically female. I can laugh with Helena, but I find I can’t chide her. What I really want to say to her is OWN IT. Own who you are. You tell us yourself in the play: “Throughout Athens I am thought as beautiful as she [Hermia],” but add the caveat: “but what of this if Demetrius thinks not so?” Don’t lose your confidence because one man doesn’t think you are as beautiful as you truly are.

My suspicion is if you had acted as confident as you have every right to be, and not whined in jealousy and begged attention from a man who may not deserve you anyway, you would happily be enjoying your best-friend-ship with Hermia, had Demetrius still tailing after you in amour, or better still, found a man much more worthy of you, by virtue of the fact he sees you for what you truly are: wonderful.

But this is a Shakespearean comedy, right? So you whine, complain, beg, become the “IT” woman you have always wanted to be, have no idea how to act when you receive the attention you have always wanted, and then end up marrying that man you think you want, (Demetrius) who only marries you because he still under the influence of the love potion.

Greatest good for greatest number, right? I disagree. While I love Shakespeare’s comedy, I would have re-written the ending; Helena, beautiful and confident, moving on past Demetrius, who would have been given the anti-love potion, so she could have been provided the opportunity to realize she deserved real love, ultimately from someone else.

Sounds like I want to turn this comedy into a feminist drama, right? Well, I’m looking out for Demetrius too. He shouldn’t love forever against his will with the love potion, he should get the opportunity to wake up too, and find a woman he truly loves, and for the right reasons as well, provided he can find them.

1 comment:

Scully said...

Have you ever seen the Shakespeare Re-told adaptations that the BBC did in 2005? I liked what they did with Helena in their version of Midsummer Night's Dream. I think you would like it better, perhaps, than the play.