A Midsummer Night's Dream

Metaphorical Language

In the scenes presented in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare’s choice of words and phrases highlights the love and the magic that obsesses the characters.

Helena loves Demetrius, but in the following scene he does not reciprocate her feelings. This is a scene full of comparisons. (Act 2, Scene 1).

After reading the scene, ask students the following questions:

  • What animal does Helena compare herself to? What does she mean by this comparison?
  • Find examples of where she takes Demetrius’ words and reverses them to exaggerate her love.
  • Explain the conceit (extended metaphor) Helena uses in her speech beginning “You draw me, you heard-hearted adamant”.
  • Who were Apollo and Daphne, and what does this reference mean?
  • What does Helena mean when she says “I’ll follow thee and make a heaven of hell, / To die upon the hand I love so well."
  • Find the meaning of the following words:
    • Entice
    • Impeach
    • Adamant
    • Fawn
    • Virtue
    • Cowardice
    • Unworthy
    • Valour
    • Slay

A Midsummer Night's Dream, Act 2, Scene 1

I love thee not, therefore pursue me not.
Where is Lysander and fair Hermia?
The one I’ll slay, the other slayeth me.
Thou told’st me they were stolen unto this wood;
And here am I, and wood within this wood
Because I cannot meet my Hermia.
Hence, get thee gone, and follow me no more.

You draw me, you hard-hearted adamant;
But yet you draw not iron, for my heart
Is true as steel: leave you your power to draw,
And I shall have no power to follow you.

Do I entice you? do I speak you fair?
Or, rather, do I not in plainest truth
Tell you, I do not, nor I cannot love you?

And even for that do I love you the more.
I am your spaniel; and, Demetrius,
The more you beat me, I will fawn on you:
Use me but as your spaniel, spurn me, strike me,
Neglect me, lose me; only give me leave,
Unworthy as I am, to follow you.
What worser place can I beg in your love,
And yet a place of high respect with me,
Than to be used as you use your dog?

Tempt not too much the hatred of my spirit;
For I am sick when I do look on thee.

And I am sick when I look not on you.

You do impeach your modesty too much,
To leave the city and commit yourself
Into the hands of one that loves you not;
To trust the opportunity of night
And the ill counsel of a desert place
With the rich worth of your virginity.

Your virtue is my privilege: for that
It is not night when I do see your face,
Therefore I think I am not in the night;
Nor doth this wood lack worlds of company,
For you in my respect are all the world:
Then how can it be said I am alone,
When all the world is here to look on me?

I’ll run from thee and hide me in the brakes,
And leave thee to the mercy of wild beasts.

The wildest hath not such a heart as you.
Run when you will, the story shall be changed:
Apollo flies, and Daphne holds the chase;
The dove pursues the griffin; the mild hind
Makes speed to catch the tiger; bootless speed,
When cowardice pursues and valour flies.

I will not stay thy questions; let me go:
Or, if thou follow me, do not believe
But I shall do thee mischief in the wood.

Ay, in the temple, in the town, the field,
You do me mischief. Fie, Demetrius!
Your wrongs do set a scandal on my sex:
We cannot fight for love, as men may do;
We should be wood and were not made to woo.


I’ll follow thee and make a heaven of hell,
To die upon the hand I love so well.


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