What Was Helena’s Plan Again?

And by that I mean the Midsummer Helena, not the All’s Well Helena.  While going through the play in prep for my teaching debut, I was reminded of what appears to be a rather silly plot point.

Recap – Lysander and Hermia love each other.  Demetrius loves Hermia (who does not love him in return), but Demetrius is the one who has Hermia’s father’s permission to marry her.  Helena, meanwhile, loves Demetrius, who does not love her in return (although we’re led to believe that he did at one point).  Lysander and Hermia plan to run away into the forest, and have told Helena their plan.

So, here’s my question.  Helena says:

I will go tell him of fair Hermia’s flight:
Then to the wood will he to-morrow night
Pursue her; and for this intelligence
If I have thanks, it is a dear expense:
But herein mean I to enrich my pain,
To have his sight thither and back again.

She’s going to tell Demetrius what’s going on.  I think that the first time I read through the play I thought her thinking went something like, “He will realize that Hermia is gone, and then he will love me again.”  But I noticed last night that she actually says “he will pursue her.”  So Helena knows that Demetrius is going to chase after Hermia, and she (Helena) is going to chase after him.

How exactly does she expect to end up with Demetrius, again? How does she see this plan working out? Is she so out of her head in love with Demetrius that all she’s thinking is, “I will tell him this news and he will be happy with me! Yay!”

7 thoughts on “What Was Helena’s Plan Again?

  1. I think she's basically saying that it's a way to get him to spend a bunch of time with her.

  2. Desperate grasping at straws is all I can think. It never made much sense to me.

  3. Ditto above. She knows where he'll go, and she'll go with him to "have his sight thither and back again" – to see him and maybe chat with him while they chase Hermia and return home together. Also, she'll win points with him for being on his side. All in all – not a great plan as great plans go. But all four lovers have to be in the woods for the rest of the play to work…

  4. Well, if Demetrius brings Hermia home again, there's every chance Egeus would be furious enough with her to fling her straight into a nunnery rather than offering her a second chance to marry Demetrius. Helena must know Egeus at least a little, considering how much time she's spent with Hermia, so maybe she's counting on what she knows of him to prove true enough to see Hermia forbidden to marry even Demetrius.

    It's really NOT a great plan generally though. "Half-assed" is the best I think I've got. 😉

  5. I give Weez's answer extra points for working in an ass pun, thus keeping with a Midsummer theme. 🙂

  6. I agree with Cass.
    Desperation and being desperately in love. In effect, she offers a reasoned argument for not going after him throughout the entire speech when talking about the properties of Love. But if she's not with Demetrius at all, she has even less than nothing of a chance to change things, even if she knows it's against all odds to try. She's attempting to give herself a more cogent reason for pursuing what she already knows is most probably futile. She fails, miserably, to do that. It doesn't matter. She's in Love. It doesn't have to make sense.

  7. What does ¨But herein mean I to enrich my pain¨ mean?

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