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Essay: Theseus as a leader and ruler

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  • Subject area(s): Literature essays
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  • Published: March 2, 2021*
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  • Theseus as a leader and ruler
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We are brought up throughout society that is, for the most part, understanding and compassionate. It is in human nature to aid another struggling human-being and to sympathize with their hardship, placing oneself in the other person’s shoes or life to try and find solutions. The law itself can sometimes embrace the notion of compassion, largely at the jurisdictional level. Many authorities and those in charge of maintaining order in our world, usually view jurisprudence from an intuitive perspective, imposing their own personal biases into decision-making.

William Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” illustrates a character that plays as the enforcer of the law and order, and at different times he is the law himself. Theseus, in this play, is the Duke of Athens. He is given a case where a father, Egeus, asks Theseus to enforce Athenian law after his daughter Hermia rejects to wed Demetrius. Egeus insists that if his daughter is to disobey him then she will be killed due to Athenian law. At first, instead of simply giving Hermia the two choices: to marry somebody whom she does not love or to be executed, he provides a different option. Theseus states that if she was to disobey her father and marry Lysander, who is the love of her life, then she will be faced with either having to die by the hands of Egeus or become a nun for life. This reveals that Theseus is a character that although is an enforcer of law, has some flexibility and ideas to support the people of Athens through some sympathy, much unlike other rulers known to man.

Theseus seems to easily sympathize with Hermia. He may be easily influenced because he himself married an Amazonian warrior, and took her away to Athens. When presented the case of Hermia, Theseus may subconsciously related to event and accepted what it meant to step into Hermia’s shoes, thus easily showing understanding for her. There is a great level of hypocrisy given that his own relationship reflects the contrary to the laws in which he set to impose to his citizens and followers. This further shows that Theseus is a character of understanding. This hypocrisy highlights his morals to prove that in life there may have to be alterations that do not follow regulations in order to keep peace or a unit satisfied. Theseus understands that as a ruler he will never be able to satisfy the entire population; however if going against the law means making the majority happy, than he must follow through.

While others may argue and say that his third option does not make him a better ruler because he could have changed the rules completely instead of enforcing an ancient Athenian law (which nearly has already been long forgotten), and that his sympathizing for Hermia is only to make him an amiable ruler, it is important to note that otherwise he must deal with the backlash from citizens. Theseus has weighed his options and simply chooses what will keep Athens at peace. Having to maintain this peace (law and order), he had to set some sort of precedent for circumstances in which the law may not generally be to support you, which is what was done at first. Also, he superseded any of Egues’ desires by enabling Hermia and Lysander to be as one. This would show that upon reflection, he chose to do what he thought was most suitable and we should in any event give him credit for doing as such.

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