|Play||A Midsummer Night's Dream|
Egeus (pron.: //) is a character in A Midsummer Night's Dream, the comedy by William Shakespeare. He tries to keep his daughter, Hermia, from marrying Lysander, by force if necessary. In original performances, the actor for his role probably played the part of Philostrate as well.
Role in the play 
Appearing in Act I, Scene 1 and Act IV, Scene 1, Egeus is the father of Hermia who disapproves of Hermia's and Lysander's love, and appeals to Theseus to force Hermia to marry Demetrius. If Hermia refuses to wed Demetrius, she could be put to death under Athenian law.
- I beg the ancient privilege of Athens,
- As she is mine, I may dispose of her:
- Which shall either be to this gentleman (Demetrius)
- Or to her death, according to our law
- Immediately provided in that case
Egeus plays a key part in illustrating the play's theme of law versus love, and reason versus imagination. Constantly refusing his daughter's plea to marry the man she loves, Lysander, he demands that she be forced to marry Demetrius. He goes so far as to say that if she disobeys, he as a father has a right to kill her, or to force her into a convent as a nun for life. Hermia embodies the opposition to the law and reason of her father. She follows her feelings and imagination regarding Lysander, rather than strictly adhering to reason. Theseus constantly discusses this conflict of reason and imagination in the play, saying that while they are often in opposition, one actually causes the other, often.
Gender studies critics see homoerotic tendencies in Egeus when it comes to Demetrius. Egeus is very insistent that his daughter marry Demetrius, despite her own feelings. At one point, Lysander, her true lover, Demetrius, and Egeus make some interesting statements:
"Demetrius: Relent, sweet Hermia: and, Lysander, yield
Thy crazed title to my certain right.
Lysander: You have her father's love, Demetrius;
Let me have Hermia's: do you marry him.
Egeus: Scornful Lysander! true, he hath my love,
And what is mine my love shall render him.
And she is mine, and all my right of her
I do estate unto Demetrius."
Gender critics argue that Egeus and Demetrius are in love, and that they are attempting to subvert or overcome the heterosocial society around them by forcing Hermia's marriage. In the end, however, the prevailing society surrounding them succeeds, and their attempt is largely ignored.
In original performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the actor for Egeus and Philostrate were probably one and the same. This can be gathered through discrepancies between the First Folio and earlier quarto versions of the play. In Act V, scene 1, for example, the quartos say "Call Philostrate", while the 1623 Folio says "Call Egeus". One actor filling both roles also explains some of the jumbled dialogue in this scene, as it was probably the result of confusion over the role the actor was playing at the time. Furness interprets this a little differently, saying that Shakespeare may not have originally intended both roles to be played by the same person, but that directors combined the roles to save money. Act V, scene 1 is the only scene in which both men are present at the same time. Philostrate, as the less-important one, would thus probably have been stricken out, while Egeus would have filled both roles. This change in staging would reveal an alteration from Shakespeare's original text.
- Barroll, J. Leeds. Shakespeare Studies: An Annual Gathering of Research, Criticism, Reviews. Burt Franklin: 1978. ISBN 0-89102-084-5. pgs. 42-44.
- Barroll, Leeds and Susan Zimmerman (eds.) Shakespeare Studies. Fairleigh Dickinson University Press (November 2004). ISBN 0-8386-4033-8. pgs. 104-106.
- Collier, J. Payne. Notes and Emendations to the Text of Shakespeare's Plays from Early Manuscript Corrections in a Copy of the Folio, 1632. Burt Franklin: September 1970. ISBN 0-8337-0627-6
- Furness, Horace Howard (Ed). A Midsummer Night's Dream (A New Variorum Edition of Shakespeare). Dover Publications:1963. ASIN: B000MDK90G. pgs. XIV-XV.