‘Though she be but little she is fierce’ is a quote from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, spoken by Helena in act 3, scene 2, referring to her friend Hermia.

‘Though she be but little she is fierce’ quote, spoken by Helena, Act 3 Scene 2

Oh, when she’s angry, she is keen and shrewd!
She was a vixen when she went to school.
And though she be but little, she is fierce.

‘Though she be but little she is fierce’ quote analysis & context

Hermia is one of the two women in the pairs of lovers generally referred to as ‘the lovers.’ In this play Shakespeare dazzles the audience with the shifting love quadrangle to the extent that it’s almost difficult to follow the plot.

Hermia is instructed by her father to marry the wealthy young nobleman, Demetrius, but she is in love with Lysander and refuses. Her father takes her to the Duke who tells her that if she doesn’t marry Demetrius she will be locked away in a nunnery for the rest of her life.

Hermia is one of Shakespeare’s strong women. She stands up to her father, something Elizabethan women could not do as a father’s word was law, and final – there was no appeal. Shakespeare’s plays are full of women who suffer as a result of the way that men treat them. Some of them rebel and Hermia is one of them.

She decides to run away with Lysander. Her best friend, Helena, tells Demetrius and he follows them into the wood that they have to pass through to get to the place where they are going to go into hiding. Helena is in love with Demetrius and chases after him. He hates Helena and is very rude to her. So they are also in the wood, which is inhabited by fairies and ruled over by a fairy king. The fairy king observes Demetrius and Helena quarrelling and tells his servant, Puck, to use a love potion to make Demetrius fall in love with Helena.

Puck gets confused and the love potion results in the love relationships among the four being mixed up. To rectify his mistake Puck tries again and it gets worse. Now both men are in love with Helena. The two men end up fighting and Hermia and Helena fight too. They hurl insults at each other during which Hermia’s childhood friend calls her a dwarf.

Hermia is petite and Helena is tall. It is in the context of this quarrel that although Helena is namecalling her friend she recognises her feminine strength and her determination and concedes: “Though she be but little she is fierce.”

It all ends happily with Demetrius and Helena eventually united and Hermia forgiven and being allowed to marry Lysander.

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