So a lot of "critics" seem to confuse Hermia/Helena and Lysander/Demetrius. Because those critics are so smart, they conclude that Shakespeare must have intended us to confuse them. I think this is wrong. People who confuse these two couples are just plain stupid.
He's a nice guy. But also naive and untested. (What kind of novice boy scout gets lost in the woods? You bring your girlfriend but not a compass?)I bet Hermia is his first and only love, that's why he's going all out for her. I think he's "in love" but doesn't really know what love means. His "you're the most beatiful girl in the world" lines aren't flirting, they're sincere, and they're over the top-ness makes it funny. After experiencing " in love" for Helen, I like to think he learns the difference between "in love" for Helen and Hermia, and "true love" for Hermia.
She's a nice girl. But I also think she's spoiled, and used to getting her own way all the time. That's why she defies her father Egeus. I doubt Hermia has ever worked a day in her life, that's why she's naive enough to go into the wood on her own. When the magic makes the guys not love her anymore, it is her first real test of self-confidence. She self destructs and takes it out on Helen. But this experience makes her stronger, and I think her mature character at the end of the play is more able to handle what life throws at her.
He's a jerk. He's a jock who likes conquest more than the girl. He's got this cycle of abuse going on. He wants what he cannot have (Hermia) and despises/abuses what he can have (Helen). I think this is because despite his seeming bravado, he's really got low self-esteem. Hence he pursues relationships he can't have, and avoids relationships he can have; that way he is certain not to be loved, because he feels he isn't worthy of it.
Most scholars conclude that he is the only character still bewitched at the end of the play. I like to think not. I like to think that the temporary "magic love" made him realize how much he could love Helen. Once the "magic love" was removed, his "real love" takes over. I don't think Demetrius was ever "in love" with Hermia, he just wanted her because he couldn't have her. Over the course of the play he experience "in love" and this (hopefully) showed him that he is in fact capable of positive feelings in relationships, which he pursues with someone who can reciprocate, ie. Helen.
She's got issues. No self esteem. That's why she falls for a jerk like Demetrius at the beginning. She thinks she deserves a jerk, so that's what she falls for. That's why she is incapable of accepting Lysander's statments of love and manufactures a reason "he's joking." Some people pity her, saying "Oh she's such a sweet girl!" Don't fall for it; she's just as despicable as Demetrius. Her problems aren't due to Demetrius, her problems are because of herself.
I like to think that over the course of the play, she learns to value herself more. When both guys are ready to fight for her, she says they're joking. I like to think that despite this surface rationale, a part of her becomes ready to believe that maybe this isn't a joke. That's why when the "magic love" is removed, she is able to accept Demetrius's love. when both guys
He's a proud one. Because his wife doesn't immediately obey his whims he wants to "teach her a lesson." But when it does happen, he feels remorse; revenge isn't all it's cracked up to be.
She's a proud one. After defying her king, she learns that maybe it's better to work in harmony with the king of fairies.
Mischievous. I like to think that he's got a good heart though. Maybe he's the smartest one in the play. Maybe he knows that Helena wouldn't be able to accept Demetrius's love unless there's some fun confusion first. Maybe he's teaching Oberon a lesson. Or maybe he learns that his mischief can have positive effects while still being just as much fun. At the end of the play, he isn't just a "fun for me" mischief maker- he's asking to make amends.
Quince maybe becomes more confident as a leader. Flute accepts his gifts to portray women and does so with enthusiasm. Snug gains more confidence. Snout, well, he's a wall, he doesn't change much. Neither does Bottom. Perhaps because Bottom happy confident ignorance isn't something that can or should be changed.
Theseus gets his bride and enjoys his wedding. Maybe his experience arbitrating the four lovers disputes disposes him to treat Hippolyta with love as a partner, not a conquest as Demetrius would do. That's why Hippolyta starts off shy, but is more vocal towards the end, because Theseus really starts treating her like a person.
Egeus was probably a single dad, his wife might have died in childbirth. That's why he spoiled Hermia, and wants to control her as "his property" because he loves her and can't let her go. I think Theseus took him aside and successfully convinced him to allow his daugther to marry whom she loves, Egeus learns that if he loves his daughter he shouldn't control her but try to make her happy. Philostrate starts off snobby and suck uppy, but after seeing the amusing attempts at a drama, begins to appreciate the lower class's efforts, just as the Duke does.