A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

Summary: A Midsummer Night's Dream involves two sets of couples, one being Hermia and Lysander, and the other being Helena and Demetrius, whose romantic complexities are complicated further by their entrance into the fairyland woods where the King and Queen of the Fairies, Oberon and Titania, preside. Puck, known also as Hobgoblin or Robin Goodfellow makes a mistake with putting "love-in-idleness" magical juice in the wrong man's eyes which makes for a romantic twist.


Oberon - King of Fairies

Titania - Queen of Fairies

Puck - also known as Hobgoblin or Robin Goodfellow; servant to Oberon

Titania's Fairy servants (her "train"):

  • First Fairy
  • Peaseblossom - fairy
  • Cobweb - fairy
  • Moth - fairy
  • Mustardseed - fairy

High social class:

  • Lysander - beloved of Hermia
  • Hermia - beloved of Lysander
  • Helena - in love with Demetrius
  • Demetrius - in love with Hermia but later falls in love with Helena
  • Egeus - father of Hermia, wishes a forced marriage between Demetrius and Hermia
  • Theseus - Duke of Athens, good friend of Egeus
  • Hippolyta - Queen of the Amazons and Theseus' betrothed

Low class citizens:

  • Philostrate - Master of the Revels for Theseus
  • The Acting Troupe (The Mechanicals)
    • Peter Quince - Leader of the troupe, carpenter
    • Nick Bottom - Weaver, plays Pyramus in the troupe's show "Pyramus and Thisbe", Puck puts a donkey head on him so that Titania will fall in love with a monster
    • Francis Flute - Bellows-mender, plays Thisbe in the troupe's show "Pyramus and Thisbe"
    • Robin Starveling - Tailor, plays Moonshine in the troupe's show "Pyramus and Thisbe"
    • Tom Snout - Tinker, plays the wall in the troupe's show "Pyramus and Thisbe"
    • Snug - Joiner, plays the lion in the troupe's show "Pyramus and Thisbe"

Act I:

  • Theseus tells the Master of the Revels to Theseus, Philostrate, to help him in the preparation of festivities for four days because Hippolyta has become his betrothed
  • Theseus says to Hippolyta:"I woo'd thee with my sword, and won thy love doing thee injuries; but i will wed thee in another key, with pomp, with triumph, and with revelling." This means that he has defeated Hippolyta and won her
  • Egeus is a man of high social standing and has a daughter named Hermia
  • Hermia loves Lysander
  • Egeus wishes Demetrius to marry Hermia or to have Hermia die by his hand as is "the ancient privilege of Athens"
  • Two options are given by Theseus unto Hermia: become a nun or marry Demetrius; Theseus:"Whether, if you yield not to your father's choice, you can endure the livery of a nun, for aye to be in shady cloister mew'd, to live a barren sister all your life"
  • Theseus reminds Hermia of her choices and then leaves with Demetrius and Egeus to give them some private schooling; Theseus:"I must employ you in some business against our nuptial, and confer with you of something nearly that concerns yourselves."
  • Lysander and Hermia agree to meet in the woods so that they may marry outside of Athens at his Aunt's house
  • Hermia talks about no matter what she does badly to Demetrius still has love for her
  • Helena talks about no matter what she does in the name of love for Demetrius he still hates her;Helena:"The more I love, the more he hateth me."
  • Hermia says to Helena not to worry because Demetrius will never again see her
  • Lysander tells Helena about Hermia's and Lysander's plans;Lysander:"A time that lovers' flights doth still conceal, - through Athen's gates have we devis'd to steal"
  • Helena's soliloquy tells of her plans to disclose Hermia's plans so that he may begin anew his love for her
  • Peter Quince hands out parts of the play to the artisans to be played at the Duke of Athens' wedding
  • Pyramus and Thisbe is the basis of the play
  • Flute worries about playing the part of the woman because he is growing a beard but Quince tells him that he will be wearing a mask
  • Nick Bottom worries about scaring "the ladies out of their wits, they would have no more discretion but to hang us"
  • They agree to meet in the "palace wood" where they will rehearse;Quince:"for if we meet in the city, we shall be dogged with company, and our devices known"

Act II:

  • In a Wood near Athens, Puck (Robin Goodfellow) meets with a fairy in service to Titania;Fairy:"And I serve the fairy queen, to dew her orbs upon the green..."
  • After telling Puck that Titania is coming to the woods this night, Puck tells the fairy that only arguing takes place when Titania and Oberon meet; Puck:"The king doth keep his revels here to-night. Take heed the queen come not within his sight"
  • Oberon and Titania arrive with their trains of fairies
  • Oberon and Titania argue about a boy that Titania had stolen which makes Oberon jealous of him because of all the attention the boy is getting
  • Oberon then begs Titania to give the changeling boy to him:Oberon:"I do but beg a little changeling boy, to be my henchman"
  • Titania tells Oberon that his mother was a votaress of her order and for his mother's sake she would rear up her boy;Titania:"And for her sake I will not part with him." she says to Oberon
  • Titania departs and Oberon and says that he will "torment" Titania for this "injury"
  • Oberon tells Puck to fetch the juice from the flower which the maidens call "Love-in-Idleness" and put its "liquor" upon Titania's eyes so that she would fall in love with the first things she sees when she wakes "be it on lion, bear, or wolf, or bull, on meddling monkey, or on busy ape
  • Oberon would only take off the spell with another "herb" if she give up her page unto him
  • Oberon hides so he can overhear the "conference" between Demetrius and Helena
  • Although Helena has told Demetrius that Hermia and Lysander intend to run away together, he tells her to not "pursue" him and that he is "sick when" he looks upon her
  • When Demetrius leaves she says that she will follow him and make a "heaven of hell"
  • Oberon directs Puck to get some of the juice from the "flower" and put it upon Demetrius' eyes and to also be sure that it is the lady that is close to be the first one he sees when he awakens so that Demetrius will fall in love with her;Oberon:"A sweet Athenian lady is in love with a disdainful youth: anoint his eyes; but do it when the next thing he espies may be the lady."
  • Puck says,"Fear not, my lord, your servant shall do so."
  • After dancing in the woods with her fairies, Titania fairies sing her to sleep and Oberon drops the love juice from the "Love-in-Idleness" flower onto her eyelids;Oberon:"When thou wak'st, it is thy dear. Wake when some vile thing is near."
  • Lysander and Hermia sleep after becoming lost in the woods and Hermia asks Lysander to sleep a distance away because they are not married yet;Hermia:"Nay, good Lysander; for my sake, my dear, lie further off yet, do not lie so near."
  • After searching, Puck finally finds an Athenian as Oberon directed be it the wrong man, Lysander, and drops the juice from the flower onto his eyes;Puck:"This is he, my master said despised the athenian maid...Churl upon thy eyes I throw all the power this charm doth owe."
  • Demetrius leave Helena in a clearing where Lysander lies because he refuses to stop running from her
  • Helena shakes Lysander to awaken him and he falls in love with her since she is the first woman he sees and Helena tells him to stop joking with her
  • Lysander forgets about Hermia and follows Helena as she leaves
  • Hermia dreams of a Serpant that eats her heart and scared calls for Lysander and since Lysander has followed Helena he does not hear; She rises from her bed to look for Lysander;Hermia:"Alack! where are you? speak, an if you hear; speak, of all loves! I swound almost with fear. No! then I well perceive you are not nigh: Either death or you I'll find immediately."

Act III:

  • In a Wood, Quince, Snug, Bottom, Flute, Snout, and Starveling discuss the play's rehearsal as it would be the real thing;Quince:"...here's a marvellous convenient place for our rehearsal. This green plot shall be our stage, this harthorn-brake our tiring-house; and we will do it in action as we will do it before the duke."
  • Bottom thinks that when Pyramus draws a sword to kill himself it will create a negative feeling upon the ladies so a prologue is requested by Bottom that will say "we will do no harm with our swords..."
  • A similar situation arises with Snug as the role of the lion and another prologue is written telling the audience that the lion is only Snug;Bottom:"'I am a man as other men are'... and tell them plainly he is Snug the joiner."
  • It is also decided that half of his head should be shown through the costume as to further prove that he is just Snug and Snug himself should speak;Bottom:"half of his face must be seen through the lion's neck;and he himself must speak through"
  • Moonlight must be present in the chamber as Pyramus and Thisby meet by moonlight
  • Puck becomes an "auditor" and watches the play rehearsal as actors make mistakes with the wording, i.e. Flu says: "Ninny's tomb" instead of "Ninus' tomb"
  • Puck puts an ass-head on Bottom and he does not know of this
  • Bottom wonders why the others back away from him;Quince:"O monstrous! O strange! we are haunted.", Snout:"O Bottom, thou art changed! what do I see on thee?", Bottom:"What do you see? you see an ass-head of your own, do you?"
  • Titania awakens to the ass-head of Bottom and falls in love with him;Titania:"On the first view, to say, to swear, I love thee."
  • Titania tell Bottom that "Out of this wood do not desire to go: thou shalt remain here, whe'r thou wilt or no."
  • Bottom is then led to Titania's garden by four of her fairies (Pease-blossom, Cobweb, Moth and Mustard-seed);Titania:"Come, wait upon him; lead him to my bower."
  • Oberon is pleased by Puck's report that Titania is humiliated, but is furious when he finds out that Demetrius does not love Helena
  • Puck returns with Lysander and Helena after Oberon tells Puck to get Helena
  • Thinking that Lysander was killed by Demetrius, Hermia goes off and leaves Demetrius to fall asleep in front of Oberon;Demetrius:"If for his tender here I make some stay."
  • Believing that Lysander is mocking her with his words of love, Helena tells him that his words are meaningless
  • Helena accidentally wakes Demetrius and with the pansy juice upon Demetrius' eyes sets first sight on Helena which he immediately falls in love;Demetrius:"O Helen, goddess, nymph, perfect, divine!"
  • Hermia makes entrance when Demetrius and Lysander are arguing about which one of them loves Helena more
  • Hermia cannot believe her ears when Lysander says that he loves Helena; Hermia:"Since night you lov'd me; yet, since night you left me"
  • Helena believes that Hermia is part of a mockery upon Helena; Helena:"I pray you, though you mock me, gentlemen..."
  • Hermia tries to stop Lysander as Demetrius and Lysander once again start to argue who is to have Helena
  • Lysander calls Hermia a serpent and a dwarf, leaves with Demetrius and fights Demetrius over Helena
  • Oberon and Puck watching the whole ordeal come forward under Oberon's anger about how Puck created a mix up
  • Oberon orders Puck to rub the pansy juice on Lysander's eyes and be sure that he sees Hermia when he wakes up
  • Puck separates Lysander and Demetrius by making voices that sound like Lysander and Demetrius and shadows that they follow
  • Puck brings Lysander and Demetrius close to Hermia and Helena and let's them fall asleep
  • Then Puck sprinkles pansy juice on Lysander's eyes so that Hermia will fall in love with Hermia when he awakes;Puck:"On the ground sleep sound:I'll apply to your eye, Gentle lover, remedy."

Act IV:

  • Bottom, still with an asses head, asks for his head to be scratched and to be fed hay and Titania tells him that she has a "venturous fairy that shall seek the squirrel's hoard , and fetch thee thence new nuts."
  • Oberon tells Titania to remove the spell for Titania's eyes and that she gave Oberon her boy in the woods
  • Oberon also commands Puck to remove the spell from from Bottom to change him from an ass to normal after first waking up Titania who was dreaming about being in love with an ass
  • Titania sees Bottom sleeping at her side and Oberon helps her up and says they will dance at Theseus' wedding:Oberon:"And will to-morrow midnight slemnly Dance in Duke Theseus' house triumphantly, and bless it to all fair prosperity."
  • Theseus, Hippolyta and Egeus come upon the sleeping couples and bring out the hounds to observe the May morning;Egeus:"My lord, this is my daughter here asleep; and this, Lysander, this Demetrius is; This Helena"; Theseus:"No doubt they rose up early to observe the rite of May..."
  • All three couples were to get married that day in Athens as the lovers remember their love for each other from the night before after they are awakened by hunting horns
  • Bottom has been abandoned by his friend in the woods and he remembers all as a dream and says he will ask Quince to make a ballad for him
  • Bottom returns to Athens;Bottom:"Where are these lads? where are these hearts?"
  • Bottom tells artisans that there is still enough time to perform the play of Pyramus and Thisbe since Duke Theseus had not married yet;Bottom:"Not a word of me. All that I will tell you is, that the duke hath dined."

Act V:

  • Theseus, in his palace, is firm on watching the "scene of young Pyramus and his love Thisbe: very tragical mirth" after having Egeus read him performances that he could view
  • Theseus asks, "That are they that do play it?" and Philostrate says," Hard handed men, that work in Athens here, which never labour'd in their minds till now, and now have toil'd their unbreath'd memories with this same play, against your nuptial."
  • Theseus says that Quince's prologue is "like a tangled chain; nothing impaired, but all disordered." Quince's prologue:"If we offend, it is with our good will. That you should think, we come not to offend, but with good will. To show our simple skill that is the true beginning of our end. Consider then we come but in despite. We do not come as minding to content you, our true intent is. All for your delight, we are not here. That you should here repent you, the actors are at hand; and, by their show, you shall know all that you are like to know." The reactions that Quince gets are of ridicule
  • The play is acted out not as planned and is ridiculed by Theseus, Hippolyta, Lysander, Demetrius
  • Where they get up from lying, Flute and Bottom take up Theseus' request for them to dance only instead of adding an epilogue;Theseus:"No epilogue, I pray you...But come, your Bergomask (a dance): let your epilogue alone."
  • Puck says"Now are frolic; not a mouse shall disturb this hallow'd house: I am sent with broom before, to sweep the dust behind the door."; Protection and no disturbance is what Puck offers the lovers
  • Oberon and Titania enter and give their blessings to the union of Titania and Oberon;Titania:"Hand in hand with fairy grace, will we sing, and bless this place." Oberon:"To the best bride-bed will we, which by us shall blessed be"
  • A dream this may have been if liking it they did not;Puck:"If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended, that you have but slumber'd here while these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream"

Other Notes:

  • Midsummer Eve, June 23, marks holiday partying and tales of fairies and temporary insanity
  • Shakespeare makes a delightful mixture of love, imagination, dream, reality, fairies, royalty, castles, stages and social hob-knobbing
  • A short excerpt is taken from the play in the movie "Dead Poets Society"

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