A Midsummer Night’s Dream Summary

William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream Summary

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English playwright William Shakespeare wrote a Midsummer Night’s Dream in 1595-96, during his early comedic period. The work considers the malleability of love, the potency of dreams, and the power of the imagination. It is one of Shakespeare’s most popular and fanciful works. It is unique for the time and within Shakespeare’s oeuvre for being, in plot and conception, entirely Shakespeare’s own idea, rather than being adapted from any previous work. In the 21st century, it is highly praised for its lyricism.

The five-act play opens with the Theseus, the duke of Athens, announcing his wedding plans to Hippolyta, an Amazonian queen whose people he recently conquered. He tells everyone to start the celebration. The wedding will have a bounty of food and wine and even a play put on my local thespians. In Act V, the audience sees the result of this play within a play in Act V.

Theseus is interrupted by Egeus, a grumpy Athenian nobleman. He enters the scene complaining that his daughter, Hermia, won’t marry a perfectly suitable partner, Demetrius. He has brought her before Theseus for judgment. Egeus tells Theseus that she plans to flee to the woods to be with Lysander, a young man she claims to love. Egeus is certain that Lysander did something to twist his daughter’s usually intact common sense. Egeus reminds Theseus that according to Athenian law, a daughter who refuses to marry the man her father chooses may be executed or exiled to a nunnery. Theseus asks for a delay in judgment, as he has to prepare for his wedding.

Lysander and Hermia secretly meet in the woods, where they see actors rehearsing for the play that will premiere during the duke’s wedding. The two young lovers agree to elope. Hermia is close friends with Helena, a young woman of Athens who loves Demetrius, and she tells Helena about the elopement with Lysander.

Helena wastes no time in telling Demetrius. She believes the news will turn his affections from Hermia to herself. Sadly, for Helena, this only makes him leave her faster. Demetrius runs into the forest in search of Hermia. Helena follows soon after.

The forest in questions entering is ruled by a group of fairies who have traveled from India to bless the marriage of the Athenian king.

Act 2 opens with Titania (the fairy queen) and her husband, King Oberon, arguing over a changeling that Titania refuses to give. Changelings were popular folktales in the medieval period and beyond: they were fairies who switched places with human children at some point. The idea of a changeling helped explain infirmities in children, such as physical or mental disabilities.

To get back at Titania for her obstinacy, Oberon commands that Puck, a fairy similar to Cupid, sprinkle Titania with a love potion that will make her fall in love with the first human she sees upon awaking.

While Demetrius charges through the forest looking for Hermia, he disturbs a sleeping Oberon. To exact some revenge, Oberon orders Puck to also place the same love potion on Demetrius’s eyes after he falls asleep.

Puck comes across Lysander, who is sleeping near Hermia, and mistakes him for Demetrius.He applies the potion to Lysander’s eyes.

Helena finds Lysander and wakes him up; he instantly falls in love with her. He follows her, though she tries to talk sense in to him.When Hermia wakes up, she realizes she is alone.

Meanwhile, the actors are rehearsing their serious (but poorly executed) play. Puck decides to prank a mediocre actor named Nick Bottom by giving him the head of a donkey. This sudden change in appearance causes all of the actors to run away in terror. Nick, afraid himself, starts singing to give himself strength through this strange situation. His song happens to wake up the slumbering Titania, who immediately falls in love with him, donkey head and all.

Hermia runs into Demetrius in the forest. To her, his appearance explains Lysander’s disappearance: Demetrius must have murdered Lysander. She runs away.

Demetrius is physically and emotionally exhausted. He falls asleep. Puck flies by him and decides to use more of his love potion.

Lysander and Helena go stomping through the forest, arguing. This wakes Demetrius up, and the first person he sees is Helena.He falls in love with her immediately.

Lysander and Demetrius then start competing for Helena’s love. Hermia overhears the fight and enters the fray. Hermia is furious at Helena for stealing both of her suitors, and literally chases Helena off stage as the two men fight for Helena’s affection.

With the situation a bit out of hand, Oberon commands Puck to make all of the young people fall asleep again. He tells him to place the love potion on Lysander’s eyelids so that when he wakes up again he’ll want to be with Hermia, as he did before the fairy intervention. However, he will allow the charm to continue working on Demetrius so that he loves Helena.

Around the same time, Titania is still chasing after Nick Bottom. Oberon decides he’s had his fun, and lifts the charm from his wife. He also makes Puck remove the donkey’s head.Nick falls asleep, and when he wakes up, he thinks what he experienced with Titania was simply a dream.

Eventually, Hippolyta and Theseus travel to the forest to hunt for game. They come across all of the sleeping lovers. They blow hunting horns to wake them up.

Back in the city, Egeus still wants a verdict against his daughter. But fortunately, Demetrius is now in love with Helena, and doesn’t want to marry Hermia at all. Theseus is so pleased by this happy arrangement that he invites both couples to be married during his own wedding to Hippolyta.

Toward the end of the play, the actors give their performance. It’s not very good, but they are satisfied with it.

After midnight, when everyone is asleep, the fairies, led by Oberon and Titania, throw a celebration for themselves in the palace. They praise love and the lovers before departing. Puck has the final lines of the play. He says that if anyone was offended by the play they should pretend they were simply dreaming. Those who liked it should applaud.