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A Midsummer Night's Dream - ALL NEW

This is a magical (and hilarious) play of love
and its complexities.
Basics of Comedy
In the First Folio, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is officially listed in
the genre of comedy. Shakespearean comedy isn’t only about humour,
although that is an important aspect of it. It is a dramatic genre that
has formal rules and conventions.
Like tragedy, comedy existed in classical times (i.e. in the plays of
ancient Greece and Rome) and Shakespeare inherited some of the
formal rules and conventions from comedies of that period. But one of
the most interesting things about Shakespeare is that he puts his own
spin on the dramatic genres, developing them and pushing them into
new territory.
In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare draws on the pastoral
tradition by locating most of the play’s action in the woods outside of
Athens, marking a contrast between the natural world and the city,
Athens, where the lovers’ problems begin.
This contrast between city and country, and the movement of the
lovers from one to the other, is also a contrast between and movement
from the rational, ‘normal’ world of the city to the natural, less
rational world of the magical woods. The spin that Shakespeare puts
on his use of the pastoral tradition is to make the woods less
idealized: And as the play’s title tells us, the action in the woods takes
place at night. In Shakespeare’s time, night-time in the woods, with
no sources of light, would have been seriously dark.
Comedies have a romantic component: one of the central themes
is Love. Love in comedy doesn’t have the serious consequences
that it has in tragedy. The light-heartedness of comic love is on
display in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as the quarrelling couples
are more amusing than anything else.
In relation to the light-heartedness of comedy, the ancient Greek
philosopher Aristotle noted that comedy represents the ridiculous,
and that its plot moves from a bad situation to good one. Hence, A
Midsummer Night’s Dream fits this description of comedy.
Comedy carries within it the seeds of tragedy, and we are aware of this
in A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the argument that Titania and Oberon
are having over possession of the little Indian boy. Their fight has dire
consequences in the natural world and for the humans who live in that
Similarly, the jealousy of the four lovers could easily have resulted in
tragedy, as they fight between themselves in the woods. In the end, the
plot of comedy magically moves away from its tragic trajectory
towards a happy ending as Shakespeare intervenes to ensure a comic
conclusion that involves three marriages. Marriage is a common
aspect of Shakespearean comedy.
Who’s who…..
The Court
Duke Theseus, the ruler of Athens, is calm and rational and
decisive in his rule. His wedding to Hippolyta ends the play.
Hippolyta is the Queen of the Amazons, and a captive of war.
She is quiet and observant but because she has only a few lines
in the play, her character is open to a number of interpretations.
Egeus, the father of Hermia, blocks his daughter's marriage to
Lysander, preferring Demetrius, and insists on Hermia's death if
she does not obey his wishes.
The Lovers
Lysander is a gentleman who is in love with Hermia. He wishes
to marry her, despite her father's objections.
Demetrius is a gentleman who is in love with Hermia. He has
her father's support, and attempts to marry her against her
wishes. He was once in love with Helena, whom he despises at
the beginning of the play.
Hermia is in love with Lysander, and wishes to marry him
despite her father's objections. She is a brunette, and short, and
also feisty.
Helena is in love with Demetrius. She is fair, tall and a selfproclaimed coward but she is determined in pursuing Demetrius.
The Fairy Kingdom
Oberon, the King of the Fairies, is proud, jealous and
dictatorial. While he is harsh with his Queen, he is often
generous in dealing with mortal characters.
Titania, the Queen of the Fairies, is proud and stubborn.
Puck is described as a spirit, sprite, and hobgoblin. He
works for Oberon and is the most mischievous of the
The Mechanicals (The mechanicals are so called because they
belong to the working class, and their jobs involve manual
The mechanicals (Bottom, Quince, Snug, Snout, Flute,
and Starveling) are a group of tradesmen from Athens,
sometimes labeled in the stage directions as clowns, who are
chosen to perform a play – called The Comical Tragedy of
Pyramus and Thisbe – which they rehearse for Theseus and
Hippolyta's wedding.
Their leading actor, Bottom, who is given the head of a ass by
Puck, is one of Shakespeare's great comic characters. Bottom is
gentle, well meaning, and has an uncomplicated view of life.
Why does this play matter?
A Midsummer Night's Dream matters, because it represents a very
modern idea of love. The idea of marrying for love was becoming
popular in Shakespeare's day.
In Shakespeare's time, a daughter was often considered the property
of her father, and he chose the man she would marry. In A
Midsummer Night's Dream, the idea of an arranged marriage is
represented by Egeus's plan for his daughter, Hermia, to marry
Demetrius, even though she's in love with Lysander. Also in
Shakespeare's time, people generally married others of the same
social class.
While everyone in A Midsummer Night's Dream ends up
marrying a person of their own class, they don't all marry the
person they're supposed to.
(For example, Demetrius ends up marrying Helena, even though,
originally, he was in love with Hermia; however Hermia’s father
finally allows her to marry Lysander)
This somewhat absurd conclusion is the symbol of the triumph of
emotion and the irrational over reason and the established order.
In this regard, Shakespeare understood that humans are
creatures of passion and sometimes of violent emotion.
This play also matters for the relationship it has to another play,
which Shakespeare wrote around the same time, Romeo and
Juliet. The story of these doomed young lovers is well known.
In many ways, A Midsummer Night's Dream is like the other
side of the Romeo and Juliet coin.
A Midsummer Night's Dream also matters for the stages of love
it represents.
While we all remember the excitement of our first love, love
changes as we go through life.
A Midsummer Night's Dream Overview
Four Athenians run away to the forest only to have
Puck the fairy make both of the boys fall in love with
the same girl. The four run through the forest pursuing
each other while Puck helps his master play a trick on
the fairy queen. In the end, Puck reverses the magic,
and the two couples reconcile and marry.
Act I
As Duke Theseus prepares for his marriage to Hippolyta,
Queen of the Amazons, he is interrupted by a courtier, Egeus.
Egeus asks for the Duke to intervene in a dispute. His
daughter, Hermia, will not agree to marry Demetrius (whom
Egeus has chosen for her) because she loves a gentleman
named Lysander. The Duke asks Hermia to be obedient to her
father. He offers her one of two options: she must either die
or accept a celibate life as a nun in Diana's temple.
Naturally upset with the offer, Lysander and Hermia plan to elope
and share their secret with Helena, Hermia's friend. Helena is
desperately in love with Demetrius, who seems to have abandoned
her in favour of Hermia. At night, Lysander and Hermia escape
from Athens; but they soon lose their way in the woods. After
Helena tells him of their intention to defy the law, Demetrius
decides to follow the lovers into the woods. In turn, Helena
follows Demetrius in the hope that he will give up on Hermia and
choose her instead.
Meanwhile, a group of working men are preparing a play of the
tragic love-story of Pyramus and Thisbe to present before the
Duke Theseus on his wedding day. Nick Bottom, the weaver, is to
play the lover Pyramus, while Flute, the bellows-mender,
begrudgingly agrees to play Thisbe.
Nearby, Oberon - King of the Fairies—has recently
quarreled with his queen, Titania. She acquired a
magical child (Indian Boy) from one of her waiting
women, and now refuses to hand him over to Oberon
to use as a page. Oberon begins to plot a way to get
revenge on Titania for her disobedience. He sends his
fairy servant, Puck, to fetch a purple flower with
juice that makes people fall in love with the next
creature they see.
Afterwards, Oberon overhears Helena and Demetrius arguing in
the forest. Oberon hears Demetrius mistreat Helena and tells
Puck to anoint 'the Athenian', so Demetrius will fall in love with
the first person that he sees.
Puck mistakes the Athenian and puts the flower juice on the
eyes of the sleeping Lysander. When he is woken by Helena, he
immediately falls in love with her and rejects Hermia. When
Demetrius rests, Oberon puts magic juice on his eyes, which
makes him fall in love with Helena as well.
The workers' rehearsals in the wood are overheard by Puck,
who plays a trick on them by giving Bottom an ass's head.
After frightening the others away, Bottom is lured towards
the sleeping Titania whom Oberon has anointed with Puck's
magic flower juice. On waking, the fairy queen falls in
love with the ass and entertains him with her fairies.
Meanwhile, Demetrius and Lysander, still under the spell of the
flower juice, pursue Helena. Hermia is jealous and confused
about the lack of attention paid to her. Oberon and Puck watch the
chaos, and Oberon commands Puck to put it right again.
The lovers' arguments have tired them all out as they have chased
one another through the woods. Puck eventually distracts the two
men from their pursuit of Helena by impersonating their voices,
and they get lost in the woods. The four lovers fall asleep,
exhausted. Puck places restorative juice on Lysander's eyes.
Act IV
After an afternoon of being pampered by Titania's fairies, Bottom
falls asleep beside her. Oberon restores Titania's sight and wakes
her. After expressing her dismay at the sight of Bottom, she
reconciles with Oberon, and she ends up giving him the little Indian
prince for his page.
Bottom's ass head is removed, and he returns to the city to rejoin
his friends as they prepare to perform their play. The lovers are
woken by Theseus and Hippolyta's hunting party. Lysander sees
Hermia and falls in love with her once again.
Act V
Happily reunited (Lysander with Hermia and Demetrius with
Helena), they agree to share the Duke's wedding day. The play
of 'Pyramus and Thisbe' is presented before the wedding
As the three couples retire to bed, Puck and the fairies return
to bless the palace and its people.
Major Themes
Love’s complexities
Loss of individual identity
Ambiguous sexuality
Male dominance
Initial release: April 26, 1999
Director: Michael Hoffman
The ensemble cast
features Kevin Klein as
Bottom, Michelle
Pfeiffer and Rupert Everett as
Titania and Oberon, Stanley
Tucci as Puck, and Calista
Flockhart, Anna
Friel, Christian Bale,
and Dominic West as the four
Courses.edx.org. AdelaideX: Bard101xShakespeare Matters
Theseus' "The lunatic, the lover, and the poet" speech is in A Midsummer
Night's Dream V.I.2–22
Cavendish, Dominic (21 June 2014). "10 things you didn't know about A
Midsummer Night's Dream". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on
29 September 2016. Retrieved 1 April 2017.
Kehler, Dorothea (1998). "A Midsummer Night's Dream: A Bibliographic
Survey of the Criticism". In Kehler, Dorothea (ed.). A Midsummer Night's
Dream: Critical Essays. Garland reference library of the
humanities. 1900 (reprint ed.). Psychology Press. pp. 3–76. ISBN 978-08153-3890-1.