Describe the setting (time and place) of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and explain how the setting influences the mood and plot of the play.

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare actually has two separate settings. The first setting is ancient Athens in the time of Theseus. In the Elizabethan period, scholarly chronology of antiquity was, at best, imprecise. Theseus would have been placed in an early heroic period, perhaps slightly before the Trojan war. Because this setting is far from the reality of Elizabethan England, it allows Shakespeare scope for imagination and flexibility in handling issues like customs and mores; two upper class girls in England running off and spending time sleeping in the woods with two young men would have ruined their reputations for chastity and become unmarriageable. 

The wood is a fantastical setting, filled with magic. It is a world of dreams, and perhaps a dreamscape rather than a reality. It is a place of mysterious beauty where wishes can be made true and fantasy become reality. It gives the play its mood of light fantasy and allows a magical solution to the romantic problems of the love plot.

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