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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Noelle Matteson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is set in ancient Athens, a setting that allows Shakespeare to insert mythological figures into the plot. Both Theseus and Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, figure into Greek mythology. Fairy rulers Titania and Oberon mention Antiopa, Ariadne, and several other mythical characters. Oberon even serenades Phillida by transforming into Corin, the kind of trick a Greek god would pull.

The magic in Dream also derives from medieval and Renaissance folklore, and the woods near Athens represent a place where society’s rules do not apply. The forest is a natural, wild area where fairies dwell. As a setting, it allows further exploration into the disagreements of the fairies. Titania explains that her argument with Oberon has upset the balance of nature, confusing “the spring, the summer, / The childing autumn, angry winter.” She claims that this is their fault:

And this same progeny of evils comes
From our debate, from our dissension;
We are their parents and original.

This forest is central to the play’s plot as well as its tone. The four lovers, Bottom, and even the fairy queen become entranced by a magical potion derived of nature (a special flower). Most of the storyline revolves around the shenanigans that ensue when these characters fall under the influence of the love concoction. In addition, much of the play occurs at night, where darkness adds to the sense of confusion and transformation.

Therefore, setting the play in ancient Greece, in a forest, and at night contributes to Dream’s magical and mischievous mood and plays an important role in the narrative.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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