The play starts off dramatic right off the bat. It begins with news of the upcoming wedding between Hippolyta and Theseus. Then Egeus drags his daughter Hermia before the Duke, demanding that he force her to marry Demetrius instead of Lysander. Hermia refuses, and Theseus warns her that she could be killed, or forced to enter a nunnery, if she does not marry him.
Since Hermia refuses to marry a man she does not love when she has one waiting in the wings, she is in a fix. Lysander gives her an option.
I have a widow aunt, a dowager
Of great revenue, and she hath no child:(160)
From Athens is her house remote seven leagues;
And she respects me as her only son.
There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee … (1:1)
Lysander’s proposal sends the play into a frenzy of action. Hermia’s running away sets off a chain of events that leads to all of the lovers in the woods, and most of the chaos—and humor—of the play. They tell Helena where they are going, she tells Demetrius, and the next thing you know all four of them are chasing each other and unknowingly being interfered with by Oberon and Puck, who try to fix the relationships and end up creating the wrong pairs and love triangles.
At the same time, the forest is in a state of upheaval because Titania and Oberon are fighting. Titania adopted a changeling, a human baby from India, and Oberon wants her to give it up or give it to him. Titania’s actions set off the chain of events that causes the fairies to interfere with the lovers and the craftsmen.
The movement into the play's dream world occurs as a result of the feud within the Athens when Egeus appears to block the union of Hermia to her beloved Lysander, demanding the execution of the latter for causing his daughter to be bewitched, wanting Hermia to be killed as a result
Whether the play is entirely or partially a dream is debated. The dream mentioned in the title probably refers to:
1. Lysander's and Demetrius' actions while under the influence of the Love Potion
2. Titania's actions under the influence of the love potion
3. Bottom's experience of being given the head of an ass and wooed by Titania.