What is the meaning of the title of, A Midsummer Night's Dream?Why is Midsummer important to the themes of the play?
In Shakespeare's Day, people recognized three seasons, Autumn, Winter, and Summer, rather than the four we recognize now. Summer began in March, and May Day (May 1st), the setting of the play, was "midsummer." May Day was considered a magical time when spirits were believed to be around. The play is set in a fairy wood, which is very dreamlike, however, the title may also refer to the popular act of analyzing a person's dreams to tell a fortune about a person's love life. Love is one of the major themes of "A Midsummer Night's Dream." On May Day, it was also the custom to hold a sunrise service with songs about hope and happiness.
Although the title suggests that the events of the play occur on june 23 (Midsummer Night), internal references make clear that the action takes place in the period just prior to May 1 (May Day). The title is significant for its suggestion of the "madness" traditionally associated with the celebration of the summer solstice.
The word dream is also important to understanding the play's themes. There are multiple layers of dreaming. The lovers, Theseus, Titania, and even Bottom have a supernatural dream-like experience. Ultimately, Puck insinuates that the audience dreamed up the whole play. This creates a surreal situation where no one knows reality from fantasy. This tone pairs nicely with the juxtaposition of mortals and fairies.