What is wrong in the play A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare?

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Noelle Matteson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a comedy in which many things go “wrong.” This creates suspense and humor. Here are a few examples:

  • Helena loves Demetrius who loves Hermia. Hermia’s father is forcing Hermia to marry Demetrius. However, Hermia is in love with Lysander. When the fairy Puck gives the men a love potion, they both fall for Helena. (Puck had meant to give it only to Demetrius.) Helena believes the whole thing is a “keen mockery,” and Hermia is heartbroken at Lysander’s betrayal.

  • The fairy rulers Titania and Oberon quarrel so much that they upset nature’s balance. Oberon decides to give Titania the love potion so she falls in love with “some vile thing.” When she wakes up, she sees and hears Bottom, asking, “What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?” Puck has actually transformed Bottom’s head into that of a donkey, and Bottom himself is a foolish weaver who fancies himself an amazing actor. Titania is enamoured with him.

  • The play performed by a troup of amateur actors is a bit of a train wreck. The writing is poor, the acting is supposedly weak, and the group is extremely nervous. Philostrate says that this tragedy they performed “Made mine eyes water; but more merry tears / The passion of loud laughter never shed.”

This being a comedy, the mixups are resolved. Puck removes the potion from Lysander’s eyes, but Demetrius remains enchanted. Therefore Lysander and Hermia are able to marry as are Demetrius and Helena. (The duke overrules Hermia’s father.) Titania comes to herself again and reunites with Oberon, and the play staged by the actors, as ridiculous as it is, provides much entertainment for the nobles.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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