A Midsummer Night's Dream Study Guide
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Act and Scene Summaries
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Themes
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Characters
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Analysis
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Critical Essays
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Quotes
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Multiple-Choice Quizzes
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Questions & Answers
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Introduction
A Midsummer Night's Dream: Biography of William Shakespeare
Introduction to A Midsummer Night's Dream
William Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream between 1595 and 1596, and it was first produced around 1600. One of Shakespeare’s early comedies, it distinguishes itself in its originality. Unlike many of his other works, Shakespeare did not primarily rely on source materials in composing A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Set in Athens, the play follows the turbulence, heartache, and eventual happiness of two Athenian couples, all of which is complicated by the entertaining antics of meddling fairies. The main plot involves two sets of couples—Hermia and Lysander, and Helena and Demetrius—whose romances are tangled and twisted by the whims of Oberon and Titania, the king and queen of the fairies, and their servant, Puck.
Shakespeare’s lighthearted play explores the capricious, dream-like, and sometimes ridiculous nature of love. A Midsummer Night’s Dream brings further humor with its play-within-a-play structure, in which a group of craftsmen celebrate the upcoming marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta by putting on a badly performed play.
A Brief Biography of William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare (1564–1616) was an English poet and playwright. Despite his widely accepted status as the greatest and most influential figure in the history of English-language literature, relatively little of his life is known. He grew up in Stratford-upon-Avon in a family of comfortable means. At eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children. As a young man, Shakespeare moved to London and became involved in the theater community as an actor, playwright, and company owner. Over the next two decades, his plays became increasingly popular, and his theater company thrived. In 1613, Shakespeare retired to Stratford-upon-Avon, where he died several years later of unknown causes. Given the immense erudition of Shakespeare’s work and the paucity of information about his life, some critics and readers have suspected that Shakespeare was in fact an aristocrat writing under a pseudonym. However, these suspicions remain unsubstantiated.
Shakespeare’s literary output includes a cycle of 154 sonnets, two narrative poems, and 39 plays that range across comedy, tragedy, and history. His formal virtuosity—especially his mastery of prosody, metaphor, and wordplay—are evident throughout all of his work, and his plays are celebrated for their rich dramatic structures and psychological depth.