Illustration of a donkey-headed musician in between two white trees

A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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Act IV, Scene 1 Summary

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

As act 4, scene 1, opens, the four lovers are lying asleep. Oberon is present but hiding. Titania and Bottom enter, along with Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, Mustardseed, and other fairy attendants. Bottom luxuriates in being waited on. Still not realizing his transformation but feeling a bit hairy, he asks to have his chin scratched. As Titania asks him what he wants to eat and drink, he states his preference for items appropriate to an ass, such as oats; she sends the fairies off to find what he requests. The two of them fall asleep.

Puck enters and gets caught up by Oberon, who fondly regards his sleeping wife, for whom he now feels pity. Oberon tells Puck that his plan has worked: Titania has agreed to relinquish the changeling boy, who is now in Oberon’s bower. With this mission accomplished, he will make good on his commitment and release her from the spell. Puck can now reverse Bottom’s transformation so he can return to Athens with the others; they will “think no more of this night's accidents / But as the fierce vexation of a dream.”

When Titania wakes up, she comments on the “visions” she had: “Methought I was enamour'd of an ass.” Seeing him now in bed beside her, she loathes him. She calls for music to play when the lovers awake. Recommitting to their unity, Oberon tells his queen that the two of them will attend the couples’ weddings at Theseus’s court the following night. Puck restores Bottom's human head, and the fairies exit.

No sooner do the fairies take their leave than Theseus and Hippolyta enter, accompanied by Egeus, Hermia’s father, who recognizes the sleeping quartet. When they wake up at the sounds of the hunting horns, their memories are largely foggy, just as Oberon predicted. Lysander remembers his planned elopement with Hermia, which angers Egeus. After some discussion about appropriate punishment, Theseus decides not only that the young people should make their own choices but that they should also marry during his wedding to Hippolyta. The hunting party then leaves the young people alone. They are quite muddled about what happened. As Demetrius puts it, “Are you sure / That we are awake? It seems to me / That yet we sleep, we dream.” They then set off after Theseus’s group.

The scene ends with a soliloquy by Bottom after he awakens. Having lost the time he was enchanted, he thinks about his last rehearsal. Struggling to make sense of his vision, he humorously declares that “The eye of man hath not heard . . . what my dream was” and equally mixes up his other senses. “Bottom’s Dream” will be immortalized in a ballad, he thinks.

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Act III, Scene 2


Act IV, Scene 2