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

A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Act 1, Scene 1 Dialogue Analysis Activity

by Tessie Barbosa

  • Released February 06, 2023
  • Language Arts and Literature subjects
  • 12 pages
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Through dialogue, playwrights reveal a character’s motivations, personality traits, and relationships with other characters. Diction (word choice) plays an essential role in writing dialogue because it creates mood, develops characters, and establishes events in the play. The following activity will help students analyze passages of dialogue and determine how they inform scenes in the play.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of Shakespeare’s most popular and enduring romantic comedies, is a fantastical tale of requited and unrequited love among four young citizens of Athens. Hermia and Lysander love each other passionately; Demetrius loves Hermia, who detests him, and Helena loves Demetrius, who loved her before falling in love with Hermia. Further complicating their relationships, Hermia’s father, Egeus, orders her to marry Demetrius, and Theseus, the duke of Athens, rules that Hermia must obey him. The play features two settings: Theseus’s palace in Athens and the forest, the realm of magical fairies, that lies beyond the city’s walls. Comedy ensues when Hermia and Lysander run away together into the forest, Demetrius and Helena follow them, and the four mortals draw the attention of Oberon, king of the fairies, and his mischievous servant, Puck.

Two subplots add additional humor to the play. Oberon and his wife, Queen Titania, are experiencing a marital conflict, and a group of singularly untalented workmen are in the forest rehearsing a play to perform at Duke Theseus’s upcoming wedding. By the end of the play, the four lovers are happily paired, Oberon and Titania have reconciled, and Theseus’s wedding takes place as scheduled, highlighted by the workmen’s performance of their version of the Pyramus and Thisbe story. All the mortal characters, with the exception of the workmen, are introduced in act 1, scene 1, and their essential character traits and relationships are quickly established in the dialogue.

Skills: character analysis, drawing inferences from text, interpreting diction for connotative meaning

Learning Objectives:
In completing this activity, students will

  • analyze passages of dialogue to identify the speaker’s character traits, conflicts, and motivations;
  • examine the diction in passages of dialogue to interpret the connotations of key words and explain how they create mood in the scene;
  • determine from passages of dialogue characteristics of the speaker’s relationship with another character in the play.


Our eNotes Classroom Activities give students opportunities to practice developing a variety of skills. Whether analyzing literary devices or interpreting connotative language, students will work directly with the text. The main components of our classroom activities include the following:

  • A handout defining the literary elements under discussion, complete with examples
  • A step-by-step guide to activity procedure
  • An answer key or selected examples for reference, depending on the activity

In completing these classroom activities, students will be able to classify and analyze different literary elements, thereby developing close-reading skills and drawing deeper inferences from the text.