Is A Midsummer Night's Dream a dream?
At the end of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Puck addresses the audience, giving particular advice should they have been upset by the play:
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended—
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend.
The assertion that the events depicted in the play were only a dream has led some to believe that the happenings in the woods were only a fantasy shared by the characters. However, it might be problematic to take what Puck says at face value.
Firstly, when Puck is suggesting the events were a dream to the audience, he is not insisting. In fact, his tone is rather sly and sarcastic, with a metafictional flourish: he says if the audience disliked the play, then they can just pretend they dreamed the whole thing up, thus taking the blame off of the actors and writer. This is not meant to be a claim that the characters in the play were dreaming, but rather that the audience in the real world was.
Also note that the characters within the woods who interpret what happened there as a dream, such as Bottom, are presented as not thinking clearly or as being duped by the fairies. Bottom's monologue after he is transformed back into a full human being is comical not only because of its language but because Bottom cannot comprehend the weird things that have happened to him as anything but a fantasy.
Furthermore, after deciding to set matters right between the four quarreling lovers during act 3, scene 2, Oberon tells Puck that the Athenians will view what happened as no more than a dream due to the magic involved:
When they next wake, all this derision
Shall seem a dream and fruitless vision,
And back to Athens shall the lovers wend,
With league whose date till death shall never end.
Notice how Oberon describes dreams as "fruitless," that is, without merit. Other characters also often use the term "dream" to suggest something insubstantial. Dreams are dismissed as fluffy fantasy or outright nonsense. However, the happenings in the enchanted woods are hardly insubstantial to the characters tangled up in them. The four lovers sort out their love square due to the interference of the fairies. Titania and Oberon's marriage is repaired as well. This all suggests that the events the audience have witnessed are more than a mere delusion because the characters have been transformed by them.