Introduction

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Last Updated on December 12, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 574

So you’re going to teach William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, Midsummer has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its challenging spots—complicated language and unfamiliar mythological allusions—teaching this text to your class will be rewarding for you and your students. Studying A Midsummer Night’s Dream will give them unique insight into classical mythology, English folklore, and Renaissance philosophy along with important themes surrounding the nature of love. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: Written c. 1595-96, Published c. 1600
  • Recommended Reading Level: Grades 9-12
  • Approximate Word Count: 17,000
  • Author: William Shakespeare
  • Country of Origin: England
  • Genre: Comedy, Romantic Comedy
  • Literary Period: English Renaissance, Elizabethan Period
  • Conflict: Person vs. Person, Person vs. Society, Person vs. Supernatural
  • Setting: Ancient Athens 
  • Structure: Five-Act Play
  • Mood: Playful, Romantic


Texts that Go Well with A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Faerie Queene (1590), an English epic poem, was composed by Shakespeare’s contemporary Edmund Spenser. In addition to its Elizabethan literary traits and homage to Queen Elizabeth I, the poem features elements and characters inspired by Greek and Roman mythology, including Roman goddesses Venus and Diana. Unlike Shakespeare, Spenser does not make his fairy queen a character in his work. However, her presence does motivate and affect the other characters in the poem.

Metamorphoses (8 CE), is an epic narrative by the Roman poet Ovid which contains hundreds of Roman myths. Metamorphoses was an inspiration for Shakespeare and many other Renaissance writers and artists, as the English Renaissance saw a renewed interest in Greek and Roman culture and mythology. Much of the dream-like logic of Midsummer can be attributed to the mythical logic at play in Ovid’s tales.

The Night Circus (2011), by Erin Morgenstern, is a novel about the star-crossed love of protagonists Marco and Celia as they compete in an increasingly complex magical competition set in a dream-like circus. Both Marco and Celia are raised by their respective mentors to be prodigious magicians, but they are treated more like property than people. As they mature and slowly fall in love, they fight to forge their own paths in life. Like Midsummer, The Night Circus explores themes surrounding love and dreams within a setting where reality and fantasy often blur together.

Romeo and Juliet (1595), also by William Shakespeare, is a romantic tragedy, so its tone is different from that of Midsummer; however, the play is another of Shakespeare’s most popular and its plot is very similar to that of Pyramus and Thisbe, which Bottom and the other actors perform in Midsummer. In the mechanicals’ rendition, the story of two star-crossed lovers ends comically when the players fail to perform well. In Shakespeare’s play, the tragedy is very real. Romeo and Juliet serves as a tonal and philosophical contrast to Midsummer. Whereas the lovers in Midsummer overcome obstacles and find love and happiness, Romeo and Juliet meet a tragic end, indicating that even true love cannot overcome all challenges. 

The Rose and the Ring (1854) is a satirical novel by Victorian author William Makepeace Thackeray. Though published hundreds of years after Midsummer, the two works share a common plot element: magical objects from fairies that have the power to make people fall in love. The titular rose and ring cause chaos and tear lovers apart, but, as in Midsummer, true love is eventually restored.

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