A Midsummer Night's Dream Introduction
by William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night's Dream book cover
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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.

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....

(The entire section is 574 words.)