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

A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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Act I, Scene 1 1. How does the exposition in Act I, Scene i seem to support Lysander’s statement that, “The course of true love never did run smooth?”

2. Helena tells Hermia, “My ear should catch your voice; my eye your eye….” Considering Hermia’s present relationship and Helena’s past relationship with Demetrius, explain how this exemplifies Shakespeare’s use of the first part of Plautus’ and Terence’s three-part method of writing comedic plays.

3. How does Egeus’ statement (referring to Hermia), “And she is mine, and all my right of her I do estate unto Demetrius,” demonstrate that Shakespeare is using this character to fulfill the role of the opposing father, which is a typical character in the New Comedy of Plautus and Terence?

Act I, Scene 2 1. Quince admonishes Bottom that if he were to have the part of the lion and roar too loudly, he “…would frighten the Duchess and the ladies that they would shriek….” What does this tell us about the Elizabethan view of women? Validate your opinion with clues from the text.

2. In talking about the beard to go with his costume, Bottom says, “…either your straw-color beard, your orange-tawny beard, your purple-in-grain beard, or your French-crown-color beard, your perfit yellow.” In your opinion, and taking hints from his conversations with Quince, just how much experience has Bottom had with acting?

3. The name of the play is “The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe.” Considering that Bottom has already presented himself as something of a clown, why do you think it appropriate he play the lead in a play with this title?

Act II, Scene 1 1. How does Oberon’s instructing Puck to anoint the eye of the youth in “Athenian garments” allow Shakespeare to introduce complications to the situation that is opposite of the “right” one?

2. Considering they are the king and queen of the fairies, explain in your own words why Titania has “… forsworn his [Oberon’s] bed and company.”

3. “I love thee not; therefore pursue me not,” demands Demetrius of Helena, but she will not desist. How can you explain her actions and Demetrius’ reactions in view of Plautus’ and Terence’s plot structure for love comedies?

Act II, Scene 2 1. As Oberon, king of the fairies, carefully present an argument to your wife and queen, Titania, explaining why her past affairs (and yours) did not threaten your marriage but her insistence on keeping this changeling boy rather than conceding to your demands is a threat.

2. Hermia, who is defying Athenian law and facing death or banishment to a nunnery in order to marry the man she loves rather than the man her father chose as her husband, is concerned when Lysander wants to sleep with her in the wood on their way to his aunt’s house to be married. She begs him, “Do not lie so near.” How may her fears concerning her pristine reputation as a maid (unmarried young woman) be justified at this point in the play?

3. Helena is dumbfounded and hurt when she awakens Lysander in the wood and he professes his love for her, “Yet Hermia still loves you [Lysander].” Carefully, decide why she is dumbfounded and hurt that he would mock her so. Explain this, step by step, to the newly-besotted Lysander. Remember, he is under the spell of the love juice and will not be easily convinced.

Act III, Scene 1 1. Bottom thinks his friends are playing a trick on him, yet he maintains, “I will walk up and down here, and...

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I will sing, that they shall hear I am not afraid.” How is this consistent with his character as a sensitive, caring, intelligent, buffoon (clown)?

2. Titania implores Bottom, “Out of this wood do not desire to go. Thou shalt remain here whether thou wilt or no.” Explain her reasoning in assuming she can order Bottom to feel as she wants him to.

3. As Puck begins his incantation (lines 107–113) to place a spell upon Bottom, what do you specifically notice about the last word in every other line and why do you think Shakespeare changes the way he uses language for spell-casting?

Act III, Scene 2 1. As a contemporary of Helena, how would you make each of your friends understand your feelings about what you consider their conspiracy “…to conjure tears up in a poor maid’s eyes with your [their] derision!” Remember to keep the situation the same as it is in the play, even though you are modernizing Helena’s communication methods.

2. As Hermia, you have just lost your love to your best friend who you think has “stol’n my love’s heart from him. . ..” This would mean losing your best friend too. Which is the worse tragedy and why? Use not only your own feelings but validations from the play to prove your point.

3. How is it possible that neither Lysander nor Demetrius took their loves’ feelings into account when each of these men decided who they would love, as demonstrated by Lysander’s confusion when asking, “Why should you think that I should woo in scorn?” You will need to carefully peruse the play for proof to support your opinion.

Act IV, Scene 1 1. As Egeus, what are your particular thoughts on being robbed of what you perceive as justice from the duke to whom you have said, “…My lord, you have enough. I beg the law, the law, upon his head.” Be certain to include the Athenian law about a father choosing his daughter’s husband, your friendship with Duke Theseus, your great dislike for the cheating Lysander, your bewilderment with Demetrius’ change of heart, and your utter frustration at your daughter’s refusal to obey.

2. Duke Theseus seems relieved at not having to punish Hermia, as he decrees to Egeus, “…I will overbear your will…” Considering he is the highest authority, how can you explain these unexpected feelings. Keep in mind that he, himself, is being married to Hippolyta that night.

3. Bottom makes many references to his ass-like behavior without ever acknowledging that his head is now that of an ass. What are these references and how may they be interpreted as describing either the animal’s behavior or that of a person acting as an ass—that is, poorly or stupidly? Use the text as your resource material.

Act IV, Scene 2 1. Bottom is actually making a jest when he directs his fellow actors to refrain from eating onions or garlic before the performance so that the audience will say their play, “is a sweet comedy.” In reality, how is the play-within-the-play “a sweet comedy”? Use documentation from within the text.

2. Upon waking, Bottom explains to himself, “I have had a dream past the wit of man to say what dream it was.” How is this Shakespeare’s way of having a human interpret the fairy world? Look for validations to correctly explain Bottom’s quote.

3. Demetrius queries, “Are you sure that we are awake? It seems to me that yet we sleep, we dream.” How is this an alternate explanation for a human’s visit to the fairy world of spells and being enchanted? Remember to include what would be absurd behavior on Demetrius’ part were he not under a fairy spell.

Act V, Scene 1 Suggested Essay Topics 1. Theseus likens, “the lunatic, the lover, and the poet,” in his explanation to Hippolyta of why he thinks the lovers are recounting a fantasy rather than what really happened to them in the haunted wood. Today, we often make the same comparison in our own ways. Examine your life, or that of someone you know, to prove either the truth or falsehood of this statement. Remember to keep referring to facts from the text to support your argument.

2. As a modern audience member, how would you react to the comments of the audience in the play-within-the-play and their interaction with the actors as they were on stage? Use the text for specific examples to illustrate your opinion.

3. In the play-within-the-play, Pyramus commits suicide when he thinks his love is dead. This is a common theme in plays (to wit, Shakespeare’s own Romeo and Juliet). How is it possible that the one committing suicide does not verify the death of his/her lover before killing him/herself? Use the lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream as examples to illustrate your thoughts on this topic.


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