A Midsummer Night's Dream Summary

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a play by William Shakespeare in which four Athenian lovers become entangled in a quarrel between the King and Queen of the fairies.

  • Hermia's father wants her to marry Demetrius, but she is in love with Lysander. Hermia and Lysander flee into the woods.
  • Helena, who loves Demetrius, informs him of Hermia's flight. Helena and Demetrius pursue Hermia and Lysander.
  • Oberon, the Fairy King, has his servant sprinkle a love potion on his wife, making her fall in love with a donkey-headed musician. Lysander and Demetrius are also mistakenly exposed to the potion, and they both fall for Helena, much to Hermia's distress.
  • Oberon removes the enchantments from everyone except Demetrius, who remains in love with Helena. The human lovers happily marry. 

Summary

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Introduction

William Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream between 1595 and 1596, and it was first published around 1600. One of Shakespeare's early comedies, it distinguishes itself in its originality. Unlike many of his other works, including his comedies, Shakespeare did not rely on other source materials in composing A Midsummer Night's Dream.

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Set in Athens, the play follows the trials, heartache, and eventual happiness of two Athenian couples and the entertaining antics of meddling, magical fairies. The main plot involves two sets of couples—Hermia and Lysander, and Helena and Demetrius—whose romances are complicated by the whims of Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen of the Fairies, and their servant Puck.

Shakespeare's lighthearted play explores the capricious, dream-like, and sometimes ridiculous nature of love. A Midsummer Night’s Dream brings further humor with its play-within-a-play format, in which a group of craftsmen celebrate the upcoming marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta by putting on a badly performed play.

Plot Summary

Act I begins with Athenian duke Theseus and his future wife, Hippolyta, preparing for their wedding. One of Theseus’s subjects, Egeus, arrives seeking his support. Egeus wants his daughter, Hermia, to marry Demetrius, but he says another man, Lysander, has stolen her heart.

Theseus reminds Hermia of the cost of her disobedience. Athenian law dictates that if Hermia disobeys her father, she will be put to death or forced to live the rest of her life as a nun. Hermia declares that she would rather be a nun than marry Demetrius. Theseus says she must make her final decision before his wedding in four days. Once Hermia and Lysander are alone, he asks her to run away with him the next night, and she agrees.

Hermia’s friend Helena appears. She is jealous that Demetrius loves Hermia instead of her. Hermia tells Helena of her plan with Lysander. Helena secretly vows to betray Hermia’s confidence and tell Demetrius, hoping that doing so will put her in his favor.

In local carpenter Peter Quince’s house, he and fellow craftsmen discuss plans to perform a play for Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding. The other craftsmen are Nick Bottom, the weaver; Frances Flute, the bellows-mender; Robin Starveling, the tailor; Tom Snout, the tinker; and Snug, the joiner.

Though they take the play seriously, it is clear they know nothing about how to perform it well. They agree to meet in the woods the next night to practice in secret so that no one else in town can steal their idea.

In act II, Puck, a trickster fairy, is in the forest at night when his king, Oberon, and queen, Titania, show up. They are quarreling about an Indian prince who has become Titania’s favorite squire. Oberon covets the squire for himself, but Titania refuses to part with him.

After Titania leaves, Oberon asks Puck to bring him a magical flower, the juice of which, when laid on a sleeper’s eyelids, will make them fall in love with the first person they see upon waking. Puck goes in search of the flower. During Puck’s absence, Oberon vows to...

(The entire section contains 1742 words.)

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