A Midsummer Night’s Dream delivers a comedic tale of an ancient Greek love triangle, which falls apart under hilarious circumstances in the woods with the help of some mischievous fairies, who in the end convince the humans that the night’s strange events must have been just a dream.
The play centers around the marriage of Duke Theseus of Athens and Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons. The beginning of the play reveals a love triangle: Hermia is in love with Lysander, but she is supposed to marry Demetrius who is in love with her. Helena loves Demetrius. Hermia wants to go against her father Egeus’ wishes, which enrages him and he appeals to the Duke.
Meanwhile, Peter Quince’s theater troupe plans to put on a performance of Pyramus and Thisbe for the wedding entertainment. Nick Bottom is going to be playing the part of Pyramus, but becomes so excited that he wants to turn the play into a one-man show.
At the same time, the king and queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania, arrive in the forest outside of Athens for the wedding. Oberon is angry at Titania because she won’t give him her changeling, so he asks Puck the sprite to mix up a potion that when put on the eyelids of a sleeping person causes them to fall in love with the first thing they see in the morning. He wants Titania to fall in love with an animal of the forest so that he can use that as leverage to get the changeling from her.
Hermia and Lysander escape from Egeus into the forest; Helena, hoping to gain favor with Demetrius, tells him where they’ve gone, and they follow them into the forest as well. Oberon sees that Demetrius treats Helena with cruelty and instructs Puck to put some of that same potion on Demetrius; however, Puck accidentally puts it on Lysander instead. Helena stumbles upon Lysander and he instantly falls in love with her. Oberon realizes something has gone wrong, so he puts the potion on Demetrius while Puck brings Helena to him. Now both men are in love with Helena, but Helena doesn’t believe either man is being sincere. Hermia is heartbroken by Lysander’s betrayal, and Lysander and Demetrius prepare to duel until Oberon and Puck intervene, separating the two men.
Puck sees Nick Bottom and the other players rehearsing in the forest, and he turns Nick Bottom’s head into a donkey’s head, scaring the other players. Titania awakens with the potion on her eyes and instantly falls in love with the donkey-headed Bottom. Oberon takers her changeling and arranges Puck to reverse the potion and convince everyone they were only dreaming. Demetrius loves Helena now, so Hermia is free to marry Lysander. King Theseus decides all of the couples should get married. Puck ends the play by suggesting to the audience that the play might have been a dream.
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Date Published: 1595
Major Themes: Love; magic and the supernatural; the power of dreams; transformation
Famous Quote: “Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind.”