A Midsummer Night’s Dream: by Shakespeare - Summary

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      Midsummer Night’s Dream, a comedy by William Shakespeare, published in Quarto in 1600 as well as in the First Folio of 1623. The story is gathered from a number of sources and amplified by Shakespeare’s own invention.

       Theseus, Duke of Athens, is to wed the Amazon queen, Hippolyta. Egeus asks for his judgment on his daughter Hermia, who has refused his order to marry Demetrius. Theseus upholds Egeus and the law, which requires that Hermia should obey her father or choose between death and a nunnery. Hermia decides to elope with the man she loves, Lysander, and confides her plans to Helena. Helena, who loves Demetrius, in turn, tells him, and the four young people arrive at various points of a wood near Athens.

      In this fairy wood, Oberon, king of the fairies, quarrels with his queen. Titania, over the care of a changeling boy. He punishes her by dropping in her eyes the juice of a magic flower, which will make her love the first person she sees on waking. Later, having overheard Helena pleading with Demetrius to love her, he instructs his servant Puck to drop the juice into Demetrius’s eyes. But Puck confuses Lysander with Demetrius, with the result that Lysander falls in love with Helena, as docs Demetrius when Oberon tries to correct Puck’s error.

      Also in the wood arc several Athenian artisans, rehearse the play of Pyramus and This be, which they hope to present at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. The dominant one, a weaver called Bottom, is mischievously given an ass’s head by Puck, and it is the ass-headed Bottom whom Titania first sees (and falls in love with) when she wakes. Oberon’s magic eventually unravels all and, at the wedding celebrations of Theseus and Hippolyta, Hermia is matched with her Lysander and Helena with her Demetrius, while Bottom and his fellow actors perform their play to the assembled nobles.

      The most persistently popular of all Shakespeare’s comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is much more than a piece of gentle fairy fun. Its concern with illusion and reality has been amply demonstrated by many critics as has its profound exploration of the whole art of theatre.

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