A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
Shakespeare lived from 1564 – 1616. He wrote many plays and a bunch of poetry. The plays fall into three categories – histories, tragedies, and comedies (even though some of the plays are a combination of funny and unfunny, known as tragicomedies). One of Shakespeare’s comedies, "A Midsummer Night’s Dream" uses magic, mistaken identities, and mystical creatures to tell a story about love. The title refers to "Midsummer day" and "Midsummer night" (on June 23rd and 24th), close to the summer solstice (the longest day of the year, in terms of sunlight). On that day, there were feasts and ceremonies, and people believed that a bunch of supernatural creatures, like fairies, roamed around.
Theseus: He is the Duke of Athens. He is a powerful dude. He is about to marry Hippolyta.
Hippolyta: She is Queen of the Amazons. She’s kind of a tomboy, because she actually fought in some battles. She’s about to marry Theseus.
Egeus: Hermia’s dad. He’s kind of a jerk because he tells his daughter what to do all the time. He wants her to marry Demetrius.
Hermia: Egeus’ daughter. She really loves Lysander. Hermia is a small chick but with lots of personality. She’s a real pistol.
Lysander: He’s this dude that is in love with Hermia. Their love is forbidden, so they have to elope. He’s a good guy.
Demetrius: He is the guy that is supposed to marry Hermia. He has Hermia’s friend, Helena, chasing after him, but he doesn’t like Helena. He likes Hermia.
Helena: She is Hermia’s friend. Helena loves Demetrius, but Demetrius won’t give her the time of day.
Oberon: King of the fairies. He is a magical fairy with magical powers and quite a temper.
Titania: Queen of the Fairies. She’s a cool chick. She’s really pretty and very nice.
Puck: Puck is a bit of a comedian. He loves to play jokes on people. He’s a fairy, too, and uses his magic to play jokes on people. He’s a carefree guy.
Nick Bottom: :He’s one of the actors in the play that is performed during the wedding. He has a huge ego.
This story takes place in Athens. Theseus and Hippolyta are about to get married. They plan on having this big wedding. Then this rich guy, Egeus, has a problem with his daughter (Hermia) and brings her to the duke so he can solve the problem. Egeus’ daughter loves this guy, Lysander, who Egeus hates. Egeus wants his daughter to marry Demetrius but Hermia hates Demetrius. But Demetrius likes Hermia’s friend. Confused?
Since Hermia isn’t listening to her dad, he wants Theseus to do something about it. Theseus tells Hermia that she has to marry Demetrius, or else she will be killed. It’s the law. Her only way to get out of it is to become a priestess, which means she can’t have sex. Hermia and Lysander decide to run away and elope. They first plan to meet in the forest the next night. Helena helps her get out of town. Helena is in love with Demetrius, the guy who Hermia is supposed to marry. Helena tells Demetrius about Hermia running away. Then Demetrius is pissed. He goes to try and stop them from getting married. Meanwhile, back at Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding, some people get ready to put on a play as part of the big wedding party. They plan to rehearse the next night in the forest.
This night when the actors are going to rehearse in the forest and when Hermia and Lysander are gonna meet to elope is called Midsummer’s Eve, a sort of magical night.. In the forest, there are these that are magical mystical creatures... like Tinkerbell. Oberon is King of the fairies and Titania is Queen. This one fairy named Puck (like the guy from the Real World) likes to play jokes on humans. So he puts some magic dust stuff on Lysander so that when he wakes up, he’ll be in love with the first thing he sees. Unfortunately, the first person he sees is Helena (Hermia’s friend). So he dumps Hermia and hooks up with Helena. Then the fairies see the actors rehearsing that play. Puck sees one of the actors, named Bottom. He does some magic and turns his head into a donkey’s head. Then he puts some magic dust on Titania so that the first person she sees she will fall in love with. But the first person she sees is Bottom (donkeyface). Oberon gets mad at Puck and makes him reverse all the magic. So Lysander and Hermia are back in love and now Demetrius and Helena are in love. Theseus finds out and says that he wants the couples married in one big ceremony along with his wedding. So they have this huge wedding, and the play is performed.
ACT BY ACT/SCENE BY SCENE
- The play starts in the big palace.
- Theseus is getting ready for his wedding to Hippolyta. They’re both really psyched.
- Then this dude Egeus comes in. He’s pissed because his daughter, Hermia, won’t listen to him. He wants her to marry this guy named Demetrius. But she is in love with some guy named Lysander.
- Egeus hates Lysander because he is stealing Hermia away.
- So Egeus wants Theseus to tell her that she should listen to her daddy. So, Theseus tells Hermia that she has to marry Demetrius or die (it’s the law). The only other ways to avoid getting killed are to remain a virgin for the rest of her life and become a nun.
- Hermia hates Demetrius. Then Lysander says he’s just as much as a stud as Demetrius.
- Theseus gives Hermia five days to decide what she’s gonna do.
- Lysander tells Hermia that he has an aunt who lives outside of town. So they plan to run away and get married and live with his aunt. They plan to meet the next night in the forest so they can plan out their escape.
- Then Hermia’s friend, Helena, comes in. She is in love with Demetrius, but Demetrius ignores her.
- Hermia tells Helena that she and Lysander are gonna elope. Helena is happy because then she’ll have Demetrius all to herself.
- She decides to tell Demetrius about Hermia’s plans. Then Demetrius will be pissed and not like Hermia anymore. Then Helena can get busy with him.
- Then the play goes to this carpenter guy, Peter Quince’s, house.
- There are some actors at his house. They have a meeting to decide who will be in the play, and when they will rehearse.
- They all decide to do this play called "Pyramus and Thisby" -- a play about two lovers who die.
- The part of Pyramus (the boy) goes to this dude named Nick Bottom. The part of Thisby (the girl) goes to a guy named Flute.
- Peter Quince keeps handing out parts and telling people who they will be playing.
- Then they finish up and plan to have a big rehearsal in the forest tomorrow night (same night/same place that Lysander and Hermia are meeting).
- The story shifts to the fairies in the woods. The fairies are magical little creatures (like Tinkerbell).
- This one fairy named Puck appears. Puck is the King’s jester. Puck is disguised as this guy named Robin Goodfellow.
- Puck sees this other fairy and the other fairy tells him that Titania (Queen of Fairies) and Oberon (King of Fairies) are coming there any minute. Puck tells the fairy that if they meet they will start fighting.
- Pucks says that they’re mad at each other because Titania has some Indian boy as a servant and Oberon is jealous of the kid.
- The fairy figures out Puck’s disguise. Puck tells him that he is the jester.
- Then Titania and Oberon show up. They start bitching at each other.
- They argue and accuse each other of sleeping around. Then Titania says that because Oberon is mad, he’s causing all these storms and stuff (remember, fairies are magic so their mood swings might do magic and create storms etc.).
- Oberon asks Titania to give her that Indian kid, so he can put him in the army, away from his wife. Titania says no. Now Oberon is really pissed.
- Oberon wants revenge on Titania. He tells Puck about some magical nectar where you can put the nectar on someone and they will fall in love with the first person they see.
- He also has the cure. He plans to give it to her then blackmail her with the cure.
- Then Demetrius comes into the forest.
- Oberon turns invisible.
- Helena is there hitting on Demetrius.
- Demetrius tells her that he doesn’t like her. He tries everything to get her away from him. She doesn’t budge. She wants to hook up with Demetrius, but he’s more preoccupied with killing Lysander and hooking up with Hermia.
- Oberon overhears them and plans to use the nectar on Demetrius (so he’ll hook up with Helena). Puck brings him the nectar.
- Titania and some fairies are singing. Oberon comes and sneaks past the guards to give Titania the nectar. He puts it on her eyelids while she’s sleeping.
- Then Lysander and Hermia come into the wood. They get lost, are tired, and decide to sleep.
- They sleep with some space between them because they’re not married yet and they are good religious people.
- Then Puck comes in and thinks that this couple is Demetrius and Helena (because they’re sleeping apart, he thinks that it is must be Demetrius because he hates Helena). So he puts the nectar on Lysander (thinking he’s Demetrius).
- Then Demetrius and Helena come in. Then Demetrius ditches Helena and goes somewhere.
- Helena sees Lysander sleeping. She goes to wake him up. He wakes up and Helena is the first person he sees. So he falls in love with her. He tells Helena that she’s a babe and that Hermia is a bitch (because he’s under the magic spell).
- Helena doesn’t know what the hell is going on, so she runs away.
- Then Hermia wakes up and sees that Lysander is gone. So she goes to find him.
- The story cuts to the actors rehearsing in the forest. Nick Bottom is being a jerk and trying to take control of the play. He and some others argue about some suicide scene being offensive.
- Then this actor named Snout thinks that the lion (there’s a lion in the play) will scare people.
- So they decide to have Snout dress as the lion in the play but show his real face so everyone will know it’s not a real lion.
- Then they argue about some more stuff, like how they will show the moon.
- Then Puck comes and watches them rehearse. He sees Nick Bottom and Puck uses magic to turn his face into a donkey’s face. All the actors see him and run away scared.
- Bottom has no idea what’s going on. Then he starts singing and Titania wakes up.
- She sees him and his donkey face and she falls in love with him (remember, she has the magic nectar on her eyes).
- Puck sees Oberon and tells him about everything he did. Oberon is happy because his plan worked, and Titania is in love with a donkey-man.
- Then Puck tells Oberon that he put the nectar on Demetrius (but really he put it on Lysander).
- Oberon and Puck wait for Demetrius. They see him and Puck realizes that he put the nectar on the wrong guy.
- They watch Demetrius and Hermia argue. They argue because Hermia can’t find Lysander and she thinks that Demetrius killed him. He denies it. He asks her if he gets a reward for proving it. She runs off and Demetrius goes to sleep.
- Oberon yells at Puck for putting the nectar on the wrong guy. Then he tells Puck to go get Helena.
- Then Oberon puts a spell on Demetrius so that when he wakes up he will fall in love with Helena.
- So Helena comes in with Lysander (who’s hitting on her because he had the nectar).
- Demetrius wakes up and starts hitting on her. Now Helena has two guys hitting on her.
- Lysander and Demetrius argue over who gets Helena. Helena thinks the guys are making fun of her (because earlier, nobody wanted her).
- Then Hermia comes in and is pissed because Lysander is hitting on Helena.
- Then Lysander and Demetrius start brawling. Helena is confused and so she runs away.
- Meanwhile, Oberon and Puck have been listening. Oberon yells at Puck again for making his mistake. He accuses Puck of doing it on purpose but Puck says that it really was an accident.
- He tells Puck to lead Lysander and Demetrius around the forest and put the "cure" on Lysander (so he’ll go back to loving Hermia).
- Then Oberon says he’s gonna get Titania to hand over the Indian boy, and then he’ll take the spell off her which is making her in love with Bottom, the donkeyface
- So Puck runs them (Lysander and Demetrius) around the forest by taunting them. When they go to sleep, he fixes all the magic done on Lysander (But he will keep the nectar on Demetrius). Puck thinks it will play like this when they wake up: Demetrius is Helena’s lover, and Lysander is Hermia’s lover
- Then Titania and Bottom come in. Titania is still head over heels in love with donkeyface. He just thinks he’s a really handsome guy. Then he eats some hay (because he’s a donkey).
- Then Bottom and Titania go to sleep.
- Puck and Oberon release the spell on Bottom and Titania. She wakes up and thinks Bottom is ugly.
- Then Oberon dances with Titania in the forest.
- Then Theseus, Egeus, and Hippolyta come in and they are hunting. They see the four sleeping lovers.
- Theseus tells Hermia that today is the day she has to make her decision on marrying Demetrius.
- Egeus gets mad at Lysander because he still thinks Lysander is trying to block Hermia and Demetrius’ marriage. Then Demetrius tells everyone that he loves Helena (remember, he still has the nectar on him)
- Theseus sees that everyone is happy so he asks them to all get married with him back at his palace.
- Then Bottom wakes up. He goes to look for his actor friends. He doesn’t have a donkeyface anymore.
- Then the story goes back to the palace in Athens. The actors are pissed because they can’t find Bottom and he’s the star of the play.
- Then one of the actors comes in and tells everyone about the three couples getting married. The actors are worried because they hope the play is enough to entertain a huge wedding like that.
- Then Bottom shows up and everyone is happy. He tells everyone what to do and tells them not to eat onions and garlic (smelly breath onstage).
- All the couples get married at the palace. Hippolyta asks Theseus about the story that the other two couples have told. She is curious about the whole thing
- Theseus asks some dude what the entertainment is. The dude tells him about the big play and how it is so bad it is funny. He wants to see a bad play but it also happy because the actors are so loyal to the king that they took so much time to prepare such a crappy piece of theater.
- The play starts and Theseus heckles them because the play really sucks.
- The play is bad and the actors are even worse. They forget lines and stop in the middle to explain stuff.
- Theseus keeps on heckling. The play ends with Thisby and Pyramus committing suicide. Then they dance for Theseus.
- Then all the couples go to bed.
THINGS TO MAKE YOU LOOK SMART
- There are many love triangles in this play. Shakespeare wrote a lot about mishaps in love, how it’s confusing and fun and can be magical when it works. He also wrote about unrequited love, the kind when you like someone and they don’t like you back, like Helena at the beginning of the play.
- A major point in the play is perception. What people see and what they know or feel might be two different things.
- Sight is a major symbol in this book. All of the lovers see things differently throughout the story. Some see what they want to see, and don’t see what doesn’t help them.
- Consider how important the forest is as a metaphor for passion, confusion, and magic. Inside the forest, things get all mixed up but the people and fairies feel things very strongly. Outside, people are more controlled and clear-minded.
- Nick Bottom has a name that suggests he is already an ass, so when he is turned into one, it’s Shakespeare being clever and funny.
- Though the characters in this play try to control love, they can’t – only the magic dust helps.