A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a comedy written by William Shakespeare c. 1595 or 1596. The play is set in Athens, and consists of several subplots that revolve around the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta. One subplot involves a conflict between four Athenian lovers. Another follows a group of six amateur actors rehearsing the play which they are to perform before the wedding. Both groups find themselves in a forest inhabited by fairies who manipulate the humans and are engaged in their own domestic intrigue. The play is one of Shakespeare’s most popular and is widely performed.
The play consists of five interconnecting plots, connected by a celebration of the wedding of Duke Theseus of Athens and the Amazon queen, Hippolyta, which are set simultaneously in the woodland and in the realm of Fairyland, under the light of the moon.
The play opens with Hermia who is in love with Lysander, resistant to her father Egeus’s demand that she wed Demetrius, whom he has arranged for her to marry. Helena, Hermia’s best friend, pines unrequitedly for Demetrius, who broke up with her to be with Hermia. Enraged, Egeus invokes an ancient Athenian law before Duke Theseus, whereby a daughter needs to marry a suitor chosen by her father, or else face death.
Peter Quince and his fellow players Nick Bottom, Francis Flute, Robin Starveling, Tom Snout and Snug plan to put on a play for the wedding of the Duke and the Queen, “the most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe”. lion is “nothing but roaring.” Quince then ends the meeting telling his actors “at the Duke’s oak we meet”.
In a parallel plot line, Oberon, king of the fairies, and Titania, his queen, have come to the forest outside Athens. Titania tells Oberon that she plans to stay there until she has attended Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding. Oberon and Titania are estranged because Titania refuses to give her Indian changeling to Oberon. Oberon seeks to punish Titania’s disobedience. He calls upon Robin “Puck” , to help him concoct a magical juice derived from a flower called “love-in-idleness”. When the concoction is applied to the eyelids of a sleeping person, that person, upon waking, falls in love with the first living thing they perceive.
Hermia and Lysander have escaped to the same forest in hopes of running away from Theseus. Helena, desperate to reclaim Demetrius’s love, tells Demetrius about the plan and he follows them in hopes of finding Hermia. Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius, not having actually seen either before, and administers the juice to the sleeping Lysander. Helena, coming across him, wakes him while attempting to determine whether he is dead or asleep. Upon this happening, Lysander immediately falls in love with Helena.
Helena, thinking Lysander is playing a trick on her, runs away with Lysander following her. Oberon sends Puck to get Helena while he charms Demetrius’ eyes. Upon waking up, he sees Helena. Now, both men are in love with Helena. Hermia accuses Helena of stealing Lysander away from her .Lysander and Demetrius decide to seek a place to duel to prove whose love for Helena is the greater. Oberon orders Puck to keep Lysander and Demetrius from catching up with one another and to remove the charm from Lysander so Lysander can return to love Hermia, while Demetrius continues to love Helena with none of them having any memory of what happened, as if it were a dream.
Titania, having received the love-potion, is awakened by Bottom’s singing and immediately falls in love with him. She lavishes him with the attention of her and her fairies, and while she is in this state of devotion, Oberon takes the changeling boy. Having achieved his goals, Oberon releases Titania, orders Puck to remove the donkey’s head from Bottom, and arranges everything so Helena, Hermia, Demetrius and Lysander will all believe they have been dreaming when they awaken. Puck distracts them and eventually all four find themselves separately falling asleep in the glade.
The fairies then disappear, and Theseus and Hippolyta arrive on the scene, during an early morning hunt. They wake up the lovers and, since Demetrius no longer loves Hermia, Theseus over-rules Egeus’s demands . The lovers decide that the night’s events must have been a dream. After they exit, Bottom awakes, and he too decides that he must have experienced a dream “past the wit of man”.
In Athens, Theseus, Hippolyta and the lovers watch the six workmen perform Pyramus and Thisbe. The performers are so terrible playing their roles that the guests laugh as if it were meant to be a comedy, and everyone retires to bed. After all the other characters leave, Puck “restores amends” and suggests that what the audience experienced might just be a dream.