A Midsummer
Night's Dream

The magical and mortal worlds collide, and love is turned upside down in Shakespeare's classic romantic comedy.

The course of true love never did run smooth.

Lysander, Act 1, Scene 1

Love is in the air in Athens, one midsummer night. A royal wedding is just days away.

Hermia and Lysander wish to marry, but Hermia’s father forbids it. Demetrius pines for Hermia, and Helena pines for Demetrius.

Determined to be together, Hermia and Lysander escape to the woods, with Helena and Demetrius in hot pursuit. But they are not alone. A group of tradespeople from Athens decide that the woods is the perfect place to rehearse their play for the royal wedding. Unknowingly, the humans stumble into the world of the fairies, who are in the mood for mischief. Three worlds collide in an explosion of comic confusion, love, magic, and mayhem.

One of Shakespeare’s best-loved comedies, A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written early in Shakespeare’s career, around the same time as Romeo and Juliet. While the play is one of love, laughter and magic, within the story Shakespeare also explores darker themes of jealousy, family conflict and fractured relationships.

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SYNOPSIS

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The course of true love never did run smooth…

Lysander, Act 1, Scene 1

Duke Theseus of Athens and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, are due to be married and celebrations are being planned for the occasion. Egeus, a nobleman, arrives in the Athenian court with his daughter Hermia in tow, along with Lysander and Demetrius. While Hermia and Lysander are in love, Egeus would prefer that Hermia married Demetrius. Furious at his daughter’s refusal to marry his preferred suitor, Egeus asks Duke Theseus to talk sense into her. The men remind Hermia of her daughterly duty to submit to her father’s will, while she pleads that her father respect her own feelings and mind.

Hermia is given until the new moon, the planned night of Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding, to decide her own fate – either marry Demetrius, become a chaste nun, or die at her father’s hand. Left alone, Lysander and Hermia decide to run away together to marry. They plan to meet “in the wood, a league without the town” (Act 1, Scene 1) the following evening to elope and start a new life together.

Their planning is interrupted by Hermia’s childhood friend, Helena. She bemoans the changing affections of her one-time sweetheart, Demetrius, who is now in love with Hermia. Lysander and Hermia tell Helena of their planned elopement and say their farewells. Helena decides to tell Demetrius of this secret plan knowing that he will follow Hermia into the wood, in the hope that he will one day return her affections. That night, Hermia and Lysander steal away to the forest, with Demetrius and Helena in hot pursuit.

A group of tradesmen from Athens, the Mechanicals, are also in the forest. They’ve convened in a clearing for the purpose of rehearsing a play in secret - The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe. Led by their passionate director, Peter Quince, and lead actor, Nick Bottom, the Mechanicals hope their play will be selected as the entertainment for Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding.

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Famous lines

Lord, what fools these mortals be!

Puck, Act 3 Scene 2

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Historical background

A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written early in Shakespeare’s career, probably between 1594 and 1596.

Fast facts

The word 'eye’ appears more than 60 times in the play, and the word 'moon’ appears more than 50 times.

Yet the word 'love’ is a clear winner, appearing over 150 times.

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Debatable points

Is Demetrius still under a spell?

At the end of the play, when Oberon removes the love spell, he only does so from Lysander's eyes. This means that Lysander falls back in love with Hermia, but leaves Demetrius still ‘magically’ in love with Helena.

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