A Midsummer Night's Dream Summary

A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

     A typical five act play by William Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night's Dream is a fantastical romantic comedy with fairies and multiple plot lines. It begins by introducing the various characters and their situations. First, there are Theseus, the Duke, and his fiancĂ© Hippolyta, who are excited to be getting married in a few days. Theseus is approached by Egeus, the father of Hermia, because Egeus wants his daughter to marry Demetrius while Hermia wants to marry Lysander. At this time, a father could make the decision for his daughter, and if she disobeyed, she could be killed. Theseus tells Hermia that she has a few days to think about it; then she must decide which man she will marry. Meanwhile, Helena is in love with Demetrius and wants to marry him, but he wants nothing to do with her. In the second plotline, there are a group of men who are planning to perform a play at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. The play is Pyramus and Thisbe. The director in the group is Quince who assigns the roles to the other men, including Bottom who will play the lead role of Pyramus. They agree to meet in the woods the following evening to rehearse. The third plotline focuses on a group of fairies: Oberon is King and Titania is Queen. Oberon is upset with Titania for spending all her time with a young Indian boy whom she stole when his mother died. Oberon talks to his assistant, Puck, about a way to trick Titania into giving up the boy.

     Oberon's plan to trick Titania involves a flower struck by Cupid's arrow, which when squeezed onto someone's eyes will make them fall in love with the first person that he or she sees. He plans to put this charm onto Titania's eyes and hope she falls in love with something gruesome, which will distract her while he takes away the child. Meanwhile, after Oberon discusses this plan with Puck and tells him to go fetch the flower, Oberon notices Demetrius and Helena talking. Helena has revealed to Demetrius the secret plan of Hermia and Lysander to flee Athens and get married. Demetrius has set out to stop them, and Helena has followed along hoping Demetrius will change his mind and love her instead. When Oberon sees how much Helena loves Demetrius, he decides to have Puck put some of the charm on Demetrius's eyes as well so that he will return the love of Helena. He and Puck part ways to use the charm. Puck comes across Lysander and Hermia in the woods on their way to escape, and he accidentally puts the charm on Lysander's eyes, once he has fallen asleep, thinking that Lysander is the Athenian that Oberon referred to. When Lysander awakes, he first sees Helena, who is still wandering the woods, and he falls in love with her. She is confused by his newfound affection for her and runs off, so he follows leaving Hermia still sleeping in the woods. When Hermia wakes up and finds Lysander missing, she is worried and runs off to find him.

     Oberon puts the charm on Titania's eyes after she falls asleep; then Puck sees the actors in the woods rehearsing their play. Puck takes Bottom and changes his head into that of a donkey, which scares away his friends. Titania wakes up and immediately falls in love with the donkey-headed Bottom, who enjoys the attention. Oberon realizes that Puck put the charm on the wrong man and asks him to put the charm onto the other man. When they all fall asleep, Puck puts the charm onto Demetrius's eyes, so when he wakes up, he too is in love with Helena. Helena believes the two men are mocking her with their false affection, and Hermia can't understand why her true love Lysander wants to be with Helena. Oberon realizes things still aren't quite right, so they will need to make them all fall asleep once more to put everything back the way it should be.

     After stealing away the boy, Oberon releases Titania from the charm, and she thinks that she had a dream where she loved a donkey. Puck also takes the donkey head away from Bottom, who also believes the entire experience was a strange dream that he hopes his friend Quince can turn into a ballad for him to perform at the wedding. Lysander receives the charm on his eyes once more, and this time he sees Hermia, so once again he is in love with her. The four Athenians also believe the last few days were a strange dream and try to explain it to Hermia's father and Theseus when they come in search of Hermia's answer to whom she will marry. Demetrius steps up and says that he is no longer interested in marrying Hermia because he is in love with Helena. Therefore, Theseus suggests that all three couples are married together at his ceremony the following night.

     The three couples feast together after their triple wedding ceremony; then they watch the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe put on by Quince, Bottom, and the other men. They enjoy it greatly. At the end the fairies are also having a celebration, and Puck tells the audience that if they didn't like any part of the play to just pretend it was all a dream.

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