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Plot Overview

Theseus, duke of Athens, is preparing for his marriage to Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons,
with a four-day festival of pomp and entertainment. He commissions his Master of the evels,
!hilostrate, to find suita"le amusements for the occasion. #geus, an Athenian no"leman,
marches into Theseus$s court with his daughter, Hermia, and two young men, %emetrius and
&ysander. #geus wishes Hermia to marry %emetrius 'who loves Hermia(, "ut Hermia is in
love with &ysander and refuses to comply. #geus asks for the full penalty of law to fall on
Hermia$s head if she flouts her father$s will. Theseus gives Hermia until his wedding to
consider her options, warning her that diso"eying her father$s wishes could result in her "eing
sent to a convent or even e)ecuted. *onetheless, Hermia and &ysander plan to escape Athens
the following night and marry in the house of &ysander$s aunt, some seven leagues distant
from the city. They make their intentions known to Hermia$s friend Helena, who was once
engaged to %emetrius and still loves him even though he +ilted her after meeting Hermia.
Hoping to regain his love, Helena tells %emetrius of the elopement that Hermia and &ysander
have planned. At the appointed time, %emetrius stalks into the woods after his intended "ride
and her lover, Helena follows "ehind him. -n these same woods are two very different groups
of characters. The first is a "and of fairies, including ."eron, the fairy king, and Titania, his
queen, who has recently returned from -ndia to "less the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta.
The second is a "and of Athenian craftsmen rehearsing a play that they hope to perform for
the duke and his "ride. ."eron and Titania are at odds over a young -ndian prince given to
Titania "y the prince$s mother, the "oy is so "eautiful that ."eron wishes to make him a
knight, "ut Titania refuses. /eeking revenge, ."eron sends his merry servant, !uck, to acquire
a magical flower, the +uice of which can "e spread over a sleeping person$s eyelids to make
that person fall in love with the first thing he or she sees upon waking. !uck o"tains the
flower, and ."eron tells him of his plan to spread its +uice on the sleeping Titania$s eyelids.
Having seen %emetrius act cruelly toward Helena, he orders !uck to spread some of the +uice
on the eyelids of the young Athenian man. !uck encounters &ysander and Hermia, thinking
that &ysander is the Athenian of whom ."eron spoke, !uck afflicts him with the love potion.
&ysander happens to see Helena upon awaking and falls deeply in love with her, a"andoning
Hermia. As the night progresses and !uck attempts to undo his mistake, "oth &ysander and
%emetrius end up in love with Helena, who "elieves that they are mocking her. Hermia
"ecomes so +ealous that she tries to challenge Helena to a fight. %emetrius and &ysander
nearly do fight over Helena$s love, "ut !uck confuses them "y mimicking their voices,
leading them apart until they are lost separately in the forest. 0hen Titania wakes, the first
creature she sees is 1ottom, the most ridiculous of the Athenian craftsmen, whose head !uck
has mockingly transformed into that of an ass. Titania passes a ludicrous interlude doting on
the ass-headed weaver. #ventually, ."eron o"tains the -ndian "oy, !uck spreads the love
potion on &ysander$s eyelids, and "y morning all is well. Theseus and Hippolyta discover the
sleeping lovers in the forest and take them "ack to Athens to "e married2%emetrius now
loves Helena, and &ysander now loves Hermia. After the group wedding, the lovers watch
1ottom and his fellow craftsmen perform their play, a fum"ling, hilarious version of the story
of !yramus and This"e. 0hen the play is completed, the lovers go to "ed, the fairies "riefly
emerge to "less the sleeping couples with a protective charm and then disappear. .nly !uck
remains, to ask the audience for its forgiveness and approval and to urge it to remem"er the
play as though it had all "een a dream.
Character List
Puck - Also known as o"in 3oodfellow, !uck is ."eron$s +ester, a mischievous fairy who
delights in playing pranks on mortals. Though A Midsummer Nights Dream divides its action
"etween several groups of characters, !uck is the closest thing the play has to a protagonist.
His enchanting, mischievous spirit pervades the atmosphere, and his antics are responsi"le for
many of the complications that propel the other main plots4 he mistakes the young Athenians,
applying the love potion to &ysander instead of %emetrius, there"y causing chaos within the
group of young lovers, he also transforms 1ottom$s head into that of an ass.
Oberon - The king of the fairies, ."eron is initially at odds with his wife, Titania, "ecause
she refuses to relinquish control of a young -ndian prince whom he wants for a knight.
."eron$s desire for revenge on Titania leads him to send !uck to o"tain the love-potion
flower that creates so much of the play$s confusion and farce.
Titania - The "eautiful queen of the fairies, Titania resists the attempts of her hus"and,
."eron, to make a knight of the young -ndian prince that she has "een given. Titania$s "rief,
potion-induced love for *ick 1ottom, whose head !uck has transformed into that of an ass,
yields the play$s foremost e)ample of the contrast motif.
Lysander - A young man of Athens, in love with Hermia. &ysander$s relationship with
Hermia invokes the theme of love$s difficulty4 he cannot marry her openly "ecause #geus, her
father, wishes her to wed %emetrius, when &ysander and Hermia run away into the forest,
&ysander "ecomes the victim of misapplied magic and wakes up in love with Helena.
Demetrius - A young man of Athens, initially in love with Hermia and ultimately in love
with Helena. %emetrius$s o"stinate pursuit of Hermia throws love out of "alance among the
quartet of Athenian youths and precludes a symmetrical two-couple arrangement.
Hermia - #geus$s daughter, a young woman of Athens. Hermia is in love with &ysander and
is a childhood friend of Helena. As a result of the fairies$ mischief with ."eron$s love potion,
"oth &ysander and %emetrius suddenly fall in love with Helena. /elf-conscious a"out her
short stature, Hermia suspects that Helena has wooed the men with her height. 1y morning,
however, !uck has sorted matters out with the love potion, and &ysander$s love for Hermia is
Helena - A young woman of Athens, in love with %emetrius. %emetrius and Helena were
once "etrothed, "ut when %emetrius met Helena$s friend Hermia, he fell in love with her and
a"andoned Helena. &acking confidence in her looks, Helena thinks that %emetrius and
&ysander are mocking her when the fairies$ mischief causes them to fall in love with her.
Egeus - Hermia$s father, who "rings a complaint against his daughter to Theseus4 #geus has
given %emetrius permission to marry Hermia, "ut Hermia, in love with &ysander, refuses to
marry %emetrius. #geus$s severe insistence that Hermia either respect his wishes or "e held
accounta"le to Athenian law places him squarely outside the whimsical dream realm of the
Theseus - The heroic duke of Athens, engaged to Hippolyta. Theseus represents power and
order throughout the play. He appears only at the "eginning and end of the story, removed
from the dreamlike events of the forest.
Hippolyta - The legendary queen of the Amazons, engaged to Theseus. &ike Theseus, she
sym"olizes order.
Nick ottom - The overconfident weaver chosen to play !yramus in the craftsmen$s play for
Theseus$s marriage cele"ration. 1ottom is full of advice and self-confidence "ut frequently
makes silly mistakes and misuses language. His simultaneous nonchalance a"out the "eautiful
Titania$s sudden love for him and unawareness of the fact that !uck has transformed his head
into that of an ass mark the pinnacle of his foolish arrogance.
Peter !uince - A carpenter and the nominal leader of the craftsmen$s attempt to put on a play
for Theseus$s marriage cele"ration. 5uince is often shoved aside "y the a"undantly confident
1ottom. %uring the craftsmen$s play, 5uince plays the !rologue.
"rancis "lute - The "ellows-mender chosen to play This"e in the craftsmen$s play for
Theseus$s marriage cele"ration. 6orced to play a young girl in love, the "earded craftsman
determines to speak his lines in a high, squeaky voice.
#obin $tarveling - The tailor chosen to play This"e$s mother in the craftsmen$s play for
Theseus$s marriage cele"ration. He ends up playing the part of Moonshine.
Tom $nout - The tinker chosen to play !yramus$s father in the craftsmen$s play for
Theseus$s marriage cele"ration. He ends up playing the part of 0all, dividing the two lovers.
$nug - The +oiner chosen to play the lion in the craftsmen$s play for Theseus$s marriage
cele"ration. /nug worries that his roaring will frighten the ladies in the audience.
Philostrate - Theseus$s Master of the evels, responsi"le for organizing the entertainment
for the duke$s marriage cele"ration.
Peaseblossom% Cobweb% &ote% and &ustardseed - The fairies ordered "y Titania to attend
to 1ottom after she falls in love with him.
'nalysis o( &a)or Characters
Though there is little character development in A Midsummer Nights Dream and no true
protagonist, critics generally point to !uck as the most important character in the play. The
mischievous, quick-witted sprite sets many of the play$s events in motion with his magic, "y
means of "oth deli"erate pranks on the human characters 'transforming 1ottom$s head into
that of an ass( and unfortunate mistakes 'smearing the love potion on &ysander$s eyelids
instead of %emetrius$s(. More important, !uck$s capricious spirit, magical fancy, fun-loving
humor, and lovely, evocative language permeate the atmosphere of the play. 0ild contrasts,
such as the implicit comparison "etween the rough, earthy craftsmen and the delicate, graceful
fairies, dominate A Midsummer Nights Dream. !uck seems to illustrate many of these
contrasts within his own character4 he is graceful "ut not so saccharine as the other fairies, as
."eron$s +ester, he is given to a certain coarseness, which leads him to transform 1ottom$s
head into that of an ass merely for the sake of en+oyment. He is good-hearted "ut capa"le of
cruel tricks. 6inally, whereas most of the fairies are "eautiful and ethereal, !uck is often
portrayed as somewhat "izarre looking. -ndeed, another fairy mentions that some call !uck a
7ho"go"lin,8 a term whose connotations are decidedly less glamorous than those of 7fairy8
Nick ottom
0hereas !uck$s humor is often mischievous and su"tle, the comedy surrounding the
overconfident weaver *ick 1ottom is hilariously overt. The central figure in the su"plot
involving the craftsmen$s production of the !yramus and This"e story, 1ottom dominates his
fellow actors with an e)traordinary "elief in his own a"ilities 'he thinks he is perfect for every
part in the play( and his comical incompetence 'he is a terri"le actor and frequently makes
rhetorical and grammatical mistakes in his speech(. The humor surrounding 1ottom often
stems from the fact that he is totally unaware of his own ridiculousness, his speeches are
overdramatic and self-aggrandizing, and he seems to "elieve that everyone takes him as
seriously as he does himself. This foolish self-importance reaches its pinnacle after !uck
transforms 1ottom$s head into that of an ass. 0hen Titania, whose eyes have "een anointed
with a love potion, falls in love with the now ass-headed 1ottom, he "elieves that the devotion
of the "eautiful, magical fairy queen is nothing out of the ordinary and that all of the trappings
of her affection, including having servants attend him, are his proper due. His unawareness of
the fact that his head has "een transformed into that of an ass parallels his ina"ility to perceive
the a"surdity of the idea that Titania could fall in love with him.
Although !uck and 1ottom stand out as the most persona"le characters in A Midsummer
Nights Dream, they themselves are not involved in the main dramatic events. .f the other
characters, Helena, the lovesick young woman desperately in love with %emetrius, is perhaps
the most fully drawn. Among the quartet of Athenian lovers, Helena is the one who thinks
most a"out the nature of love2which makes sense, given that at the "eginning of the play she
is left out of the love triangle involving &ysander, Hermia, and %emetrius. /he says, 7&ove
looks not with the eyes, "ut with the mind,8 "elieving that %emetrius has "uilt up a fantastic
notion of Hermia$s "eauty that prevents him from recognizing Helena$s own "eauty '-.i.;<9(.
=tterly faithful to %emetrius despite her recognition of his shortcomings, Helena sets out to
win his love "y telling him a"out the plan of &ysander and Hermia to elope into the forest.
.nce Helena enters the forest, many of her traits are drawn out "y the confusion that the love
potion engenders4 compared to the other lovers, she is e)tremely unsure of herself, worrying
a"out her appearance and "elieving that &ysander is mocking her when he declares his love
for her.
Themes% $ymbols% * &oti(s
Themes are the fundamental and often universal ideas e)plored in a literary work.
Loves Difficulty
7The course of true love never did run smooth,8 comments &ysander, articulating one of A
Midsummer Nights Dream$s most important themes2that of the difficulty of love '-.i.><9(.
Though most of the conflict in the play stems from the trou"les of romance, and though the
play involves a num"er of romantic elements, it is not truly a love story, it distances the
audience from the emotions of the characters in order to poke fun at the torments and
afflictions that those in love suffer. The tone of the play is so lighthearted that the audience
never dou"ts that things will end happily, and it is therefore free to en+oy the comedy without
"eing caught up in the tension of an uncertain outcome. The theme of love$s difficulty is often
e)plored through the motif of love out of "alance2that is, romantic situations in which a
disparity or inequality interferes with the harmony of a relationship. The prime instance of
this im"alance is the asymmetrical love among the four young Athenians4 Hermia loves
&ysander, &ysander loves Hermia, Helena loves %emetrius, and %emetrius loves Hermia
instead of Helena2a simple numeric im"alance in which two men love the same woman,
leaving one woman with too many suitors and one with too few. The play has strong potential
for a traditional outcome, and the plot is in many ways "ased on a quest for internal "alance,
that is, when the lovers$ tangle resolves itself into symmetrical pairings, the traditional happy
ending will have "een achieved. /omewhat similarly, in the relationship "etween Titania and
."eron, an im"alance arises out of the fact that ."eron$s coveting of Titania$s -ndian "oy
outweighs his love for her. &ater, Titania$s passion for the ass-headed 1ottom represents an
im"alance of appearance and nature4 Titania is "eautiful and graceful, while 1ottom is clumsy
and grotesque.
The fairies$ magic, which "rings a"out many of the most "izarre and hilarious situations in the
play, is another element central to the fantastic atmosphere of A Midsummer Nights Dream.
/hakespeare uses magic "oth to em"ody the almost supernatural power of love 'sym"olized
"y the love potion( and to create a surreal world. Although the misuse of magic causes chaos,
as when !uck mistakenly applies the love potion to &ysander$s eyelids, magic ultimately
resolves the play$s tensions "y restoring love to "alance among the quartet of Athenian
youths. Additionally, the ease with which !uck uses magic to his own ends, as when he
reshapes 1ottom$s head into that of an ass and recreates the voices of &ysander and
%emetrius, stands in contrast to the la"oriousness and gracelessness of the craftsmen$s attempt
to stage their play.
As the title suggests, dreams are an important theme in A Midsummer Nights Dream; they are
linked to the "izarre, magical mishaps in the forest. Hippolyta$s first words in the play
evidence the prevalence of dreams '76our days will quickly steep themselves in night, ? 6our
nights will quickly dream away the time8(, and various characters mention dreams throughout
'-.i.@AB(. The theme of dreaming recurs predominantly when characters attempt to e)plain
"izarre events in which these characters are involved4 7- have had a dream, past the wit of
man to say what ? dream it was. Man is "ut an ass if he go a"out t$e)pound this dream,8
1ottom says, una"le to fathom the magical happenings that have affected him as anything "ut
the result of slum"er. /hakespeare is also interested in the actual workings of dreams, in how
events occur without e)planation, time loses its normal sense of flow, and the impossi"le
occurs as a matter of course, he seeks to recreate this environment in the play through the
intervention of the fairies in the magical forest. At the end of the play, !uck e)tends the idea
of dreams to the audience mem"ers themselves, saying that, if they have "een offended "y the
play, they should remem"er it as nothing more than a dream. This sense of illusion and gauzy
fragility is crucial to the atmosphere of A Midsummer Nights Dream, as it helps render the
play a fantastical e)perience rather than a heavy drama.
Motifs are recurring structures, contrasts, and literary devices that can help to develop and
inform the te)t$s ma+or themes.
The idea of contrast is the "asic "uilding "lock of A Midsummer Nights Dream. The entire
play is constructed around groups of opposites and dou"les. *early every characteristic
presented in the play has an opposite4 Helena is tall, Hermia is short, !uck plays pranks,
1ottom is the victim of pranks, Titania is "eautiful, 1ottom is grotesque. 6urther, the three
main groups of characters 'who are developed from sources as varied as 3reek mythology,
#nglish folklore, and classical literature( are designed to contrast powerfully with one
another4 the fairies are graceful and magical, while the craftsmen are clumsy and earthy, the
craftsmen are merry, while the lovers are overly serious. Contrast serves as the defining visual
characteristic of A Midsummer Nights Dream, with the play$s most indeli"le image "eing that
of the "eautiful, delicate Titania weaving flowers into the hair of the ass-headed 1ottom. -t
seems impossi"le to imagine two figures less compati"le with each other. The +u)taposition of
e)traordinary differences is the most important characteristic of the play$s surreal atmosphere
and is thus perhaps the play$s central motif, there is no scene in which e)traordinary contrast
is not present.
/ym"ols are o"+ects, characters, figures, and colors used to represent a"stract ideas or
Theseus and Hippolyta
Theseus and Hippolyta "ookend A Midsummer Nights Dream, appearing in the daylight at
"oth the "eginning and the end of the play$s main action. They disappear, however, for the
duration of the action, leaving in the middle of Act -, scene i and not reappearing until Act -D,
as the sun is coming up to end the magical night in the forest. /hakespeare uses Theseus and
Hippolyta, the ruler of Athens and his warrior "ride, to represent order and sta"ility, to
contrast with the uncertainty, insta"ility, and darkness of most of the play. 0hereas an
important element of the dream realm is that one is not in control of one$s environment,
Theseus and Hippolyta are always entirely in control of theirs. Their reappearance in the
daylight of Act -D to hear Theseus$s hounds signifies the end of the dream state of the
previous night and a return to rationality.
The Love Potion
The love potion is made from the +uice of a flower that was struck with one of Cupid$s
misfired arrows, it is used "y the fairies to wreak romantic havoc throughout Acts --, ---, and
-D. 1ecause the meddling fairies are careless with the love potion, the situation of the young
Athenian lovers "ecomes increasingly chaotic and confusing '%emetrius and &ysander are
magically compelled to transfer their love from Hermia to Helena(, and Titania is hilariously
humiliated 'she is magically compelled to fall deeply in love with the ass-headed 1ottom(.
The love potion thus "ecomes a sym"ol of the unreasoning, fickle, erratic, and undenia"ly
powerful nature of love, which can lead to ine)plica"le and "izarre "ehavior and cannot "e
The Craftsmens Play
The play-within-a-play that takes up most of Act D, scene i is used to represent, in condensed
form, many of the important ideas and themes of the main plot. 1ecause the craftsmen are
such "um"ling actors, their performance satirizes the melodramatic Athenian lovers and gives
the play a purely +oyful, comedic ending. !yramus and This"e face parental disapproval in the
play-within-a-play, +ust as Hermia and &ysander do, the theme of romantic confusion
enhanced "y the darkness of night is rehashed, as !yramus mistakenly "elieves that This"e
has "een killed "y the lion, +ust as the Athenian lovers e)perience intense misery "ecause of
the mi)-ups caused "y the fairies$ meddling. The craftsmen$s play is, therefore, a kind of
sym"ol for A Midsummer Nights Dream itself4 a story involving powerful emotions that is
made hilarious "y its comical presentation.
'ct +% scene i
The course of true love never did run smooth. . . .
At his palace, Theseus, duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, his fiancEe, discuss their wedding, to
"e held in four days, under the new moon. -mpatient for the event and in a cele"ratory mood,
Theseus orders !hilostrate, his Master of the evels, to 7stir up the Athenian youth to
merriments8 and devise entertainments with which the couple might pass the time until their
wedding '-.i.>;(. !hilostrate takes his leave, and Theseus promises Hippolyta that though he
wooed her with his sword 'Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons, presuma"ly met Theseus in
com"at(, he will wed her 7with pomp, with triumph, and with revelling82with a grand
cele"ration to "egin at once and last until the wedding '-.i.>F(. #geus, a citizen of Athens,
strides into the room, followed "y his daughter Hermia and the Athenian youths &ysander and
%emetrius. #geus has come to see Theseus with a complaint against his daughter4 although
#geus has promised her in marriage to %emetrius, who loves her, &ysander has won Hermia$s
heart, and Hermia refuses to o"ey her father and marry %emetrius. #geus demands that the
law punish Hermia if she fails to comply with his demands. Theseus speaks to Hermia
sharply, telling her to e)pect to "e sent to a nunnery or put to death. &ysander interrupts,
accusing %emetrius of "eing fickle in love, saying that he was once engaged to Hermia$s
friend Helena "ut a"andoned her after he met Hermia. Theseus admits that he has heard this
story, and he takes #geus and %emetrius aside to discuss it. 1efore they go, he orders Hermia
to take the time remaining "efore his marriage to Hippolyta to make up her mind. Theseus,
Hippolyta, #geus, and %emetrius depart, leaving Hermia alone with &ysander. Hermia and
&ysander discuss the trials that must "e faced "y those who are in love4 7The course of true
love never did run smooth,8 &ysander says '-.i.><9(. He proposes a plan4 he has an aunt,
wealthy and childless, who lives seven leagues from Athens and who dotes on &ysander like a
son. At her house, Hermia and &ysander can "e married2and, "ecause the manor is outside of
Athens, they would "e free from Athenian law. Hermia is over+oyed, and they agree to travel
to the house the following night. Helena, Hermia$s friend whom %emetrius +ilted, enters the
room, lovesick and deeply melancholy "ecause %emetrius no longer loves her. Hermia and
&ysander confide their plan to her and wish her luck with %emetrius. They depart to prepare
for the following night$s +ourney. Helena remarks to herself that she envies them their
happiness. /he thinks up a plan4 if she tells %emetrius of the elopement that &ysander and
Hermia are planning, he will "e "ound to follow them to the woods to try to stop them, if she
then follows him into the woods, she might have a chance to win "ack his love.
6rom the outset, /hakespeare su"tly portrays the lovers as a group out of "alance, a motif that
creates tension throughout the play. 6or the sake of symmetry, the audience wants the four
lovers to form two couples, instead, "oth men love Hermia, leaving Helena out of the
equation. The women are thus in nonparallel situations, adding to the sense of structural
im"alance. 1y esta"lishing the fact that %emetrius once loved Helena, /hakespeare suggests
the possi"ility of a harmonious resolution to this love tangle4 if %emetrius could only "e made
to love Helena again, then all would "e well. 1y the end of the play, the fairies$ intervention
effects +ust such an outcome, and all does "ecome well, though it is worth noting that the
restoration of %emetrius$s love for Helena is the result of magic rather than a natural
reawakening of his feelings.The genre of comedy surrounding the Athenian lovers is farce, in
which the humor stems from e)aggerated characters trying to find their way out of ludicrous
situations. /hakespeare portrays the lovers as overly serious, as each is deeply and earnestly
preoccupied with his or her own feelings4 Helena is an)ious a"out her looks, reacting
awkwardly when &ysander calls her 7fair8, Hermia later "ecomes self-conscious a"out her
short stature, %emetrius is willing to see Hermia e)ecuted to prevent her from marrying
another man, and &ysander seems to have cast himself as the hero of a great love story in his
own mind '---.ii.>BB, ---.ii.;9@(. Hermia is stu""orn and quarrelsome, while Helena lacks self-
confidence and "elieves that other people mock her. The airy world of the fairies and the
a"surd predicaments in which the lovers find themselves once in the forest make light of the
lovers$ grave concerns.
&ove looks not with the eyes, "ut with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted "lind.
'/ee -mportant 5uotations #)plained(
'ct +% scene ii
-n another part of Athens, far from Theseus$s palace, a group of common la"orers meets at the
house of !eter 5uince to rehearse a play that the men hope to perform for the grand
cele"ration preceding the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. 5uince, a carpenter, tries to
conduct the meeting, "ut the talkative weaver *ick 1ottom continually interrupts him with
advice and direction. 5uince tells the group what play they are to perform4 The Most
Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe, which tells the story of
two lovers, separated "y their parents$ feud, who speak to each other at night through a hole in
a wall. -n the play, a lion surprises This"e one night and tatters her mantle "efore she escapes.
0hen !yramus finds the shredded garment, he assumes that the lion has killed This"e,
stricken with grief, he commits suicide. 0hen This"e finds !yramus$s "loody corpse, she too
commits suicide. 5uince assigns their parts4 1ottom is to play !yramus, 6rancis 6lute, This"e,
o"in /tarveling, This"e$s mother, Tom /nout, !yramus$s father, 5uince himself, This"e$s
father, and /nug, the lion. As 5uince doles out the parts, 1ottom often interrupts, announcing
that he should "e the one to play the assigned part. He says that his a"ility to speak in a
woman$s voice would make him a wonderful This"e and that his a"ility to roar would make
him a wonderful lion. 5uince eventually convinces him that !yramus is the part for him, "y
virtue of the fact that !yramus is supposed to "e very handsome. /nug worries that he will "e
una"le to learn the lion$s part, "ut 5uince reassures him that it will "e very easy to learn, since
the lion speaks no words and only growls and roars. This worries the craftsmen, who reason
that if the lion frightens any of the no"le ladies in the audience, they will all "e e)ecuted,
since they are only common la"orers, they do not want to risk upsetting powerful people.
1ottom says that he could roar as sweetly as a nightingale so as not to frighten anyone, "ut
5uince again convinces him that he can only play !yramus. The group disperses, agreeing to
meet in the woods the following night to rehearse their play.
The most important motif in A Midsummer Nights Dream, and one of the most important
literary techniques /hakespeare uses throughout the play, is that of contrast. The three main
groups of characters are all vastly different from one another, and the styles, moods, and
structures of their respective su"plots also differ. -t is "y incorporating these contrasting
realms into a single story that /hakespeare creates the play$s dreamlike atmosphere. Almost
diametrically opposite the "eautiful, serious, and love-struck young no"les are the clumsy,
ridiculous, and deeply confused craftsmen, around whom many of the play$s most comical
scenes are centered.0here the young lovers are graceful and well spoken2almost comically
well suited to their roles as melodramatically passionate youths2the craftsmen often fum"le
their words and could not "e less well suited for acting. This dis+unction reveals itself as it
"ecomes readily apparent that the craftsmen have no idea how to put on a dramatic
production4 their speeches are full of impossi"le ideas and mistakes '1ottom, for e)ample,
claims that he will roar 7as gently ? as any sucking dove8(, their concerns a"out their parts are
a"surd '6lute does not want to play This"e "ecause he is growing a "eard(, and their e)tended
discussion a"out whether they will "e e)ecuted if the lion$s roaring frightens the ladies further
evidences the fact that their primary concern is with themselves, not their art '--.i.G@AGB(. The
fact that the workmen have chosen to perform the !yramus and This"e story, a 1a"ylonian
myth familiar to /hakespeare$s audiences from .vid$s Metamorphoses, only heightens the
comedy. The story of !yramus and This"e is highly dramatic, with suicides and tragically
wasted love 'themes that /hakespeare takes up in Romeo and uliet as well(. 1adly suited to
their task and ine)perienced, although endlessly well meaning, the craftsmen are sympathetic
figures even when the audience laughs at them2a fact made e)plicit in Act D, when Theseus
makes fun of their play even as he honors their effort. The contrast "etween the serious nature
of the play and the "um"ling foolishness of the craftsmen makes the endeavor all the more
ridiculous. 6urther, the actors$ "otched telling of the youthful love "etween !yramus and
This"e implicitly mocks the melodramatic love tangle of Hermia, Helena, %emetrius, and
'ct ++% scene i
-n the forest, two fairies, one a servant of Titania, the other a servant of ."eron, meet "y
chance in a glade. ."eron$s servant tells Titania$s to "e sure to keep Titania out of ."eron$s
sight, for the two are very angry with each other. Titania, he says, has taken a little -ndian
prince as her attendant, and the "oy is so "eautiful that ."eron wishes to make him his knight.
Titania, however, refuses to give the "oy up. Titania$s servant is delighted to recognize
."eron$s servant as o"in 3oodfellow, "etter known as !uck, a mischievous sprite notorious
for his pranks and +ests. !uck admits his identity and descri"es some of the tricks he plays on
mortals.The two are interrupted when ."eron enters from one side of the glade, followed "y a
train of attendants. At the same moment, Titania enters from the other side of the glade,
followed "y her own train. The two fairy royals confront one another, each questioning the
other$s motive for coming so near to Athens +ust "efore the marriage of Theseus and
Hippolyta. Titania accuses ."eron of loving Hippolyta and of thus wishing to "less the
marriage, ."eron accuses Titania of loving Theseus. The conversation turns to the little
-ndian "oy, whom ."eron asks Titania to give him. 1ut Titania responds that the "oy$s mother
was a devotee of hers "efore she died, in honor of his mother$s memory, Titania will hold the
"oy near to her. /he invites ."eron to go with her to dance in a fairy round and see her
nightly revels, "ut ."eron declines, saying that they will "e at odds until she gives him the
"oy. Titania storms away, and ."eron vows to take revenge on her "efore the night is out. He
sends !uck to seek a white-and-purple flower called love-in-idleness, which was once hit with
one of Cupid$s arrows. He says that the flower$s +uice, if ru""ed on a sleeper$s eyelids, will
cause the sleeper to fall in love with the first living thing he or she sees upon waking. ."eron
announces that he will use this +uice on Titania, hoping that she will fall in love with some
ridiculous creature, he will then refuse to lift the +uice$s effect until she yields the -ndian
prince to him.
Act -- serves two main functions4 it introduces the fairies and their realm, and it initiates the
romantic confusion that will eventually help restore the "alance of love. The fairies, whom
/hakespeare "ases heavily on characters familiar from #nglish folklore, are among the most
memora"le and delightful characters in the play. They speak in lilting rhymes infused with
gorgeous poetic imagery. A Midsummer Nights Dream is a play dominated "y the presence of
dou"les, and the fairies are designed to contrast heavily with the young lovers and the
craftsmen. 0hereas the lovers are earnest and serious, !uck and the other pi)ies are merry
and full of laughter, whereas the craftsmen are "um"ling, earthy, and engage in methodical
la"or, the fairies are delicate, airy, and indulge in effortless magic and enchantment. The
conflict "etween ."eron and Titania imports into the fairy realm the motif of love "eing out
of "alance. As with the Athenian lovers, the eventual resolution of the tension "etween the
two occurs only "y means of magic. Though the craftsmen do not e)perience romantic
confusion a"out one another, 1ottom "ecomes involved in an accidental romance with Titania
in Act ---, and in Act D two craftsmen portray the lovers !yramus and This"e, who commit
suicide after misinterpreting events. A Midsummer Nights Dream was pro"a"ly performed
"efore 5ueen #liza"eth, and /hakespeare managed to make a flattering reference to his
monarch in Act --, scene i. 0hen ."eron introduces the idea of the love potion to !uck, he
says that he once saw Cupid fire an arrow that missed its mark4
That very time - saw, "ut thou couldst not,
6lying "etween the cold moon and the earth
Cupid, all armed.
A certain aim he took
At a fair vestal thronHd "y the west,
And loosed his love-shaft smartly from his "ow
As it should pierce a hundred thousand hearts.
1ut - might see young Cupid$s fiery shaft
5uenched in the chaste "eams of the wat$ry moon,
And the imperial vot$ress passHd on,
-n maiden meditation, fancy-free
5ueen #liza"eth never married and was cele"rated in her time as a woman of chastity, a
virgin queen whose concerns were a"ove the flesh. Here /hakespeare alludes to that
reputation "y descri"ing Cupid firing an arrow 7at a fair vestal thronHd "y the west825ueen
#liza"eth2whom the heat of passion cannot affect "ecause the arrow is cooled 7in the chaste
"eams of the wat$ry moon.8 /hakespeare cele"rates how #liza"eth put affairs of state "efore
her personal life and lived 7in maiden meditation, fancy-free.8 He nestles a patriotic aside in
an evocative description, couching praise for the ruler on whose good favor he depended in
de)terous poetic language. 'Audiences in /hakespeare$s day would most likely have
recognized this imaginative passage$s reference to their monarch.( 1ecause many of the main
themes and motifs in A Midsummer Nights Dream are very light, even secondary to the
overall sense of comedy and the dreamlike atmosphere, it is perhaps more important to try to
understand not !hat the play means "ut rather ho! /hakespeare creates its mood. .ne
technique that he uses is to em"ellish action with a wealth of finely wrought poetic imagery,
using language to work upon the imagination of the audience and there"y effect a kind of
magic upon the stage4 7- must go seek some dewdrops here,8 one fairy says, 7And hang a
pearl in every cowslip$s ear8 '--.i.>9A>I(. The fairies con+ure many of the play$s most
evocative images4 ."eron, for instance, descri"es having heard
a mermaid on a dolphin$s "ack
=ttering such dulcet and harmonious "reath
That the rude sea grew civil at her song
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres
To hear the sea-maid$s music
and seen
a "ank where the wild thyme "lows,
0here o)lips and the nodding violet grows,
5uite overcanopied with luscious wood"ine,
0ith sweet musk-roses, and with eglantine.
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
&ulled in these flowers with dances and delight
This technique e)tends even to the suggestive names of some of the characters, such as the
craftsmen /nug, /tarveling, 5uince, 6lute, and /nout, and the fairies Co"we", Mustardseed,
Mote, and !ease"lossom.
'ct ++% scene ii
As !uck flies off to seek the flower, %emetrius and Helena pass through the glade. ."eron
makes himself invisi"le so that he can watch and hear them. %emetrius harangues Helena,
saying that he does not love her, does not want to see her, and wishes that she would stop
following him immediately. He curses &ysander and Hermia, whom he is pursuing, hoping to
prevent their marriage and slay &ysander. Helena repeatedly declares her adoration for, and
loyalty to, %emetrius, who repeatedly insults her. They e)it the grove, with Helena following
closely "ehind %emetrius, and ."eron materializes. He declares that "efore the night is out,
%emetrius will "e the one chasing Helena. !uck appears, carrying the flower whose +uice will
serve as the love potion. ."eron takes the flower and says that he knows of a fragrant stream
"ank surrounded with flowers where Titania often sleeps. 1efore hurrying away to anoint
Titania$s eyelids with the flower$s +uice, ."eron orders !uck to look for an Athenian youth
"eing pursued "y a lady and to put some of the +uice on the disdainful youth$s eyelids, so that
when he wakes he will fall in love with the lady. He informs !uck that he will know the youth
"y his Athenian gar". !uck agrees to carry out his master$s wishes. After her dancing and
revelry, Titania falls asleep "y the stream "ank. ."eron creeps up on her and squeezes the
flower$s +uice onto her eyelids, chanting a spell, so that Titania will fall in love with the first
creature she sees upon waking. ."eron departs, and &ysander and Hermia wander into the
glade. &ysander admits that he has forgotten the way to his aunt$s house and says that they
should sleep in the forest until morning, when they can find their way "y daylight. &ysander
wishes to sleep close to Hermia, "ut she insists that they sleep apart, to respect custom and
propriety. At some distance from each other, they fall asleep. !uck enters, complaining that he
has looked everywhere "ut cannot find an Athenian youth and pursuing lady. He is relieved
when he finally happens upon the sleeping forms of &ysander and Hermia, assuming that they
are the Athenians of whom ."eron spoke. *oticing that the two are sleeping apart, !uck
surmises that the youth refused to let Hermia come closer to him. Calling him a 7churl,8 !uck
spreads the potion on &ysander$s eyelids, and he departs. /imultaneously, Helena pursues
%emetrius through the glade. He insults her again and insists that she no longer follow him.
/he complains that she is afraid of the dark, "ut he nonetheless storms off without her. /aying
that she is out of "reath, Helena remains "ehind, "emoaning her unrequited love. /he sees the
sleeping &ysander and wakes him up. The potion takes effect, and &ysander falls deeply in
love with Helena. He "egins to praise her "eauty and to declare his undying passion for her.
%is"elieving, Helena reminds him that he loves Hermia, he declares that Hermia is nothing to
him. Helena "elieves that &ysander is making fun of her, and she grows angry. /he leaves in a
huff, and &ysander follows after her. Hermia soon wakes and is shocked to find that &ysander
is gone. /he stum"les into the woods to find him.
Act --, scene ii introduces the plot device of the love potion, which /hakespeare uses to
e)plore the comic possi"ilities inherent in the motif of love out of "alance. ."eron$s meddling
in the affairs of humans further disrupts the love equili"rium, and the love potion sym"olizes
the fact that the lovers themselves will not reason out their dilemmas, rather, an outside force
2magic2will resolve the love tangle. The ease with which characters$ affections change in
the play, so that &ysander is madly in love with Hermia at one point and with Helena at
another, has trou"led some readers, who feel that /hakespeare profanes the idea of true love
"y treating it as inconstant and su"+ect to outside manipulation. -t is important to remem"er,
however, that while A Midsummer Nights Dream contains elements of romance, it is not a
true love story like Romeo and uliet. /hakespeare$s aim is not to comment on the nature of
true love "ut rather to mock gently the melodramatic afflictions and confusions that love
induces. %emetrius, Helena, Hermia, and &ysander are meant not to "e romantic archetypes
"ut rather sympathetic figures thrown into the confusing circumstances of a romantic farce.
&ike much farce, A Midsummer Nights Dream relies heavily on misunderstanding and
mistaken identity to create its humorous entanglements. ."eron$s unawareness of the
presence of a second Athenian couple2&ysander and Hermia2in the forest ena"les !uck$s
mistaken application of the flower$s +uice. This confusion underscores the crucial role of
circumstance in the play4 it is not people who are responsi"le for what happens "ut rather fate.
-n "amlet and Ma#beth, oppositely, /hakespeare forces his characters to make crucial
decisions that affect their lives. Much of the comic tension in this scene 'and throughout the
rest of the play, as the confusion wrought "y the love potion only increases( stems from the
fact that the solution to the love tangle seems so simple to the reader?audience4 if %emetrius
could simply "e made to love Hermia, then the lovers could pair off symmetrically, and love
would "e restored to a point of "alance. /hakespeare teases the audience "y dangling the
magic flower as a simple mechanism "y which this resolution could "e achieved. He uses this
mechanism, however, to cycle through a num"er of increasingly ridiculous arrangements
"efore he allows the love story to arrive at its inevita"le happy conclusion.
'ct +++% scene i
The craftsmen meet in the woods at the appointed time to rehearse their play. /ince they will
"e performing in front of a large group of no"les 'and since they have an e)aggerated sense of
the delicacy of no"le ladies(, 1ottom declares that certain elements of the play must "e
changed. He fears that !yramus$s suicide and the lion$s roaring will frighten the ladies and
lead to the actors$ e)ecutions. The other men share 1ottom$s concern, and they decide to write
a prologue e)plaining that the lion is not really a lion nor the sword really a sword and
assuring the ladies that no one will really die. They decide also that, to clarify the fact that the
story takes place at night and that !yramus and This"e are separated "y a wall, one man must
play the wall and another the moonlight "y carrying a "ush and a lantern. As the craftsmen
rehearse, !uck enters and marvels at the scene of the 7hempen homespuns8 trying to act
'---.i.GI(. 0hen 1ottom steps aside, temporarily out of view of the other craftsmen, !uck
transforms 1ottom$s head into that of an ass. 0hen the ass-headed 1ottom reenters the scene,
the other men "ecome terrified and run for their lives. %elighting in the mischief, !uck chases
after them. 1ottom, perple)ed, remains "ehind. -n the same grove, the sleeping Titania wakes.
0hen she sees 1ottom, the flower +uice on her eyelids works its magic, and she falls deeply
and instantly in love with the ass-headed weaver. /he insists that he remain with her,
em"races him, and appoints a group of fairies2!ease"lossom, Co"we", Mote, and
Mustardseed2to see to his every wish. 1ottom takes these events in stride, having no notion
that his head has "een replaced with that of an ass. He comments that his friends have acted
like asses in leaving him, and he introduces himself to the fairies. Titania looks on him with
undisguised love as he follows her to her forest "ower.
The structure of A Midsummer Nights Dream is roughly such that Act - introduces the main
characters and the conflict, Act -- sets up the interaction among the Athenian lovers, the
fairies, and the craftsmen 'the lovers wander through the forest, the fairies make mischief with
the love potion(, and Act --- develops the comical possi"ilities of these interactions. As Act ---
is the first act in which all three groups appear, the fantastic contrasts "etween them are at
their most visi"le. The craftsmen$s attempt at drama is a comedy of incongruity, as the rough,
unsophisticated men demonstrate their utter ina"ility to conceive a competent theatrical
production. Their proposal to let the audience know that it is night "y having a character play
the role of Moonshine e)emplifies their straightforward, literal manner of thinking and their
lack of regard for su"tlety. -n their earthy and practical natures, the craftsmen stand in stark
contrast to the airy and impish fairies.The fairies$ magic is one of the main components of the
dreamlike atmosphere of A Midsummer Nights Dream, and it is integral to the plot$s
progression. -t throws love increasingly out of "alance and "rings the farce into its most
frenzied state. 0ith the youths$ love tangle already affected "y the potion, /hakespeare
creates further havoc "y generating a romance across groups, as Titania falls in love with the
ass-headed 1ottom. ."viously, the delicate fairy queen is dramatically unsuited to the clumsy,
monstrous craftsman. /hakespeare develops this romance with fantastic aplom" and heightens
the comedy of the incongruity "y making 1ottom fully unaware of his transformed state.
ather, 1ottom is so self-confident that he finds it fairly unremarka"le that the "eautiful fairy
queen should wish desperately to "ecome his lover. 6urther, his ironic reference to his
colleagues as asses and his hunger for hay emphasize the ridiculousness of his lofty self-
'ct +++% scenes ii,iii
$ummary- 'ct +++% scene i
&ord, what fools these mortals "eJ
'/ee -mportant 5uotations #)plained(
-n another part of the forest, !uck tells ."eron a"out the predicament involving Titania and
1ottom. ."eron is delighted that his plan is working so well. Hermia, having discovered
%emetrius after losing &ysander, enters the clearing with %emetrius. !uck is surprised to see
the woman he saw earlier with a different man from the one he enchanted. ."eron is surprised
to see the man he ordered !uck to enchant with a different woman. He realizes that a mistake
has "een made and says that he and !uck will have to remedy it. Hermia presses %emetrius
a"out &ysander$s wherea"outs, fearing that he is dead, "ut %emetrius does not know where
&ysander has gone, and he is "itter and reproachful that Hermia would rather "e with
&ysander than with him. Hermia grows angrier and angrier, and %emetrius decides that it is
pointless to follow her. He lies down and falls asleep, and Hermia stalks away to find
&ysander. 0hen Hermia is gone, ."eron sends !uck to find Helena and squeezes the flower
+uice onto %emetrius$s eyelids. !uck quickly returns, saying that Helena is close "ehind him.
Helena enters with &ysander still pledging his undying love to her. /till "elieving that he is
mocking her, Helena remains angry and hurt. The noise of their "ickering wakes %emetrius,
who sees Helena and immediately falls in love with her. %emetrius +oins &ysander in
declaring this love. &ysander argues that %emetrius does not really love Helena, %emetrius
argues that &ysander is truly in love with Hermia. Helena "elieves that they are "oth mocking
her and refuses to "elieve that either one loves her. Hermia reenters, having heard &ysander
from a distance. 0hen she learns that her "eloved &ysander now claims to love Helena, as
does %emetrius, she is appalled and incredulous. Helena, who is likewise una"le to fathom
that "oth men could "e in love with her, assumes that Hermia is involved in the +oke that she
"elieves the men are playing on her, and she chides Hermia furiously for treating their
friendship so lightly. &ysander and %emetrius are ready to fight one another for Helena$s love,
as they lunge at one another, Hermia holds &ysander "ack, provoking his scorn and disgust4 7-
will shake thee from me like a serpent8 '---.ii.;G;(. Hermia "egins to suspect that Helena has
somehow acted to steal &ysander$s love from her, and she surmises that, "ecause she is short
and Helena is tall, Helena must have used her height to lure &ysander. /he grows furious with
Helena and threatens to scratch out her eyes. Helena "ecomes afraid, saying that Hermia was
always much quicker than she to fight. %emetrius and &ysander vow to protect Helena from
Hermia, "ut they quickly "ecome angry with each other and storm off into the forest to have a
duel. Helena runs away from Hermia, and Hermia, reannouncing her amazement at the turn of
events, departs. ."eron dispatches !uck to prevent &ysander and %emetrius from fighting and
says that they must resolve this confusion "y morning. !uck flies through the forest hurling
insults in the voices of "oth &ysander and %emetrius, confusing the would-"e com"atants
until they are hopelessly lost.
$ummary- 'ct +++% scene iii
#ventually, all four of the young Athenian lovers wander "ack separately into the glade and
fall asleep. !uck squeezes the love potion onto &ysander$s eyelids, declaring that in the
morning all will "e well.
The confusion in Act --- continues to heighten, as the Athenian lovers and the fairies occupy
the stage simultaneously, often without seeing each other. The comedy is at its silliest, and the
characters are at their most e)treme4 Helena and Hermia nearly come to "lows as a result of
their physical insecurities, and &ysander and %emetrius actually try to have a duel. The plot is
at its most chaotic, and, though there is no real clima) in A Midsummer Nights Dream, the
action is at its most intense. 0ith the falling action of Acts -D and D, however, matters will
sort themselves out quickly and order will "e restored. &ike Act ---, scene i, Act ---, scene ii
serves a mainly developmental role in the plot structure of A Midsummer Nights Dream,
focusing on the increasing confusion among the four Athenian lovers. *ow that "oth men
have "een magically induced to switch their love from Hermia to Helena, the vanities and
insecurities of "oth women "ecome far more pronounced. Helena$s low self-esteem prevents
her from "elieving that either man could really "e in love with her. Hermia, who is used to
having "oth men fawn on her, has her vanity stung "y the fact that they are suddenly cold and
indifferent toward her. /he reveals a latent insecurity a"out her short stature when she
assumes that Helena has used her height '7her personage, her tall personage8( to win
&ysander$s love, and her quick temper is revealed in Helena$s fear that Hermia will attack her
'---.ii.;F<(. The men$s e)aggerated masculine aggression leads them to vow to protect Helena
from the dreaded Hermia2a ridiculous state of affairs given that they are two armed men
whereas Hermia is a tiny, unarmed woman. Their aggression "etrays Helena, however, as the
men refocus it on their competition for her love. The potion is responsi"le for the confusion of
the lovers$ situation, thus, /hakespeare links the theme of magic to the motif of im"alanced
love, which dominates the scene. Had the love potion never "een "rought into play, the
Athenian lovers would still "e tangled in their romantic mess, "ut they would all understand
it, whereas the fairies$ meddling has left "oth Hermia and Helena una"le to comprehend the
situation. Additionally, !uck$s magical ventriloquism is what prevents &ysander and
%emetrius from killing each other at the end of the scene. Thus, magic "oth "rings a"out their
mutual hostility 'to this point, &ysander has not "een antagonistic toward %emetrius( and
resolves it.
'ct +.% scene i
KMLan$s hand is not a"le to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my
dream was.
'/ee -mportant 5uotations #)plained(
As the Athenian lovers lie asleep in the grove, Titania enters with 1ottom, still with the head
of an ass, and their fairy attendants. Titania tells 1ottom to lie down with his head in her lap,
so that she may twine roses into his hair and kiss his 7fair large ears8 '-D.i.9(. 1ottom orders
!ease"lossom to scratch his head and sends Co"we" to find him some honey. Titania asks
1ottom if he is hungry, and he replies that he has a strange appetite for hay. Titania suggests
that she send a fairy to fetch him nuts from a squirrel$s hoard, "ut 1ottom says that he would
rather have a handful of dried peas. Mawning, he declares that he is very tired. Titania tells
him to sleep in her arms, and she sends the fairies away. 3azing at 1ottom$s head, she cries,
7. how - love thee, how - dote on theeJ8 and they fall asleep '-D.i.9;(. !uck and ."eron enter
the glade and comment on the success of ."eron$s revenge. ."eron says that he saw Titania
earlier in the woods and taunted her a"out her love for the ass-headed 1ottom, he asked her
for the -ndian child, promising to undo the spell if she would yield him, to which she
consented. /atisfied, ."eron "ends over the sleeping Titania and speaks the charm to undo the
love potion. Titania wakes and is amazed to find that she is sleeping with the donkeylike
1ottom. ."eron calls for music and takes his queen away to dance. /he says that she hears the
morning lark, and they e)it. !uck speaks a charm over 1ottom to restore his normal head, and
he follows after his master. As dawn "reaks, Theseus, his attendants, Hippolyta, and #geus
enter to hear the "aying of Theseus$s hounds. They are startled to find the Athenian youths
sleeping in the glade. They wake them and demand their story, which the youths are only
partly a"le to recall2to them, the previous night seems as insu"stantial as a dream. All that is
clear to them is that %emetrius and Helena love each other, as do &ysander and Hermia.
Theseus orders them to follow him to the temple for a great wedding feast. As they leave,
1ottom wakes. He says that he has had a wondrous dream and that he will have !eter 5uince
write a "allad of his dream to perform at the end of their play.
1arely <:: lines long, Act -D is the shortest and most transitional of A Midsummer Nights
Dream$s five acts. The first three serve respectively to introduce the characters, esta"lish the
comic situation, and develop the comedy, Act -D ends the conflict and leads to the happy
ending in Act D. 0hat is most remarka"le, perhaps, is the speed with which the conflict is
resolved and the farce comes to an end, despite the u"iquity of chaos in Act ---, all that is
necessary to resolve matters is a "it of potion on &ysander$s eyelids and ."eron$s forgiveness
of his wife. The climactic moment "etween Titania and ."eron, during which she agrees to
give him the -ndian "oy, is not even shown onstage "ut is merely descri"ed. Though
%emetrius$s love of Helena is a "y-product of the magic potion rather than an e)pression of
his natural feelings, love has "een put into "alance, allowing for a traditional marriage ending.
As is often the case with /hakespeare, the dramatic situation is closely tied to the
circumstances of the e)ternal environment, +ust as the conflict is ending and a sem"lance of
order is restored among the characters, the sun comes up. There is no real clima) in A
Midsummer Nights Dream; rather, as soon as the scenario has progressed to a suita"le degree
of complication and hilarity, /hakespeare simply invokes the fairies$ magic to dispel all
conflict. As the sun comes up, the reappearance of Theseus and Hippolyta, who sym"olize the
power and structure of the outside world, "egins to dispel the magical dream of the play.
Theseus and Hippolyta "ookend the play. They are e)tremely important figures "oth at its
"eginning and at its end, "ut they disappear entirely during the main action in the magical
forest. The duke and his Amazon "ride are romanticized in the play, "ut they "elong solely to
the nonmagical waking world, where they remain wholly in control of their own feelings and
actions. An important element of the dream realm, as the lovers come to realize upon waking
in a daze, is that one is in control of neither oneself nor one$s surroundings. -n this way, the
forest and fairies contri"ute to the lovers$ sense of their e)perience as a dream, even though
the action happens largely while they are awake.
'ct +.% scene ii
At 5uince$s house, the craftsmen sit som"erly and worry a"out their missing friend 1ottom.
Having last seen him shortly "efore the appearance of the ass-headed monster in the forest,
the craftsmen worry that he has "een felled "y this terrifying creature. /tarveling suspects that
the fairies have cast some enchantment on 1ottom. 6lute asks whether they will go through
with the play if 1ottom does not return from the woods, and !eter 5uince declares that to do
so would "e impossi"le, as 1ottom is the only man in Athens capa"le of portraying !yramus.
The sad craftsmen agree that their friend is the wittiest, most intelligent, and "est person in all
of Athens. /nug enters with an alarming piece of news4 Theseus has "een married, along with
7two or three lords and ladies8 'presuma"ly &ysander, Hermia, %emetrius, and Helena(, and
the newlyweds are eager to see a play '-D.ii.>G(. 6lute laments 1ottom$s a"sence, noting that
1ottom would certainly have won a great deal of money from the admiring duke for his
portrayal of !yramus. Nust then, 1ottom "ursts triumphantly into the room and asks why
everyone looks so sad. The men are over+oyed to see him, and he declares that he has an
amazing story to tell them a"out his adventure in the forest. 5uince asks to hear it, "ut 1ottom
says that there is no time4 they must don their costumes and go straight to the duke$s palace to
perform their play. As they leave, 1ottom tells them not to eat onions or garlic "efore the play,
as they must "e prepared to 7utter sweet "reath8 '-D.ii.<G(.
This "rief comic scene returns the focus of the play to the su"plot of the Athenian craftsmen.
/tructurally, Act -D, scene ii represents something of a new "eginning for A Midsummer
Nights Dream$ the main conflict of the play has "een resolved, "ut rather than ending with
the weddings of the lovers, as is customary in an #liza"ethan comedy 'the weddings do not
even occur onstage here(, /hakespeare chooses to include an e)tended epilogue devoted to
sheer comedy. The epilogue takes up all of Act D and centers around the craftsmen$s
performance of Pyramus and Thisbe for the Athenian crowd. Act -D, scene ii transfers the
focus of the play from magic and un"alanced love to a play-within-a-play, in which the
themes of A Midsummer Nights Dream, not too heavy to "egin with, are recycled into a form
so ridiculous and gar"led that the play draws to a wholly untrou"led conclusion. Though the
preceding events of A Midsummer Nights Dream have "een far from tragic, many of the
characters have e)perienced unpleasant emotions, such as +ealousy, lovesickness, and
insecurity. Act -D, scene ii makes a "asic transition from sadness to +oy as 1ottom$s return
transforms his fellow craftsmen$s sorrow and confusion into delight and eagerness. -t is no
coincidence that 1ottom$s reappearance occurs almost simultaneously with the audience
"eing told that the lovers have "een married. Nust as the marriages dispel the romantic angst of
the play, so does 1ottom$s return dispel the worry of his comrades. /imilarly, the arrival in the
forest of Theseus and Hippolyta, representatives of order, coincides with the Athenian lovers$
waking from their chaotic, dreamlike romp of the previous night.
'ct .% scenes i,epilogue
$ummary- 'ct .% scene i
At his palace, Theseus speaks with Hippolyta a"out the story that the Athenian youths have
told them concerning the magical romantic mi)-ups of the previous night. Theseus says that
he does not "elieve the story, adding that darkness and love have a way of e)citing the
imagination. Hippolyta notes, however, that if their story is not true, then it is quite strange
that all of the lovers managed to narrate the events in e)actly the same way. The youths enter
and Theseus greets them heartily. He says that they should pass the time "efore "ed with a
performance, and he summons #geus 'or, in some editions of A Midsummer Nights Dream,
!hilostrate( to read him a list of plays, each of which Theseus deems unaccepta"le. #geus
then tells him of the !yramus and This"e story that the common craftsmen have prepared,
warning that it is terri"le in every respect, he urges Theseus not to see it. Theseus, however,
says that if the craftsmen$s intentions are dutiful, there will "e something of merit in the play
no matter how poor the performance. The lords and ladies take their seats, and 5uince enters
to present a prologue, which he speaks haltingly. His strange pauses put the meaning of his
words in question, so that he says, 7.ur true intent is. All for your delight ? 0e are not here.
That you should here repent you,8 though he means to communicate that 7.ur true intent is
all for your delight. ? 0e are not here that you should here repent you8 'D.i.>>9A>>I(. The
other players then enter, including two characters performing the roles of 0all and
Moonshine. They act out a clumsy version of the story, during which the no"lemen and
women +oke among themselves a"out the actors$ strange speeches and misapprehensions.
1ottom, in particular, makes many perple)ing statements while playing !yramus, such as 7-
see a voice...- can hear my This"e$s face8 'D.i.>F:A>F>(. !yramus and This"e meet at, and
speak across, the actor playing 0all, who holds up his fingers to indicate a chink. /nug, as the
lion, enters and pours forth a speech e)plaining to the ladies that he is not really a lion. He
roars, scaring This"e away, and clumsily rends her mantle. 6inding the "loody mantle,
!yramus duly commits suicide. This"e does likewise when she finds her !yramus dead. After
the conclusion of the play, during which 1ottom pretends to kill himself, with a cry of 7die,
die, die, die, die,8 1ottom asks if the audience would like an epilogue or a "ergamask dance,
Theseus replies that they will see the dance 'D.i.;FI(. 1ottom and 6lute perform the dance,
and the whole group e)its for "ed.
$ummary- 'ct .% scene ii,epilogue
Think "ut this, and all is mended4
That you have "ut slum"ered here,
0hile these visions did appear.
'/ee -mportant 5uotations #)plained(
!uck enters and says that, now that night has fallen, the fairies will come to the castle and that
he has "een 7sent with "room "efore ? To sweep the dust "ehind the door8 'D.ii.>FA;:(.
."eron and Titania enter and "less the palace and its occupants with a fairy song, so that the
lovers will always "e true to one another, their children will "e "eautiful, and no harm will
ever visit Theseus and Hippolyta. ."eron and Titania take their leave, and !uck makes a final
address to the audience. He says that if the play has offended, the audience should remem"er
it simply as a dream. He wishes the audience mem"ers good night and asks them to give him
their hands in applause if they are kind friends.
The structure of A Midsummer Nights Dream is somewhat compacted in that the first four
acts contain all of the play$s main action, with the height of conflict occurring in Act --- and a
happy turn of events resem"ling a conclusion in Act -D. Act D serves as a kind of +oyful comic
epilogue to the rest of the play, focusing on the craftsmen$s hilariously "ungling efforts to
present their play and on the no"le Athenians$ good-natured +esting during the craftsmen$s
performance. The heady tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe "ecomes comical in the hands of the
craftsmen. The "earded 6lute$s portrayal of the maiden This"e as well as the melodramatic
'7Thou wall, . wall, . sweet and lovely wall8( and nonsensical '7/weet moon, - thank thee
for thy sunny "eams8( language of the play strips the performance of any seriousness or
profound meaning 'D.i.>@9, D.i.;G>(. The story of !yramus and This"e, which comes from an
ancient 1a"ylonian legend often reworked in #uropean mythology, would have "een familiar
to educated mem"ers of /hakespeare$s audiences. The story likely influenced Romeo and
uliet, although /hakespeare also pulled elements from other versions of the omeo and Nuliet
tale. -n "oth stories, two young lovers from feuding families communicate under cover of
darkness, "oth male lovers erroneously think their "eloveds dead and commit suicide, and
"oth females do likewise when they find their lovers dead. -nsofar as the fifth act of A
Midsummer Nights Dream has thematic significance 'the main purpose of the play-within-a-
play is to provide comic en+oyment(, it is that the !yramus and This"e story revisits the
themes of romantic hardship and confusion that run through the main action of the play.
!yramus and This"e are kept apart "y parental will, +ust as &ysander and Hermia were, their
tragic end results from misinterpretation2!yramus takes This"e$s "loody mantle as proof that
she is dead, which recalls, to some e)tent, !uck$s mistaking of &ysander for %emetrius 'as
well as Titania$s misconception of 1ottom as a "eautiful lover(. -n this way, the play-within-a-
play lightheartedly satirizes the anguish that earlier plagued the Athenian lovers. 3iven the
title A Midsummer Nights Dream, it is no surprise that one of the main themes of the play is
dreams, particularly as they relate to darkness and love. 0hen morning comes, ending the
magical night in the forest, the lovers "egin to suspect that their e)perience in the woods was
merely a dream. Theseus suggests as much to Hippolyta, who finds it strange that all the
young lovers would have had the same dream. -n the famous final speech of the play, !uck
turns this idea outward, recommending that if audience mem"ers did not en+oy the play, they
should assume that they have simply "een dreaming throughout. This suggestion captures
perfectly the delicate, insu"stantial nature of A Midsummer Nights Dream$ +ust as the fairies
mended their mischief "y sorting out the romantic confusion of the young lovers, !uck
accounts for the whimsical nature of the play "y e)plaining it as a manifestation of the
+mportant !uotations E/plained
>. Ay me, for aught that - could ever read,
Could ever hear "y tale or history,
The course of true love never did run smooth. . . .
#)planation for 5uotation > OO
&ysander speaks these lines to soothe Hermia when she despairs a"out the difficulties facing
their love, specifically, that #geus, her father, has for"idden them to marry and that Theseus
has threatened her with death if she diso"eys her father '-.i.><;A><9(. &ysander tells Hermia
that as long as there has "een true love, there have "een seemingly insurmounta"le difficulties
to challenge it. He goes on to list a num"er of these difficulties, many of which later appear in
the play4 differences in "irth or age '7misgrafted in respect of years8( and difficulties caused
"y friends or 7war, death, or sickness,8 which make love seem 7swift as a shadow, short as
any dream8 '-.i.><@, -.i.>9;A>99(. 1ut, as Hermia comments, lovers must persevere, treating
their difficulties as a price that must "e paid for romantic "liss. As such, the a"ove lines
inaugurate the play$s e)ploration of the theme of love$s difficulties and presage what lies
ahead for &ysander and Hermia4 they will face great difficulties "ut will persevere and
ultimately arrive at a happy ending.
;. Through Athens - am thought as fair as she.
1ut what of thatP %emetrius thinks not so.
He will not know what all "ut he do know.
And as he errs, doting on Hermia$s eyes,
/o -, admiring of his qualities.
Things "ase and vile, holding no quantity,
&ove can transpose to form and dignity.
&ove looks not with the eyes, "ut with the mind,
And therefore is winged Cupid painted "lind.
#)planation for 5uotation ; OO
Helena utters these lines as she comments on the irrational nature of love. They are e)tremely
important to the play$s overall presentation of love as erratic, ine)plica"le, and e)ceptionally
powerful '-.i.;;@A;<I(. %istressed "y the fact that her "eloved %emetrius loves Hermia and
not her, Helena says that though she is as "eautiful as Hermia, %emetrius cannot see her
"eauty. Helena adds that she dotes on %emetrius 'though not all of his qualities are admira"le(
in the same way that he dotes on Hermia. /he "elieves that love has the power to transform
7"ase and vile8 qualities into 7form and dignity82that is, even ugliness and "ad "ehavior can
seem attractive to someone in love. This is the case, she argues, "ecause 7love looks not with
the eyes, "ut with the mind82love depends not on an o"+ective assessment of appearance "ut
rather on an individual perception of the "eloved. These lines prefigure aspects of the play$s
e)amination of love, such as Titania$s passion for the ass-headed 1ottom, which epitomizes
the transformation of the 7"ase and vile8 into 7form and dignity.8
<. &ord, what fools these mortals "eJ
#)planation for 5uotation < OO
!uck makes this declaration in his amazement at the ludicrous "ehavior of the young
Athenians '---.ii.>>I(. This line is one of the most famous in A Midsummer Nights Dream for
its pithy humor, "ut it is also thematically important4 first, "ecause it captures the e)aggerated
silliness of the lovers$ "ehavior, second, "ecause it marks the contrast "etween the human
lovers, completely a"sor"ed in their emotions, and the magical fairies, impish and never too
9. - have had a most rare vision. - have had a dream past the wit of man to say what dream it
was. Man is "ut an ass if he go a"out t$e)pound this dream. Methought - was2there is no
man can tell what. Methought - was, and methought - had2"ut man is "ut a patched fool if he
will offer to say what methought - had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not
seen, man$s hand is not a"le to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my
dream was. - will get !eter 5uince to write a "allad of this dream. -t shall "e called Q1ottom$s
%ream$, "ecause it hath no "ottom.
#)planation for 5uotation 9 OO
1ottom makes this "om"astic speech after he wakes up from his adventure with Titania, his
human head restored, he "elieves that his e)perience as an ass-headed monster "eloved "y the
"eautiful fairy queen was merely a "izarre dream '-D.i.>FFA;:F(. He remarks dramatically
that his dream is "eyond human comprehension, then, contradicting himself, he says that he
will ask 5uince to write a "allad a"out this dream. These lines are important partially "ecause
they offer humorous commentary on the theme of dreams throughout the play "ut also
"ecause they crystallize much of what is so lova"le and amusing a"out 1ottom. His
overa"undant self-confidence "ur"les out in his grandiose idea that although no one could
possi"ly understand his dream, it is worthy of "eing immortalized in a poem. His tendency to
make melodramatic rhetorical mistakes manifests itself plentifully, particularly in his
comically mi)ed-up association of "ody parts and senses4 he suggests that eyes can hear, ears
see, hands taste, tongues think, and hearts speak.
I. -f we shadows have offended,
Think "ut this, and all is mended4
That you have "ut slum"ered here,
0hile these visions did appear,
And this weak and idle theme,
*o more yielding "ut a dream,
3entles, do not reprehend.
-f you pardon, we will mend.
#)planation for 5uotation I OO
!uck speaks these lines in an address to the audience near the end of A Midsummer Nights
Dream, e)tending the theme of dreams "eyond the world of the play and putting the reality of
the audience$s e)perience into question 'D.epilogue.>AB(. As many of the characters '1ottom
and Theseus among them( "elieve that the magical events of the play$s action were merely a
dream, !uck tells the crowd that if the play has offended them, they too should remem"er it
simply as a dream27That you have "ut slum"ered here, ? 0hile these visions did appear.8
The speech offers a commentary on the dreamlike atmosphere of A Midsummer Nights
Dream and casts the play as a magical dream in which the audience shares.
0ey "acts
(ull title R A Midsummer Nights Dream
author R 0illiam /hakespeare
type o( work R !lay
genres R Comedy, fantasy, romance, farce
language R #nglish
time and place written R &ondon, >IF9 or >IFI
date o( (irst publication R >G::
publisher R Thomas 6isher
narrator R *one
clima/ R -n the strictest sense, there is no real clima), as the conflicts of the play are all
resolved swiftly "y magical means in Act -D, the moment of greatest tension is pro"a"ly the
quarrel "etween the lovers in Act ---, scene ii.
protagonist R 1ecause there are three main groups of characters, there is no single
protagonist in the play, however, !uck is generally considered the most important character.
antagonist R *one, the play$s tensions are mostly the result of circumstances, accidents, and
settings 1time2 R Com"ines elements of Ancient 3reece with elements of enaissance
settings 1place2 R Athens and the forest outside its walls
point o( view R Daries from scene to scene
(alling action R Act D, scene i, which centers on the craftsmen$s play
tense R !resent
(oreshadowing R Comments made in Act -, scene i a"out the difficulties that lovers face
tones R omantic, comedic, fantastic, satirical, dreamlike, +oyful, farcical
symbols R Theseus and Hippolyta represent order, sta"ility, and wakefulness, Theseus$s
hounds represent the coming of morning, ."eron$s love potion represents the power and
insta"ility of love.
themes R The difficulties of love, magic, the nature of dreams, the relationships "etween
fantasy and reality and "etween environment and e)perience
moti(s R &ove out of "alance, contrast '+u)taposed opposites, such as "eautiful and ugly, short
and tall, clumsy and graceful, ethereal and earthy(
$tudy !uestions * Essay Topics
$tudy !uestions
>. %iscuss the role of the play-within-a-play in Act D of A Midsummer Nights Dream. %oes
the !yramus and This"e story have any relevance to the main story, or is it simply a comical
interludeP 0hat effect does the craftsmen$s production of their play have on the tone of A
Midsummer Nights Dream as a wholeP
Answer for /tudy 5uestion > OO
The story of !yramus and This"e offers a very su"tle return to a couple of the main elements
of A Midsummer Nights Dream$ lovers caught up in misunderstanding and sorrow enhanced
"y the darkness of night. &ike the main story of the outer play, the inner play consists of a
tragic premise made comical "y the actors. The craftsmen$s unintentionally goofy portrayal of
the woe of !yramus and This"e makes the melodramatic romantic entanglements of the young
Athenian lovers seem even more comical.
However, it is important to recognize as well that the inherent structure of a play-within-a-
play allows /hakespeare to show off his talent "y inserting a gem of pure comedy. The
conflicts have "een resolved and a happy ending procured for all, the performance, thus, has
no impact on the plot. ather, the craftsmen$s hilarious "ungling of the heavy tragedy allows
the audience, and the melodramatic Athenian lovers, to laugh and take delight in the spectacle
of the play.
;. How does the play$s "road frame of reference heighten its use of contrast as an atmospheric
deviceP More generally, how does /hakespeare use contrasting tones and characters in the
Answer for /tudy 5uestion ; OO
That /hakespeare takes his characters from vastly different sources 'e.g., the "um"ling, rough
craftsmen and the delicate, fanciful fairies( contri"utes to the imaginative scope and pervasive
a"surdity of A Midsummer Nights Dream. /hakespeare com"ines the contrasting elements of
the play in startling and grotesque ways, as in the royal Titania$s love for the ass-headed
1ottom. He thus creates the sense that the normal rules and operations of reality have "een
suspended4 if the magical Titania can fall in love with the ludicrous 1ottom, anything can
happen. The play$s e)traordinarily varied frame of reference, which includes elements of
3reek mythology 'Theseus and Hippolyta(, aspects of the contemporary &ondon theatrical
tradition 'males playing females in the craftsmen$s play(, characters of 1a"ylonian origin
'!yramus and This"e( and from #nglish fairy lore '!uck(, and classical literary analogues
'Titania and ."eron(, adds to the surreal quality of the play "y +u)taposing elements that clash
<. How is A Midsummer Nights Dream structuredP -s there anything unusual in its treatment
of the five-act dramatic formP
Answer for /tudy 5uestion < OO
A Midsummer Nights Dream fits into four acts all of the material that would normally occupy
a five-act play, the main story, clima), and even a period of falling action are capped "y a
happy turn of events that would seem to mark the play$s end. -t is somewhat strange, then,
that /hakespeare includes a fifth act. /ince he has already resolved the tensions of the main
plot, he treats Act D as a +oyful comic epilogue. #)cept for a short closing scene, the act is
committed wholly to the craftsmen$s performance of Pyramus and Thisbe. -n wrapping up the
conflict "efore the last act, /hakespeare affords himself the opportunity to give the audience
one act of pure, uncomplicated comedy. He offers a play-within-a-play whose comical
rendition caps the cheerful mood of the Athenians watching the play.
$uggested Essay Topics
>. Though 1ottom often steals the show in performance, !uck is usually considered the most
important character in A Midsummer Nights Dream. Comparing !uck to 1ottom, why might
!uck "e considered the protagonistP -n what way does !uck$s spirit dominate the mood of the
playP -n what ways does the comedy surrounding !uck differ from that surrounding 1ottomP
;. Compare and contrast the Athenian lovers with the craftsmen. -n what ways are the
dispositions of the two groups different from each otherP Are they the same in any wayP
<. 0hat role do Theseus and Hippolyta play in A Midsummer Nights DreamP 0hat is the
significance of the fact that they are a"sent from the play$s main actionP
9. -t has "een argued that the characters of the Athenian lovers are not particularly
differentiated from one another2that Hermia is quite like Helena 'even down to her name(
and that %emetrius resem"les &ysander. %o you think that this is the case, or do you think that
the lovers emerge as individualsP -f you "elieve that these characters are quite similar to one
another, what do you think /hakespeare$s intent was in making them soP