A Midsummer Night's Dream

Shakespeare's Plot

Act I - Scene I

  • Duke Theseus and Hippolyta (Amazon queen) are 4 days away from marriage.
    • Hermia and Helena are childhood friends.
    • Egeus (Hermia's father), Hermia, Lysander, and Demetrius approach Theseus for a judgment:
      • Demetrius once loved Helena, who is still madly in love with Demetrius.
      • But now Demetrius loves Hermia.
      • Demetrius got approval to marry Hermia from her father.
      • But Hermia loves Lysander and refuses Demetrius.
      • Theseus rules that Hermia must within 4 days agree to marry Demetrius, become a nun, or die.
      • [The obvious solution is for Demetrius to go back to Helena, and everybody would be happy. We will eventually get to this, but only with some difficulty.]
  • Hermia and Lysander agree to meet the next night in the woods and flee to marry in another place.
  • Helena arrives:
    • Hermia and Lysander tell Helena that they plan to meet in woods and elope.
    • Helena decides to tell Demetrius about this in hopes that Demetrius will return to her.

Scene II

  • The mechanicals appear, discuss the play they will give at the Duke's wedding, and agree to meet in the woods the next night for a secret practice [already these woods are filling up].

Act II-Scene I

  • Now in the woods the next night, Puck and a fairy discuss the dispute between Oberon, king of the fairies and Titania, queen of the fairies, over possession of an Indian boy:
    • Oberon and Titania meet and quarrel.
    • Oberon commands Puck to fetch a certain magic flower. Oberon plans to put the nectar of the flower in Titania's eye while she is asleep. Then she will fall madly in love with the first being she sees upon waking.
    • Helena and Demetrius appear. Oberon listens to Helena's ardent pursuit of Demetrius and feels compassion for her.
    • Puck brings Oberon the magic flower:
      • Oberon sets out to trick Titania.
      • Trying to help Helena, Oberon commands Puck to bewitch an “Athenian youth” with a lady. This would put Demetrius back with Helena and all would be well.

Scene II

  • Oberon finds Titania and puts the drops in her eye with malicious glee.
  • Lysander and Hermia arrive and are sleepy:
    • Hermia modestly asks Lysander to sleep apart.
    • Puck arrives and finds Lysander asleep with Hermia asleep nearby. Puck anoints Lysander's eyes (thinking he is Demetrius) and departs. (So Puck got the wrong guy and the wrong gal.)
  • Next Demetrius and Helena appear. Demetrius runs on. Helena spots Lysander and wakes him.
    • Lysander is immediately in love with Helena.
    • Helena is offended, thinking Lysander is making fun of her, and runs off.
    • Lysander chases after Helena and leaves Hermia alone in the woods! Hermia awakes alone and is distraught!

Act III-Scene I

  • Titania is asleep and the mechanicals appear to practice their play.
    • Puck arrives and decides to watch.
    • When Bottom is “off stage,” Puck gives him an ass's head.
      • When Bottom comes back on stage, the other mechanicals see the ass's head and flee.
      • But then Titania awakes, sees Bottom as ass and it's love at first sight.
      • Titania puts the fairies in charge of Bottom.

Scene II

  • Oberon and Puck are in the woods.
    • Puck reports to Oberon about Titania's love-affair with the ass.
    • Hermia (still frantic from missing Lysander) and Demetrius enter.
      • Oberon, who overheard Helena and Demetrius, says: this is the man. Oberon doesn't realize that Hermia is a different woman than he saw before.
      • Puck, who anointed Lysander, says this is the woman, but not the same man.
      • Hermia accuses Demetrius of killing Lysander and runs off.
      • Demetrius falls asleep.
    • Oberon figures out the mistake. He commands Puck to find Helena and bring her to Demetrius. Meanwhile, Oberon anoints Demetrius so he will love Helena on waking.
  • Puck arrives with Lysander and Helena:
    • Lysander woos Helena.
    • Then Demetrius wakes and falls in love with Helena also. (So now both men, who were in love with Hermia, are now in love with Helena.)
    • Helena thinks both men are making fun of her because they are rivals for Hermia.
    • Hermia comes on stage and Helena thinks all three are making fun of her.
  • Oberon gives Puck fresh instructions to keep Demetrius and Lysander chasing each other.
    • When Lysander goes to sleep, then Puck must administer an antidote to Lysander so me will forget his recent passion for Helena.
    • Eventually all 4 of the lovers fall asleep close to each other and Puck applies the antidote to Lysander.

Act IV

  • The four lovers continue to sleep. Titania, Bottom, and fairies arrive.
    • Titania woos the ass. Oberon has had enough of the joke and applies the antidote to Titania. The fairies depart.
    • Now Theseus, Egeus, and Hippolyta enter and find the sleeping lovers:
      • Lysander admits he was trying to elope, but has no idea what has happened.
      • 4 days have passed and Hermia must agree to marry Demetrius or enter the convent.
      • But Demetrius says he's no longer in love with Hermia and will return to Helena for good.
      • The Duke announces that the 2 couples also shall marry at the wedding of the Duke and Hippolyta.
  • Bottom awakes and finds the other players. There's not much more time to rehearse for the play at the wedding.

Act V

For want of practice, the play goes rather poorly, but not without getting laughs!