A Midsummer Night’s Dream Summary and Analysis: William Shakespeare

Read our complete notes on the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. Our notes cover A Midsummer Night’s Dream summary, characters, themes, and analysis.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Introduction:

This play is a comedy by William Shakespeare. He wrote this comedy play in 1995/96. This play was 1st published in 8th October 1600 by Thomas Fisher in quarto format. This play was documented as “A mydsommer nightes dreame” by Thomas publishers.

It depicts the happenings contiguous the wedding of Theseus, the Duke of Athens, with Hippolyta, the previous queen of the Amazons. The play comprises the escapades of four young Athenian paramours and an assembly of six unprofessional actors (the craftsmen) who are supposed to perform a tragic play in the marriage ceremony of the Duke of Athens. These craftsmen are controlled and operated by the fairies who dwell in the woodland in which most of the actions of the play is set. This play is among one of Shakespeare’s most popular and celebrated works for the stage and is extensively performed throughout the world.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Summary:

Athens’ Duke, Theseus, is busy in his marriage’s preparation with Hippolyta who is the queen of the Amazons. This marriage celebration goes on with a four-day festival of ceremony and entertainment. He commands Philostrate, his master of festivities, to search for appropriate delights for the ceremony. Meanwhile, an Athenian nobleman, Egeus, walks into the court of Theseus along with his daughter, Hermia, and two other young men, Lysander and Demetrius. Egeus desires that his daughter, Hermia, marry Demetrius, who loves Hermia, however, Hermia refuses to obey her father because she loves Lysander. Egeus demands from the court of law to imply punishments of law to plunge on Hermia’s head if she disobeys her father, Egeus. Theseus gives some time to Hermia so that she reconsiders her decision plus warns her that if she still chooses to disobey her father’s wish, she will have to suffer the consequences that may include her execution or send her to a monastery.  Yet, Hermia and Lysander decide to run away from Athens the coming night and will marry at the house of Lysander’s aunt that is placed at seven miles distance from the city of Athens. They only make Helena, Hermia’s friend confidential of their plan. Helena once got engaged to Demetrius and start loving him but Demetrius left her after seeing Hermia. In order to regain Demetrius’s love, Helena reveals Hermia and Lysander’s plan to escape. At the time of their departure, Demetrius stubbles into the woodland to follow his bride to be, Hermia and her lover, Lysander. Helena also follows behind Demetrius.

In the woodland, the Athenians encounter two different group of people. The first one is the band of craftsmen who practice a sow in order to perform in the marriage ceremony of the Duke, Theseus. The second group includes a band of Fairies along with the fairy king Oberon, and his queen, Titania. They have returned from India in order to bless Theseus and Hippolyta on their marriage. The fairy king, Oberon, and his queen, Titania is in conflict over a young prince of India who has been gifted to Titania by the Prince’s mother. The seeing the beauty of the prince, Oberon decides to make him a knight, however, Titania opposes this decision. In order to seek revenge from Titania, Oberon orders his jolly servant, Puck, to bring him a magical flower. The juice of that flower has a quality that if it is spread on the eyes of the sleeping person, the person, upon wakening falls in love with the 1st object he or she sees. Puck brings that flower and put it on the eyelids of Titania, as instructed by Oberon. Moreover, Oberon also orders Puck to put the same juice on the eyelids of Demetrius when he sees him to be reluctant towards Helena. Puck meets Lysander and Hermia and confusing Lysander with Demetrius, of whom Oberon has spoken to him, puts the love juice on the eyelids of Lysander. Upon awakening, Lysander first sees Helena and falls in love with her. Recognizing his mistake, Puck also applies the love juice on the eyelids of Demetrius. He, too, upon wakening encounters Helena and falls in love with her. Helena believes that both Lysander and Demetrius are making fun of her. On the other hand, Hermia becomes jealous of Helena and challenge her for a fight. Meanwhile, Lysander and Demetrius are about to have a fight over Helena, however, Puck makes them confuse by imitating their voices, and making them apart.

Titania upon wakening sees the most ridiculous creature among the craftsmen of Athens, Bottom. This man has been sarcastically transformed by Puck into an ass. Titania communicates a ridiculous pause loving on the ass-headed weaver. In the due course, Oberon takes the Indian boy while Puck applies the love potion once again on the eyelids of Lysander. Now upon wakening, Lysander encounters Hermia and start loving her again. The Duke of Athens, Theseus and his bride to be Hippolyta find the lovers sleeping in the forest. They take them back to Athens to make them marry. The situation is sorted out i.e. Demetrius loves Helena and Lysander loves Hermia. The group marriage is arranged and the Craftsmen and the Bottom to perform a play on the revised version on the story of Pyramus and Thisbe. As the play finished, the lovers go to their private chambers and the fairies appear for the little time to bless the couples and then disappear. In the end, the Only Puck stays on the stage to seek the approval and forgiveness from the spectators and with a play as it had been a dream.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Themes:

Following are the major themes of the play comedy “A Mid-Summer Night’s dream”:

Difficulty in Love:

One of the most important themes of the Shakespearean comedy “A Mid-Summer Night’s dream” has been articulated by Lysander that “The course of Love never did run smooth”, to show the difficulty of love. Although the main actions and plot of the story are based on the troublesome aroused from the Romance also involving the elements of love, this play is not actually a love story. The plot of the story detaches the audience from the feeling and emotions of the characters so that they can extract fun from the irritations and sickness that lovers suffer. The light-hearted tone of the play makes the audience doubtful about the happy ending of the play. Moreover, the audience is so much amused and caught up by the comedy that they forget about the uncertain ending.

The theme of the play frequently explores via motif of love out of proportion. For instance, the romantic scenes in the play display no harmony in the relationship due to the interference of inequality and inconsistency. The major illustration of this disparity is the disproportionate love amongst the four Athenians i.e.  Hermia is in love with Lysander, Lysander is in love with Hermia, Helena is in love with Demetrius, and Demetrius is in love with Hermia instead of Helena. It is a simple imbalance in which one woman who is totally neglected while the other woman gets full attention. For one woman there is no suitor while other has too many. The play has a possibility of a conventional and the plot is based on the desire of consistency and internal balance. This is achievable when the lover’s jumble sorts out into a regular pairing and conventional happy ending of the play can be easily achieved. Similarly, an inconsistency in a relationship between Oberon and Titania has aroused due to Oberon’s desiring of Titania’s Indian prince overshadows his lover for Titania. Moreover, Titania falling in love with ugly Bottom also represents the inconsistency in appearance and nature.

Magic:

The most strange and comical situations are the play is brought by the fairy’s magic. Magic is another central themes of the play “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream” that has added a fantastic atmosphere to the play. The use of magic in the play symbolizes the power supernatural power of love as symbolized by the love tonic from a magic flower and creates a world of dreams. Though confusion arouses due to misappropriation of the love tonic, as when love tonic is applied on the eyelids of Lysander, however, the play resolves by the use of magic and resorting the love to balance between the four lovers. Moreover, Puck also uses magic for his own purpose. He turns the Bottom’s head into an ass and mimics the voices of Lysander and Demetrius.

Dreams:

Another important theme and motif of the play “A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream” is dreams. Dreams are linked to the strange and magical mishaps in the woodland. We can see the importance of dreams by the opening lines of the play by Hippolyta when she mentions the word dream. Moreover, various characters, throughout the play, mention the word “dream” randomly. The theme of dream predominantly occurs time and again when characters in the play try to explain the strange happening.

Shakespeare also seems to be concerned in the real mechanisms of dreams; how things occur lacking explanation; and time misplaces is an ordinary sense of flow; moreover, the unmanageable occurs as a substance of sequence. Shakespeare pursues to reconstruct this setting in the play over the involvement of the fairies in the enchanted woodland. Moreover, at the end of the play, Puck outspreads the impression of dreams to the spectators himself by saying that had they have been snubbed by the play, they must recall it as nothing but a dream. This wisdom of delusion and delicate fragility is vital to the air of comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, as it aids to decrease the play a fantastical practice relatively than a substantial tragedy.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Character Analysis:

  • Puck:

Puck is the merry servant of Oberon, the king of fairies. He is a naughty and play-full fairy who seeks delight in playing pranks on living beings. The actions in the play “A Mid-Summer Night’s dream” has been divided among the several groups of characters, however, Puck is the closest character for a protagonist of the play. The atmosphere turns into bizarre and hilarious events due to the mischievous act of Puck and makes him responsible for complications that arise in the play due to his actions. He makes the young Athens Lysander fall in love with a wrong lady, thereby causing confusion in the love triangle of the four young Athens. Moreover, he also transforms Athens’s craftsmen, Bottom’s head into that of an ass.

  • Oberon:

He is the fairies’ king. Initially, he is in conflict with his beautiful wife Titania due to her refusal of abandoning his adopted son, the Indian’s prince, and control to him as he desires to make him a knight. Oberon avenges Titania to disagree him by making her fall in love with the Bottom with the help of love tonic, a liquid extracted from a magical flower that when applied on the eyelids of sleeping person make him fall in love with the first person he sees upon awakening.

  • Titania:

She is the queen of the fairies world and wife of Oberon. Titania opposes his husband’s decision to make a knight of the Indian’s prince that Titania receives as a gift from the prince mother. Prince was very beautiful and Oberon overshadows prince love on his love for Titania. He avenges Titania by making him fall in love with the ass-headed Athens’ craftsmen, Bottom. This also creates the primary example of the contrasting motif in the play.

  • Lysander:

A young man from the city of Athens who is love with Hermia, a beautiful lady. The relationship between Hermia and Lysander’s leads to the theme of difficulty in love. Lysander is unable to marry Hermia as Hermia’s father desires that Hermia should marry Demetrius and asks the Duke to punish Hermia if she doesn’t obey her father. Therefore, Lysander and Hermia decide to run away in the woodlands but there they become a victim of Puck’s magic and Lysander falls in love with Helena, mistakenly.

  • Demetrius:

He is another young man from the city of Athens. He was first engaged to Helena but abandoned her when he meets Hermia and starts loving her. He is made to fall in love with Helena again by the magic love tonic that is brought by Puck. Demetrius love for Hermia makes the plot inconsistency and make the love out of proportion among the four Athenian youths.

  • Hermia:

She is a young woman in Athens and a daughter of Egeus. Hermia is Lysander’s beloved and Helena’s childhood friend. She escapes to woodland with Lysander when her father asks the Duke to punish her. Due to the fairy Puck mischief, Lysander falls in love with Helena that makes Hermia very self-conscious of her short stature. She thinks that Helena made both of her (Hermia’s) suitor maid by her height. However, next morning the problem has been sorted out by love tonic and Lysander once more start loving Hermia.

  • Helena:

She is a young woman from Athens who was engaged to Demetrius and then abandoned by him when he met Hermia, Helena’s friend and fell in love with her. She lacks confidence in her looks and when Demetrius and Lysander both at a time fell in love with her, she thinks that they are mocking her.

  • Egeus:

He is a father of Hermia. His complaints against his daughter to the Duke of Athens, Theseus that she (Hermia) is not marrying to Demetrius as his father wishes her to so do. He requests the Duke to impose a punishment on her for not obeying her father. Hermia, disobeying her father, plans to escape with Lysander, whom she loves.

  • Theseus:

He is the Duke of Athens processing heroic qualities. Throughout the play, we find him representing power and ordering people. He is engaged to Hippolyta and appears at the opening of the play, busy in arranging his marriage festivals. He is not a part of the dreamlike events that occurred in the forest.

  • Hippolyta:

She is the queen of the Amazon and having a legendary personality. She is engaged to the Duke of Athens. She also symbolizes power and order like Theseus.

  • Nick Bottom:

He is a craftsman of Athens who is going to present a play on the festival of Duke’s marriage. He is highly over-confident and always gives advice to others, however sometimes make silly mistakes and use rough languages. He was completely unaware of why Titania suddenly falls in love with this man, moreover, he was unaware of the fact that his hand has been shaped into that of an ass. This highlights the high points of his arrogance.

  • Peter Quince:

He is the leader and the carpenter in the craftsmen of Athens who are supposed to stage a performance of the marriage ceremony of Duke, Theseus. Due to the overconfidence of the Bottom, Quince has pushed aside. The prologue is played by the Quince, during the craftsmen play.

  • Francis Flute:

He is a bellows-mender craftsman who is chosen to play a role of Thisbe in the play that craftsmen is supposed to stage on Duke’s marriage ceremony. Flute decides to speak his lines in a loud and high-pitched voice, to make young girls fall in love with him.

  • Robin Starveling:

He is the tailor among the craftsmen who are chosen to play a role of Thisbe’s mother in the Duke’s marriage celebration, however, at the end by playing the role of Moonshine.

  • Tom Snout:

He is the tinker in the craftsmen who are chosen to play a role of Pyramus’s father in pay for Duke’s marriage ceremony, however, plays a part of the wall that divides the two lovers.

  • Snug:

He is the joiner who plays a role of the loin in the play that is supposed to be staged by craftsmen in Duke’s marriage celebration. Snug has concerned towards the audience that they might get frightened by his roaring.

  • Philostrate:

He is Theseus’s master for arranging his festival. In the play, Theseus make him responsible for organizing the festival for his marriage ceremony.

  • Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Mote, And Mustardseed:

These are the fairies arrange by Titania to take care of Bottom when she mistakenly falls with him.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream Analysis:

The plot of the play “A Midsummer Night’s dream” derives from the desire of compatible love and struggle to accomplish it. As the play opens we come across a note of desire when Theseus, the Duke of Athens, says verses regarding his expected wedding with Hippolyta. The conflict in the play arises due to the troubles of others characters and take the central role in the play. The plot of the play is based on who is loved by who and who they should love. Hermia and Lysander are recognized by the audience as a couple, so as Demetrius and Helena. However, the inability of characters to pair appropriately and the interference of fairies confuse the conflict. The drama reflects the nobility of Athens, but we also find love among the king and Queen of the fairies. The plot of the play takes a twist when Oberon, the king of the fairies, orders puck to apply the love tonic on the eyelids of Titania and Demetrius while they are sleeping. (Oberon wants to teach Titania a lesson for opposing him while he comes across the story of Demetrius and Helena and also wants to teach a lesson to Demetrius.) Upon awakening, the person will fall in love with the 1st peon they encounter. Titania falls in love with Bottom, an ugly craftsman, and Demetrius with Helena. The character Oberon reflects jealousy and suggests that emotions like love, jealousy, and avenging other are universal.

Fairy Puck, instead of sorting out the problem of Athenian lovers, makes it even more complicated and transforms friendship into contentions. For instance, Hermia and Helena were childhood friends and become enemies. Lysander and Demetrius fight for Helena’s love. The play, though temporarily but quickly transforms from love to the hatred among people who once loved each other. The question for emotional attachment arises from the rapidity with which character falls in love with other and how easily they dissolve friendships. The crises point reaches in the plot of the story when all the characters are separated from their appropriate partners, resulting in complications. During complication of the plot, no one seems to be happy other that Bottom who is overjoyed because of the affection shown by Titania. Love made all of the character miserable. Even Demetrius and Lysander both show affection towards Helena but she thinks that they are making fun of her. This play, in many ways, explores that love can bring both happiness and joy in one’s life.

Because of the rising tension among the lovers of Athens, and the sun of the next day is about the rise, Oberon orders fairy Puck to set out all the situation. Puck again applies the love tonic on Lysander’s eyelids. As the dawn of the new day, the disharmony has been resolved with the night. Lysander once again falls in love with Hermia, however, Demetrius remains charmed and in love in Helena. Lysander is accepted by Hermia’s father as a good match for his daughter. All the obstacles have vanished among the characters. The stage, now, is set for the marriage ceremony for all the couples. The resolution of conflicts among the characters with such an ease suggests that everything done before shouldn’t be taken seriously. Yet, the actions of the play do make us query the seriousness and honesty of the paramours’ dedication, particularly as Demetrius only loves Helena as an outcome of Puck’s charm.

In the meantime, the Athenian craftsmen have been rehearsing to stage their edition of the tragic play of “Pyramus and Thisbe” for the marriage ceremony of the Duke, Theseus and his bride to be, Hippolyta. Shakespeare piles this plotline during the whole play so that the awkward attempt of these unsophisticated masses to practice an extraordinary tragedy explains in contradiction of the background of the play’s jumble of sensual misperception. This mixing of tragedy and comedy strengthens the wisdom that not any of the action should be taken extremely seriously, and that affairs of the heart are eventually of minute significance. By having the amusing craftsmen standpoint for tragic lovers, Shakespeare stabs fun at the tragic category, counting his own Romeo and Juliet.