Notes on a Midsummer's Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of William Shakespeare's most well-known plays. This comedy was written towards the end of the 16th century, most probably between 1590 and 1596. It is not known for whom the play was written or on which occasion, although some believe that Shakespeare wrote it to be played during a high society wedding. It is also thought that the play was inspired by the works of medieval poet Geoffrey Chaucer and by an epic poem written by Roman author Ovid.

A Midsummer Night's Dream consists of five acts and ten scenes. The written play was first published in the winter of 1600, and the first known performance took place in London in January 1605. Since then, this comedy has become one of the most famous on the stages around the world and has inspired movies, ballet performances, musicals, and other literary works.

Description of the Main Characters

This complex comedy features a rather large number of characters, which are split into three categories: the Athenians, the Fairies, and the Mechanicals, or craftsmen. Within each group, the most important characters are:

- Theseus, the Duke of Athens
- Hyppolita, an Amazon queen who is to be married to Theseus
- Egeus
- Hermia, Egeus' daughter
- Helena, a beautiful but barely confident lady
- Lysander, an Athenian aristocrat
- Demetrius, another aristocrat who vies with Lysander in their love interests
- Puck, a mischievous fairy
- Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen of the Fairies
- Peaseblossom, one of Queen Titania's servants
- Nick Bottom, a weaver
- Peter Quince, who is a carpenter
- Snug, a joiner
- Tom Snout, a tinker
- Robin Starveling, a tailor

A Synopsis of Shakespeare's Play "A Midsummer Night's Dream"

A Midsummer Night's Dream is set to take place in two different scenarios: Fairyland and the woodlands near Athens. The play begins with a quarrel between Hermia and her father, as she refuses to go ahead with an arranged marriage with Demetrius and wants to marry Lysander instead. The story is interrupted here and the plot jumps to a scene where carpenter Peter Quince and his fellow craftsmen discuss the idea of putting together a stage play in honour of the Duke of Athens and his wife Hyppolita. The third parallel story takes place in Fairyland, where Oberon and Titania argue over their offspring. In revenge for Titania's indiscipline, Oberon calls on Puck, who is asked to prepare a magic potion that will make Titania fall in love with the first being she sees once she wakes up, hoping that it will be an animal so that she can be ridiculed.

The plot thickens with several scenes of unreciprocated love and confusion between Helena, Demetrius, Hermia, and Lysander. And to add more confusion, Puck uses the magic potion on the wrong person causing even more upheaval. At the same time, the play produced by the Mechanicals goes ahead, not without being affected by Puck's misbehaviour.

Eventually, Oberon has its way and gets back Titania's offspring (a changeling). The plays ends with a generalised feeling of uncertainty, as Helena, Demetrius, Hermia, and Lysander begin to doubt that their time in the woodlands was a reality, and the audience watching The Mechanicals' play is asked to ponder whether they too might have been dreaming.

Key Themes

Despite being a comedy, A Midsummer Night's Dream has as its main theme the concept of complex and even tortuous love relationships. Every romantic relationship in this play is subject to imbalances and difficulties, which are made even worse by the actions of third parties, such as Puck.

A Midsummer Night's Dream also deals with pairs of opposing concepts, such as reason versus imagination or individual will versus the rule of law. These are especially evident in the character of Egeus.

The contrast between dreams and reality is also a major theme in this play, and the characters often resort to dreams when their circumstances become too difficult to comprehend or get out of hand. The play's closing scene, where the audience is asked to question their own perception of reality, could be Shakespeare's way of telling us that perhaps we should not take things too seriously, as there is a fine line between certainty and fantasy.

Famous Quotes from A Midsummer Night's Dream

"The course of true love never did run smooth"
"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind, and therefore is winged Cupid painted blind"
"Are you sure that we are awake? It seems to me that yet we sleep, we dream"
"Oh hell! To choose love with another's eye!"
"Lord, what fools these mortals be!"