A Midsummer Night's Dream

Type: 
Comedy
First Performed: 
1595-96
First Printed: 
1600
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Lord, what fools these mortals be!

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While celebrations are planned to mark the marriage of Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, Egeus seeks a moment of the Duke's time to address the issue of his daughter Hermia. Hermia refuses to marry Demetrius, despite her father's orders, because she is in love with Lysander. If Hermia does not obey her father, according to Athenian law, she must be sent to death or enter a convent. Distraught, Hermia and her true love Lysander arrange to meet in the woods that night and escape to elope. The couple confides in Helena, who immediately tells Demetrius of their plans in an attempt to win his love. As night falls, all four lovers escape into the woods.

Meanwhile, a group of rude mechanicals, led by Peter Quince, have also taken to the woods. They are rehearsing a play entitled “The Tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe,” which they plan to present at the Duke's wedding celebration.

The woods is ruled by fairies Oberon and Titania, who are quarreling over Titania's refusal to release her young boy to Oberon. An infuriated Oberon sends his mischievous fairy servant, Puck, on a magical errand that will humiliate Titania by using an elixir that will cause her to fall in love with the first creature she sees upon waking from a slumber in her bower. Unfortunately for Titania, her eyes (and love) focus on one of the mechanicals named Bottom, who has been magically transformed into a hideous ass. Oberon, having seen the dismayed lovers wandering lost in his woods, also instructs Puck to use the love potion on Demetrius so that he might fall in love with poor Helena. But, Puck creates havoc when he mistakes Lysander for Demetrius, and causes Lysander to fall madly in love with Helena.

Eventually, all is magically sorted out and Oberon and Titania reconcile, while the young mortals are reunited with their proper mate—Hermia with Lysander and Helena with Demetrius. The young lovers join Theseus and Hippolyta at their wedding celebration and all witness the outrageously awful, and hilarious, performance by the mechanicals troupe.