A Midsummer Night's Dream


Act 1

Summary: Act I, scene i

Theseus, the Duke of Athens, talks with his fiancée Hippolyta about their upcoming wedding. Theseus alludes to having taken Hippolyta as a reward from battle, but says that their wedding will be merry rather than warlike. He sends his Master of Revels to seek out wedding entertainments among the people of Athens. Both Hippolyta and Theseus are pleased and excited about the wedding, which is to take place in four days.

Egeus, a local nobleman, arrives at the Duke’s palace with his daughter, Hermia, and her two young suitors. Egeus wants Hermia to marry Demetrius, but she refuses. Hermia is in love with Lysander, who insists that there is nothing about himself that is inferior to Demetrius in any way. Lysander also points out that his love is more reliable than that of Demetrius, since Demetrius was recently wooing Hermia’s friend, Helena. Theseus agrees with Egeus, however, and decrees that Hermia must obey her father. If she does not, the laws of Athens dictate that she may be punished with death or she may spend the rest of her life in a convent.

After everyone else exits, Lysander tries to console the weeping Hermia. He proposes a plan for their elopement, instructing her to meet him in the woods outside of the city on the following evening. Together, they will flee from Athens and get married in another city, at the home of Lysander’s widow aunt, and thus Hermia will not be subject to the cruel law of Athens.

Helena enters and asks Hermia how she has made Demetrius fall so deeply in love with her. Helena would like to learn to charm him as Hermia has done, for she is sick with love for Demetrius. Hermia assures her friend that she has done nothing at all to encourage Demetrius and, intending to comfort her friend, discloses her plan to elope with Lysander. Hermia and Lysander both express their desire that Demetrius should return Helena’s affections. They exit the scene.

In a soliloquy, Helena laments that although she is considered by Athens society to be...

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