A Midsummer Night's Dream


Plot Summary

The play opens with a conversation between the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and his soon-to-be wife, Hippolyta. They discuss their impending marriage festivities, which will commence in four days’ time. Theseus is soon called upon to moderate a dispute for Egeus, one of the city’s prominent noblemen, who brings with him his daughter, Hermia, along with her two competing suitors. Egeus wants permission from Theseus to subject Hermia to the fullest extent of Athens law, which states that if she refuses to marry the man of her father’s choosing, she may choose between death and the convent. Theseus tries to persuade Hermia of the wisdom of obeying her father; she remains firmly committed to Lysander. Theseus tells her that she has until the day of his own wedding to make her choice. Afterward, Hermia and Lysander plan to escape from Athens under cover of night and elope with the assistance of Lysander’s aunt.

Hermia confides the secret plan to her good friend, Helena, who was once engaged to Demetrius. Helena is still in love with Demetrius, but he rejected her when he met Hermia. Helena sees an opportunity to please Demetrius, whom she worships, by telling him about Hermia’s plan to elope with Lysander. Thus, on the midsummer evening in which Hermia and Lysander flee into the woods together, Demetrius follows closely behind them. Helena, in turn, follows Demetrius into the woods.

In the enchanted woods which the young lovers have entered lives a group of magical wood-fairies, whose king is Oberon. Titania, the fairy queen, has recently been given custody of a young Indian boy over whom she and Oberon are having an argument. Oberon wishes to make the handsome boy into one of his knights, but Titania refuses because she promised the boy’s mother she would raise him herself. Within these same woods, a group of humorous Athens commoners—local craftsmen—are ambitiously rehearsing a production of “Pyramus and Thisby” which they hope to perform at the Duke’s upcoming wedding.

Angry with his wife,...

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