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A Midsummer Night's Dream
Transcript of A Midsummer Night's Dream
Hermia's father has forbidden her to marry her love, Lysander. Theseus gives her four days to decide to marry Demetrius as her father wishes, die, or enter a convent. Hermia and Lysander decide to run away together and Hermia's friend Helena, who is in love with Demetrius, tells him of the plan in hopes of winning him.
Oberon and Titiania, king and queen of the fairies, are fighting over custody of a changeling boy. In revenge, Oberon tells his servant Puck, a mischievious sprite, to find a certain flower and squeeze the juice on Titania's eyes while she sleeps to make her fall in love with the first being she sees.
In these same woods, a troupe of actors is rehearsing a play to perform at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta.
Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, and Theseus and Hippolyta are wed. Quince and his troupe perform their tragedy (hilariously badly) at the wedding reception. After they all go to bed, Oberon, Titania, and the fairies bless the palace in the hope that everyone lives happily ever after.
The characters live in the beautiful ancient Greek city of Athens.
Much of the play, though, takes place in a forest near Athens inhabited by fairies.
After a day of trekking through the woods, Hermia and Lysander stop to rest for the night. Nearby Helena, having followed Demetrius, pleads with him to love her. He spurns and threatens her.
Oberon overhears this argument and wishes to help poor Helena. He orders Puck to find Demetrius, sprinkle the juice on his eyes, and arrange for Helena to be near when he wakes up so that he will fall for her.
Puck then finds one of the actors, Nick Bottom, lures him away from the group, and gives him the head of a donkey. He then guides him to a sleeping Titania, who wakens and falls in love with Nick Bottom.
Puck sees Hermia and Lysander lying slightly apart and mistakes them for Helena and Demetrius. He sprinkles the juice on Lysander's eyes. After Puck leaves Helena stumbles upon Lysander and wakes him up, causing him to fall in love with her on sight.
Hermia: Described as small and dark, Hermia is driven by her love for Lysander. She is unable to marry him due to the law that her father must approve her husband.
Helena: Described as tall and fair, Helena is a foil to Hermia, who is self-assured where Helena is insecure, weepy, and lovelorn. She is in love with Demetrius despite his hatred of her. Of the lovers, Helena is the most three-dimensional.
Lysander: Suitor to Hermia, Lysander is willing to go to any lengths to fight for his love.
Demetrius: Once in love with Helena, to whom he is now unkind, Demetrius pursues Hermia as his bride despite her hatred of him.
Egeus: Hermia's father, who wishes her to marry Demetrius, serves as an antagonist in the play, an obstacle in the way of true love.
Theseus and Hippolyta: The Duke of Athens and his betrothed, who represent law and order.
Titania: Queen of the faries, Titania argues with Oberon over the custody of a little human boy. She is shown to be proud, stubborn, and protective.
Oberon: King of the fairies. He is shown to be lustful and imperious, but also sympathetic as shown in his actions towards Helena. Oberon and Titania share many flaws which they loathe in each other but fail to see in themselves.
Puck: A merry prankster, Puck is the Jester and servant to Oberon. His antics in the play drive the plot, and his impish attitude sets the playful, spirited tone of the play.
Puck, meanwhile, hurries back to Oberon and tells him of what he has done to Titania. Oberon is very pleased to hear that his plan is working. They then see Hermia and Demetrius Puck realizes his mistake with the flower.
A troupe of terrible actors, these six men are scheduled to perform a play, The Tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbee, at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta.
Titania's fairy servants
Hermia wakes to find Lysander gone. She then finds Demetrius and pesters him, believing he has killed Lysander, but Demetrius continues to deny it. Eventually he lies down to sleep, and Hermia leaves to find her love.
Demetrius deserts Helena, causing her to feel rejected and insecure to the point where she feels mocked when she is shown affection. Later, though, Demetrius renounces Hermia and he and Helena get their happy ending.
Oberon and Titania fight bitterly, leading to a ridiculous prank, but they manage to reconcile, returning peace to the fairy kingdom and love to their marriage.
Hermia and Lysander face much adversity in their love--Egeus and the Athenian law, losing their way in the woods, Puck's misplaced magic--but in the end they are able to marry with the blessings of Egeus and Theseus.
Love is difficult but always triumphs in the end.
The setting gives us the lost-in-the-woods feeling of a fairy tale, attributing a sense of foreboding but also a sense of wonder to the play.
Puck hurries to find Helena while Oberon sprinkles the juice on Demetrius's eyes. Helena enters, still pursued by Lysander, whom she believes is mocking her. When Demetrius wakes and sees Helena, he and Lysander begin to fight over her. Helena thinks they are plotting to make fun of her.
Drawn by the noise of the arguing, Hermia enters and witnesses the scene. She flies into a rage, threatening to fight Helena for stealing Lysander. Lysander and Demetrius threaten to duel over Helena. This scene is the height of the action and the climax of the play.
Puck lures Demetrius and Lysander away from each other to prevent the duel. Eventually all the lovers make their way seperately to the clearing and fall asleep. Puck sprinkles the juice on Lysander's eyes, declaring that all will be right in the morning.
Titania enters the clearing with Nick Bottom, fawning over him. Oberon, watching, confesses to Puck that he found her earlier and promised to lift the spell if he gave her the changeling, and she consented. Titania then falls asleep, and Oberon lifts the spell.
Titania wakes, startled to see that she "loved an ass." Oberon takes her back as his queen and calls for music so they may dance, celebrating their restored amity. Puck returns Bottom's head to that of a human.
Theseus, Hippolyta, and Egeus find the lovers asleep in the woods and wake them, demanding their story. However, they declare that the previous night seems but a dream, and all that is clear is that Lysander and Hermia are in love, as are Demetrius and Helena. Theseus is pleased and declares that the three weddings will take place the following day.
Nick Bottom wakes and muses upon his "peculiar dream." He then returns to the troupe of actors, who had feared him dead. They rejoice to see him and resume planning their play.
"The course of true love never did run smooth."
This commonly recognized quote is spoken by Lysander when he and Hermia find themselves becoming lost in the forest. It illustrates Shakespeare's theme of the difficulty of love and also characterizes both Lysander and Hermia as passionate and courageous, willing to fight for their love.
"If we shadows have offended
Think but this, and all is mended;
That but you have slumb'red here
While these visions did appear."
This quote from Puck at the play's epilogue refers once more to Shakespeare's motif of dreams and the nature of consciousness. Puck essentially tells the audience that if they did not enjoy the play, they can simply pretend it was all a dream, keeping with the theme in the play that dreams and reality often blend together.
"Love looks not with the eyes, but with the mind
And therefore is winged Cupid painted blind."
"For ere Demetrius looked on Hermia's eyne
He hailed down oaths that he was only mine."
These quotes from Helena at the beginning of the play help develop her character as she contemplates the nature of love. These quotes also demonstrate the theme of love's difficulty as she reflects on how blind and fleeting love can be. In this same speech, she despairs of her chances and plans how to win back Demetrius, showing two important facets of her character.
There is also a motif in the play of dreams and consciousness. The people charmed by the flower believe they have been dreaming. The play's sense of time flow is somewhat nonlinear, a characteristic of many dreams, and at the end we are left wondering if everything was real or if some of the events were simply dreamed.