Notes on the Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Bolded points are important events while unbolded points are more deeper analysis or smaller events.

Act 1

Scene 1

  • Theseus, the Duke of Athens is going to marry Hippolyta

    • The wedding is in 4 days

    • Theseus is very nervous

      • He wants to impress Hippolyta to foreshadow nice things in their relationship
    • Tells Philostrate to organize entertainment

  • Egeus wants his daughter, Hermia, to marry Demetrius even though she wants to marry Lysander.

    • Egeus asks Theseus to lay down the law

    • Theseus gives Hermia other options: become a nun or die

    • Hermia believes in love over law

    • Theseus tells her to think about it after she says she will become a nun, and tells her to decide by their wedding

  • Demetrius asks Hermia to change her mind, Lysander gets mad showing he also believes in love over law

  • Lysander adds that Demetrius earlier wooed and won Hermia

  • Hermia and Lysander decide to run away

    • Lysander comes up with a plan to run away to his aunt’s house away from Athens and, by extension, their laws. They will meet in the woods the next night to run away

    • Helena, Hermia’s friend, is sad because of this conflict

    • Helena wishes she had Hermia’s beauty so that Demetrius would love her

    • Helena loves Demetrius and wants to be with him no matter how much he hates her

      • Wants to be treated like a dog (she wants him to own her)

      • She tells Demetrius of Hermia’s plan to sneak out so that Demetrius would leave Hermia and be with her

Scene 2

  • A play is introduced by Quince

    • They meet at Quince’s house

    • The play will happen during Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding

    • It’s meant (by Shakespeare) to seem amateur

    • The play is about the death of Pyramus and Thisbe

    • Snug, the lion, asks if he will be given lines

      • He over-thinks his very simple role of just roaring. He even wonders whether to do a scary roar and if that would scare the woman
    • Bottom considers himself with high authority and keeps

    • Bottom asks if Pyramus, the role he is playing, is “a lover or a tyrant”

    • They will meet that night in the woods

Act 2

Scene 1

  • Robin (Puck) and a fairy talk about Oberon and Titania’s conflict

    • The fairy asks if Puck has a nickname “sweet puck” who says yes and brags about his mischief.
  • Titania and Oberon debate about an Indian boy

  • Oberon wants Titania’s inherited son

    • Titan really wants to keep him

    • Their dislike for each other is shown, and it is revealed, even though they are married; they don’t want to be

    • Their fighting has caused disorder in nature, floods, natural disasters…

      • This is also because of Titania wanting to go against her husband’s wants and keep the son
    • Oberon vows to punish Titania for not obeying him

  • Oberon tells Puck about a queen who was almost shot but missed the mark, this spot turned “purple with love’s wound” this flower causes whoever’s eyes it is placed on, to go madly in love with the first person they see

    • Puck tells him he will get the flower by circling the world in forty minutes
  • Oberon makes a plan to put the potion on Titania’s eyes, and only freeing her in return for the changeling

  • Oberon listens to Demetrius and Helena

    • Demetrius tells Helena to stop following him and that he will kill Lysander

    • Helena says the more he hates her the more she loves him

    • “women were meant to be wooed, not to woo”

    • Oberon wants to make Demetrius love Helena, so he tells Puck to put the flower on Demetrius

    • Called Demetrius by a vague name “the Athenian”

Scene 2

  • Oberon puts the drops on Titania, hoping the next person she sees is vile

  • Hermia and Lysander are lost in the woods

    • Lysander wants to sleep with Hermia, but she says to keep their modesty until they are married

    • Lysander obey, saying he would rather die than disobey her (foreshadowing)

  • Puck sees Lysander and mistakes his Athenian clothes for Demetrius

    • Puts the drops on Lysander
  • Helena, unable to keep up with Demetrius, stops and notices Lysander on the ground and wakes him

    • He immediately declares his love for her

    • He curses Demetrius for mistreating her and curses himself for wasting so many minutes with Hermia

    • Helena thinks Lysander is mocking her

    • Lysander leaves with Helena leaving Hermia

  • Hermia awakes from a nightmare where a serpent was eating her heart while Lysander stood by, smiling and doing nothing

  • Hermia, terrified, goes to find Lysander

Act 3

Scene 1

  • The laborers (the people making the play) enter the woods to where Titania sleeps

  • The laborers debate (unimportant) issues

    • Bottom thinks there is still work to be done believing the woman will be upset when Pyramus kills himself with his sword

      • Bottom says they will declare at the start that nobody actually gets hurt
    • Bottom also solves the problem of the woman being scared on the lion by cutting the mask so that you can still see Snout’s face and also announce that he is not a lion

    • He also fixes the issue of how to get the moonlight when Pyramus and Thisbe meet and the wall that separates them by assigning people to act as those objects

    • The actors are being very simpleminded

  • Puck watches and laughs at this, saying he could be an “actor too, perhaps, if I see cause”

  • They rehearse mispronouncing words and missing their cues

  • Puck adds puts a donkey’s on Bottom’s head

    • Bottom, ass

    • Puck becomes beasts and scares the already scared laborers

    • Thinking his friends are pretending, tries to show he isn’t scared by standing and singing

  • Titania, wakes up to Bottoms singing

    • She immediately loves him and tells him to keep singing

    • Even though Bottom is usually self-centered, he is still surprised by this

    • Titania tells Bottom to wait with her and pampers him with exotic fruits and stuff

Scene 2

  • Puck tells Oberon that Titania has fallen in love with a monster which pleases Oberon

  • Puck says he used the potion on the Athenian youth

  • Demetrius and Hermia are now fighting

    • Hermia suspects Demetrius hurt Lysander because she doesn’t understand why else he would leave her

    • Hermia doesn’t believe Demetrius and tells him she doesn’t ever want to see him again

  • Oberon realizes the mistake Puck made and quickly thinks of a remedy

    • He tells Puck to find Helena and trick her to come to Oberon, who will make Demetrius fall in love with her

    • Oberon’s play where everybody is happy doesn’t work right, so he sets out to fix it. For the lovers, they have no control over this play, so it is like a dream to them

  • Oberon, squeezes the juice on Demetrius’ eyes

    • Puck says Helena and Lysander are coming, puck is excited to watch both Demetrius and Lysander woo Helena

    • Demetrius wakes and sees Helena and immediately declares love for her, Helena is freaked out

    • ****“Oh, cruelty! Oh, torture!” Helena believes they are playing a trick on her, mocking her,

    • Lysander and Demetrius, yelling at each other to stop loving Helena, that Helena is theirs, want to fight

    • Hermia joins them and asks why Lysander left her

    • Lysander tells Hermia of his new love for Helena while Helena yells at Hermia for also mocking her

    • Hermia realizes that Lysander is serious and turns on Hermia

    • Hermia thinks Helena is making fun of her, and her height and other parts

  • Helena asks Lysander and Demetrius to protect her from Hermia

    • Helena runs into the jungle, Hermia chases after her

    • Lysander and Demetrius follow Helena, but are focus on killing each other

    • This fighting shows that loves can cause not only emotional pain, but physical pain

    • Oberon yells at Puck for playing these tricks and instructs him to keep the boys apart

Scene 3

  • Puck gets the four lovers together and puts the drops on Lysander’s eyes making him love Hermia once again

Act 4

Scene 1

  • Titania is with Bottom, putting flowers in his hair

    • Titania asks what he’d like to eat, he asks for some dry oats or a handful of peas, and then they both fall asleep
  • Oberon says he got Titania the changeling the day before, and he felt sorry for Titania.

    • Tells Puck to put Bottom’s head back and puts the drops on Titania, so she would love him again

    • They dance

  • Theseus wonders why all 4 lovers are sleeping together when they were all angry at each other

    • Lysander tells Theseus doesn’t know why, but he wants to be with Hermia, which angers Egeus, but then tells him that “by some power” Demetrius now loves Helena

    • Theseus overrules Egeus and says the four lovers will marry at his wedding

    • Since Theseus is the upholder of the law, he can choose what laws to enforce

    • The lover’s don’t really know what happened, but they know some power changed them in such a happy way that reason and law could have never done

  • Bottom wakes and is told there are no more rehearsals, he thinks his experience was a dream as well

Scene 2

  • The Mechanicals worry where Bottom is, as they need a Pyramus and Bottom is the only one who can do Pyramus

  • But he enters, not saying where he was

Act 5

Scene 1

  • Theseus and Hippolyta debate the authenticity of the lover’s story. Hippolyta mention how they all had the same story and woke up together

  • Theseus, always literal, dismisses the lover’s “dream”, while Hippolyta argues the outcome could not be explained using logic as the result was much more powerful than reason or law could have done

  • For the entertainment for the night, Theseus, first angry with the selection from Philostrate brings, chooses the play of Pyramus and Thisbe

  • Theseus finds the name odd as it has all sorts of contradictions,

  • Philostrate tells Theseus that the play actors are all Laborers who really aren’t that good, Hippolyta doesn’t like this because she doesn’t want to laugh at people

  • Theseus says he will reward them for the spirit of their actions not their acting

  • This shows how even though the laborers were worried the audience would think their acting would be too good, ex. they would think the lion was real. But it shows how Theseus can see the reality beneath, he always looks for what is real

  • Quince starts the play by giving a very long prologue that explains everything

  • The audience makes jokes and insults at how Quince talks so fast without punctuation

  • As the play goes on, more jokes were made about how the wall talks

  • Bottom stops to rebuttal these insults, showing how he was so worried about the audience thinking it was real he was fine with showing his real self

  • During the play, many incorrect references were made

  • Pyramus and Thisbe are very similar to Lysander and Hermia during the beginning of the play

  • After the play, Bottom asks whether they would like to see a epilogue or a dance, the crowd insists on not an epilogue

  • Bottom says if everyone was offended, they didn’t like the play, they should just think of the play as if it was a dream

References

Florman, Ben. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” LitCharts. LitCharts LLC, 22 Jul 2013. Web. 3 Mar 2024.