A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a traditional Shakespearian play in that it is set over five acts and features a large number of various plot twists and characters with various goals. As there are so much is going on in the play, it can be useful to have a clear idea of who each character is and what happens in the text. See below for a full a plot summary.
Scene 1 – In the Athenian court
The play opens with Thesus and Hippolyta discussing their impending wedding and Thesus orders Philostrate to “stir up” some talent to perform on the day. Thesus is then approached by Egeus who asks him to force his daughter Hermia to marry Demetrius. Both Hermia and Lysander plead with the Duke but it is to no avail as he Hermia to marry against her will or else face death or become celibate for life.
Lysander and Hermia are plotting to run away together when Helena interrupts them. Hermia tells Helena of her plan to flee into the woods, leaving the latter in a quandary as to whether she tells Demetrius or not. Deciding that she must tell him out of love, knowing he will follow the lovers to the woods to stop them.
Scene 2 – Athens
The Mechanicals meet for the first time to rehearse a play for Thesus and Hippolya’s wedding, “The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisby.” Peter Quince is head of the company and begins to divvy out the roles however he is constantly interrupted by the over zealous Bottom. Despite being cast in the lead role of Pyramus, Bottom wants to also play the other lead role of Thisby as well as the fearsome Lion. After all the parts have been given out and Bottom has accepted his one and only role, an exhausted Quince decides that their next rehearsal will be in the woods.
Scene 1– The Woods
Puck is engaging in flirtation with a fairy when their master and mistress, Oberon and Titania, arrive in the midst of a blazing row. The pair are near Athens to attend Thesus and Hippolyta’s wedding and argue about how they have both made love to the respective partners of the engaged couple. The row quickly turns to the abduction of a child; Oberon accuses Oberon of taking their Indian Changeling for himself and vice versa. As Titania leaves in a huff, Oberon tells Puck to find a plant he once used in a love spell and use it on Titania. Oberon plans to taunt Titania by making her fall in love with a comedy animal before once again directing her affections onto himself. At this point Demetrius, pursued by Helena enter the woods. Demetrius is searching for Hermia and casting Helena’s affections aside. As he leaves Helena alone and distraught, Oberon decides that Puck should use the love potion on Demetrius whilst he finds Titania himself.
Scene 2 – Another part of the woods
Oberon finds Titania’s hide out and waits for her to fall asleep before squeezing the love potion on her eyelids. Oberon hopes she will wake up to fall in love with some wild animal. Shortly after, Puck finds Lysander and Hermia having a lovers tiff and subsequently mistakes Lysander for Demetrius, placing the love potion on his eyes instead. When Lysander wakes the first thing he sees is Helena and he therefore falls desperately in love with her.
Scene 1 – The Woods
Titania lies sleeping as the mechanicals rehearse Pryamus and Thisby. Puck spies the mechanicals near the sleeping Titania and decides to play a trick on Bottom by giving him the head of an Ass. The mechanicals see Bottom in his new, deformed state they run away from him in fear. On awaking, Titania sees Bottom and falls desperately in love with him, orders her fairy servants to treat him like a king and later she takes him to bed.
Scene 2 – Another part of the woods
Puck tells Oberon that Titania has fallen in love with an ass, which his master finds greatly amusing. Hermia and Demetrius walk by arguing and Puck reveals that he has made a mix up with the love potion. Oberon is enraged and sends Puck off to put the love potion on Demetrius’ eyes as originally intended.
After carrying out his masters orders, it becomes clear that both Demetrius and Lysander are desperately in love with Helena, much to both her and Hermia’s confusion. Demetrius and Lysander fight for Helena’s affections and both girls are left disgruntled. Oberon returns to see Puck’s handiwork and is once again enraged at his handiwork. Oberon gives Puck a remedy for Lysander so each man will be in love with the right woman. As the foursome sleep, Puck squeezes the remedy onto Lysander’s eyes.
Scene 1- In the same part of the wood as the lovers lay sleeping
Titania frolics with the fairies and flirts with Bottom, who cannot believe his luck. As the pair fall asleep, Puck and Oberon enter and place the same remedy on her eyes as Lysander’s which results in her becoming immediately disgusted with Bottom. A dazed and confused Titania, rekindles her affections with Oberon and leaves the forest with him.
As the fairies exit, the Athenian royalty enter looking for the escaped lovers. They discover the sleeping foursome who shortly wakes up to an interrogation from the elders. Demetrius explains he no longer loves Hermia and is now deeply in love with Helena, much to Egeus’s dismay. Eventually the situation is ironed out and it is agreed by all that each lover may be with whoever they wish.
As all the lovers exit, Bottom wakes up believing he has had a wild dream in which he was an Ass. Bottom remembers his duties in the play and leaves to find the rest of his troupe.
Scene 2 – Athens
The Mechanicals meet to rehearse and are worried about where Bottom has gone. Bottom has returns and the troupe is reunited. The group prepare to perform Pyramus and Thisby at the royal wedding.
Scene 1 – Athenian Court
In the aftermath of a triple whammy of weddings between Hippolyta, Thesus and all the respective lovers, the Mechanicals arrive to perform their much anticipated production of “The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisby.” The production is whimsical, ridiculous and is largely met with a mixed reception. After the performances the courtiers dance before going to bed.
As the party dissolves and the revelers return home, the fairies show themselves. As Oberon and Titania leave, very much reunited, Puck delivers a final monologue.