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A Midsummer Night’s Dream ” by William Shakespeare is now part of the reading material for literature students in WAEC, NECO, and JAMB from 2023 to 2025.
We’ve taken the initiative to support students by offering insights, including background information, themes, structure, and a summary of the Novel titled A Midsummer Night’s Dream ” by William Shakespeare.
This is aimed at helping them better comprehend and prepare in advance for their examinations.
ABOUT WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE THE AUTHOR OF “A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM”
William Shakespeare, widely regarded as one of the greatest playwrights and poets in the English language, William Shakespeare was born in April 1564 in Stratford-upon-Avon, England. He is often referred to as England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon.” Shakespeare’s works, including “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” have had a profound and lasting impact on literature and drama.
More About William Shakespeare:
- William Shakespeare Early Life: Shakespeare was the third child of John Shakespeare, a prosperous glove maker and local politician, and Mary Arden. He likely attended the local grammar school, where he would have received a solid education in Latin and classical literature.
- William Shakespeare Marriage and Family: In 1582, at the age of 18, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway, who was eight years his senior. They had three children: Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith. Hamnet, Shakespeare’s only son, died in childhood.
- William Shakespeare Career in London: Around 1590, Shakespeare moved to London, where he became involved in the city’s thriving theatrical scene. He worked as an actor and playwright and eventually became a shareholder in the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a popular playing company. The company later changed its name to the King’s Men under the patronage of King James I.
- William Shakespeare Playwright and Poet: Shakespeare’s career as a playwright spanned from the late 16th century to the early 17th century. His plays were performed at the Globe Theatre, among other venues. In addition to plays, he wrote numerous sonnets and other poems.
- William Shakespeare Literary Works: William Shakespeare’s works include 39 plays, 154 sonnets, and two long narrative poems. His plays are typically categorized into three genres: tragedies, comedies, and histories. “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is one of his most famous comedies, believed to have been written around 1595-1596.
- William Shakespeare Legacy: Shakespeare’s works continue to be widely studied and performed worldwide. His plays explore a wide range of themes, including love, power, jealousy, betrayal, and the complexities of the human condition. His impact on the English language is immeasurable, as he coined and popularized many words and phrases still in use today.
- William Shakespeare Death: Shakespeare retired to Stratford in the early 17th century. He died on April 23, 1616, at the age of 52. His exact cause of death is unknown, and his burial took place at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford-upon-Avon.
BACKGROUND OF “MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM” by William Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night’s Dream” stands as one of Shakespeare’s most profound comedies, delving into themes of love, marriage, magic, and fantasy. The play navigates between the earthly realm of humans and the enchanting world of fairies, portraying love as a universal language akin to art.
The narrative unfolds with misplaced affection sparking the central conflict. This conflict intensifies, placing Hermia, the endearing character, at a crossroads where she must confront the dire choices of death, coerced marriage, or banishment to a nunnery.
Echoing Lysander’s observation that “the course of true love never did run smooth,” the conflict gracefully ascends to its climax, undergoes a satisfying resolution, and concludes with happiness for both the human and fairy realms.
Other Books Written by William Shakespeare
Here is a list of some of William Shakespeare’s notable works:
- Sonnets (1609)
- Romeo and Juliet (1597)
- Hamlet (1603)
- Macbeth (1606)
- Othello (1603)
- King Lear (1606)
- Julius Caesar (1599)
- The Merchant of Venice (1596)
- Twelfth Night (1601)
A Midsummer Night’s dream Short Summary and Characters
The play begins with Duke Theseus eagerly anticipating his wedding to Queen Hippolyta of the Amazons. Egeus brings his daughter Hermia before the Duke, accusing her of rejecting his chosen suitor, Demetrius. Hermia’s lover, Lysander, and Demetrius are also present.
Egeus invokes an ancient Athenian law allowing him to choose between his daughter’s death or her marriage to the suitor he picks. Theseus gives Hermia the option of lifelong chastity as a nun devoted to the goddess Artemis.
Peter Quince and his troupe, including Nick Bottom, Francis Flute, Robin Starveling, Tom Snout, and Snug, plan to stage a play titled “The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe” for the Duke and Queen’s wedding. Quince directs the play and assigns roles to the characters for rehearsal.
In a parallel plot, Oberon, the fairy king, and Titania, his queen, are in a dispute outside Athens. Titania refuses to give her Indian Changeling to Oberon. Enraged, Oberon seeks revenge and asks his mischievous sprite, Robin Puck Goodfellow, for help.
Oberon wants a magical juice from the flower love-in-idleness, which, when applied to a sleeping person’s eyelids, makes them fall in love with the first living thing they see. Oberon plans to use this on Titania, hoping she will fall in love with a forest animal and be shamed for not giving up the Indian changeling.
Hermia and Lysander escape to the forest, planning to elope to Lysander’s aunt’s place. Helena, desperate to win back Demetrius’s love, informs him of Hermia and Lysander’s elopement.
Despite Helena’s advances and promises of greater love, Demetrius cruelly rejects her. Observing this, Oberon instructs Puck to use the magical flower juice on the young Athenian man’s eyelids. However, Puck mistakenly applies it to Lysander instead of Demetrius.
When Helena discovers the sleeping Lysander, she wakes him, and he instantly falls in love with her. Hermia accuses Helena of stealing Lysander, but he claims he never loved Hermia and only has eyes for Helena. Lysander and Demetrius decide to duel for Helena’s affection, but Oberon orders Puck to keep them from encountering each other.
Quince’s group rehearses in the forest. Puck transforms Bottom’s head into a donkey’s, enchanting Titania. Oberon achieves his goal of obtaining the Indian changeling. Puck distracts and makes Helena, Hermia, Demetrius, and Lysander fall asleep.
When they wake, they believe it was a dream. Theseus arranges a group wedding for the lovers. In Athens, the comically terrible play is performed. Oberon, Titania, Puck, and fairies bless the house and its occupants.
CHARACTERS IN “MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM” by William Shakespeare
- Duke Theseus: The ruler of Athens, anticipating his wedding to Queen Hippolyta.
- Queen Hippolyta: The Queen of the Amazons, soon to marry Duke Theseus.
- Egeus: Hermia’s father, who brings her before the Duke for rejecting his chosen suitor.
- Hermia: Daughter of Egeus, in love with Lysander and trying to avoid marrying Demetrius.
- Lysander: Hermia’s lover and the object of her affections.
- Demetrius: The suitor chosen by Egeus for Hermia.
- Peter Quince: The director of the play that the laborers are rehearsing.
- Nick Bottom: One of the laborers, whose head is transformed into that of a donkey by Puck.
- Francis Flute, Robin Starveling, Tom Snout, and Snug: Other members of Quince’s group of laborers.
- Oberon: The King of the fairies, involved in magical schemes.
- Titania: The Queen of the fairies, who becomes infatuated with Bottom under the influence of a love potion.
- Robin Puck Goodfellow: A mischievous sprite serving Oberon, tasked with carrying out magical interventions.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Themes
A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” written by William Shakespeare, explores several themes, blending elements of comedy, romance, and fantasy. Some of the prominent themes in the play include:
- Love and Its Irrational Nature:
- The play examines the unpredictable and irrational nature of love. Characters fall in and out of love quickly and whimsically, influenced by magical interventions and external factors.
- The Nature of Reality and Dreams:
- The boundary between reality and dreams is blurred in the play. The characters experience fantastical events in the enchanted forest, raising questions about the nature of reality and the role of imagination.
- The Power of Magic:
- Magic is a central theme, particularly through the character of Puck and the love potion. The use of magical elements introduces chaos, misunderstandings, and comedic situations, emphasizing the unpredictable nature of life.
- Social Order and Individual Freedom:
- The play explores the tension between societal expectations and individual desires. Characters challenge the authority of their elders and societal norms, pursuing their own paths in matters of love and marriage.
- The World Turned Upside Down:
- The inversion of social roles and the disruption of order are prevalent in the enchanted forest. The play features a topsy-turvy world where traditional hierarchies are upended, leading to both humorous and transformative experiences.
- The Nature of True Love:
- True love is contrasted with superficial infatuations. The play suggests that true love involves commitment, understanding, and a deeper connection, while infatuations are often based on external appearances.
- Humor and Wit:
- Comedy is a dominant theme, with witty wordplay, humorous situations, and the comical interactions of the characters. The play showcases Shakespeare’s skill in using humor to explore deeper themes.
- Marriage and Relationships:
- The theme of marriage is explored in various ways, from the forced marriage of Hermia to the comedic misunderstandings between characters. The play ultimately presents marriage as a complex, evolving journey.
- Nature and the Supernatural:
- The natural world and the supernatural realm intersect in the enchanted forest. This theme emphasizes the mystical and magical aspects of the play, contributing to its dreamlike quality.
- Folly and Foolishness:
- Characters engage in foolish behaviors and make illogical choices, contributing to the comedic elements of the play. The theme of folly highlights the lighthearted and whimsical nature of the narrative.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream Summary Line by Line
Here’s a line-by-line summary of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare:
- Duke Theseus anticipates his wedding to Queen Hippolyta.
- Egeus brings his daughter Hermia to Theseus, accusing her of refusing his chosen suitor, Demetrius.
- Hermia and Lysander plan to escape to Lysander’s aunt’s place to avoid Hermia’s forced marriage.
- Helena tells Demetrius about Hermia and Lysander’s plan, hoping to win Demetrius’s love.
- Oberon, the fairy king, wants revenge on Titania, who refuses to give him her Indian Changeling.
- Oberon orders Puck to use a magical flower to make characters fall in love or experience comic confusion.
- Puck mistakenly applies the flower’s juice to Lysander instead of Demetrius.
- Lysander falls in love with Helena, causing confusion and conflict among the lovers.
- Oberon takes the Indian changeling while Titania is enchanted by Bottom, who has a donkey’s head.
- Oberon orders Puck to distract and make characters fall asleep to resolve the love chaos.
- The love potion’s effects wear off, and characters believe their experiences were just a dream.
- Theseus and Hippolyta discover the lovers during a morning hunt.
- Demetrius, no longer in love with Hermia, agrees to marry her.
- In Athens, the amateur actors perform the comically terrible play “Pyramus and Thisbe.”
- Guests laugh, thinking it’s intentional comedy, and everyone retires to bed.
- Oberon, Titania, Puck, and fairies bless the house and its occupants with fortune.
CONFLICT RESOLUTION MOVE BY DUKE THESEUS
Egeus decision to drag his daughter before the Duke signifies the exhaustion of all other moves to make his daughter change his mind. It is also noteworthy that all the major stakeholders in the issue at hand are present at the meeting with Theseus. While Egeus is adamant and seeks to ensure that his will prevails even if his child is put to death, the Duke in his wisdom gives Hermia some days to reflect upon the three choices she has.
Take time to pause: and by the next moon,
The sealing day betwixt my love and me
For everlasting bond of friendship
Upon that day either prepare to die
For disobedience to your father’s will,
Or else to wed Demetrius, as he would;
Or on Diana’s altar to protest,
For aye, austerity and single life.
Theseus’s wise counsel lightens the tension created and enables the plot of the story to progress. This progression with various sudden twists leads to a peaceful and lasting resolution of conflict.
THE LOVERS FLEE TO THE FOREST
The decision of Hermia and Lysander to flee the Athenian city shows how resolute they are in achieving their love ambition.
The duo understand that their continual stay in Athens can yield no fruitful result, hence, they explore available opportunity which is Lysander’s aunt whom he describes as a dowager of great revenue & hath no child and respects me as her only son.
As tempting as these offers can be to Hermia, Lysander reveals his ultimate intention: There, gentle Hermia, may I marry thee/And to that place sharp Athenian law cannot pursue us.
Helena reveals the elopement plan to Demetrius because she knows he would definitely follow Hermia and that would give her the opportunity to be with him. The major significance of these lover’s escapades in the forest is to actualize their affection for their preferred soulmate.
PUCK SQUIRTS LOVE JUICE ON LYSANDER’S EYES
Oberon, the King of the fairies witness the insolence by which Demetrius addresses Helena. He feels bad at the Iady’s unrequited love and instructs his henchman, Puck to apply some magical juice from love in idleness flower which would make Demetrius love Helena.
However, Puck who had never seen nor known Demetrius before mistakes Lysander for Demetrius and applies the juice. This situational irony complicates the conflict and heightens the suspense.
Tension created by this creates cruel between Hermia and Helena and also causes Demetrius and Lysander to challenge each other to a duel. A prompt intervention from Oberon through his messenger Puck, saves the day.
TITANIA FALLS IN LOVE LYSANDER
Oberon intends to punish his Queen Titania and wants her to fall in love with some animals once the juice is applied on her eyes. This action would yield two results for Oberon.
First, he would get the Indian changeling and second, Titania would be greatly humiliated as she would fall in love with lion, bear, or wolf or bull, & meddling monkey or busy ape. His plan however falls through when Titania falls in love with a human. This irony also shows the universality of love. Love can be found anywhere.
PERFORMANCE OF A PLAY WITHIN A PLAY
To commemorate the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, Quince and his crew presents a play Pyramus and Thisbe.
Originally, the said play is a tragedy but because it would be inappropriate to stage a tragic play on a wedding night, the dramatists improvised on several acts in the play which elicit laughter and amusement from the audience.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1595)
- Duke Theseus Plans His Wedding:
- The play opens with Duke Theseus looking forward to his wedding to Queen Hippolyta.
- Egeus Brings Hermia Before Theseus:
- Egeus complains to Duke Theseus about his daughter Hermia, who refuses to marry the man he has chosen, Demetrius.
- Hermia and Lysander Plan to Escape:
- Hermia and Lysander plan to run away to Lysander’s aunt’s house to avoid Hermia’s forced marriage.
- Helena Informs Demetrius:
- Helena tells Demetrius about Hermia and Lysander’s plan, hoping to win Demetrius’s love.
- Oberon’s Dispute with Titania:
- Oberon, the fairy king, and Titania, his queen, have a dispute over the custody of an Indian Changeling.
- Oberon’s Plan with the Love Potion:
- Oberon instructs Puck to use a magical flower to create chaos among the lovers in the forest.
- Puck’s Mistake with the Love Potion:
- Puck mistakenly applies the flower’s juice to Lysander instead of Demetrius, causing confusion in the love lives of the characters.
- Titania Enchanted by Bottom:
- Oberon uses Puck to enchant Titania, making her fall in love with Bottom, who has a donkey’s head.
- Chaos Among the Lovers:
- The love potion causes chaos among Hermia, Lysander, Helena, and Demetrius, leading to misunderstandings and conflicts.
- Oberon’s Intervention to Resolve the Chaos:
- Oberon orders Puck to distract and make characters fall asleep, hoping to resolve the confusion and restore order.
- Resolution and Awakening:
- The effects of the love potion wear off, and characters wake up, believing their experiences in the forest were just a dream.
- Theseus and Hippolyta Discover the Lovers:
- Theseus and Hippolyta discover the sleeping lovers during a morning hunt.
- Demetrius Agrees to Marry Hermia:
- Demetrius, no longer in love with Hermia, agrees to marry her under the influence of Puck’s magic.
- The Play within the Play – “Pyramus and Thisbe”:
- The amateur actors perform the comically terrible play “Pyramus and Thisbe” for the entertainment of the court.
- Blessings and Resolution:
- The play concludes with Oberon, Titania, Puck, and fairies blessing the house and its occupants with fortune.