A Midsummer Night's Dream Summary & Analysis (Shakespearean Text)
Read Online Shakespearean Text: A Midsummer Night's Dream by Williams Shakespeare Summary & Analysis, Comprehensive Chapter by Chapter Summary, Background, Plot, Major Events, Settings, Theme, Major Characters Summary and Analysis for JAMB UTME, NECO and WAEC Literature Students.

Wlilliam Shakespeare (1564—1616) was an English playwright, poet and actor, widely , regarded as the greatest writer in English language and the worlds greatest dramatist. Shakespeare was born and raised in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire. At the age of eighteen, he married Anne Hathaway, with whom he had three children: Susanna and twins Hamnet and Judith. Sometime between 1585 and 1592, he began a successful career in London as an actor, writer and part-owner of a playing company called the Lord Chamberlainllls Men, later known as KingEls Men.


Shakespeare produced most of his known works between 1589 and 1613. His extant works, including collaborations consist of some 39 plays, 154 sonnets, two long narrative poems and a few other verses, some of uncertain authorship. He died on 23rd April 1616 and was buried in England.

BACKGROUND

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" is one of the most profound Shakespearean comedies with its subject matter revolving around love, marriage, magic and fantasy. From the terrestrial world of humans to the magical world of fairies, love, like art is portrayed as a universal language.

Misplaced affection sets the conflict of the play in motion. This thickens and the most adorable character in the play, Hermia faces options of death, forced marriage or banishment to a nunnery. As Lysander opines, "the course of true love never did run smooth", the conflict glides upward to its climax, meets its denouement and ends happily for both humans and fairies.

PLOT SUMMARY

The play opens with Duke Theseus of Athens who happily anticipates his wedding to the Amazon Queen, Hippolyta. The duo are joined by Egeus who drags his daughter Hermia before the Duke for failing to accept Demetrius, his marital choice for her. Hermia's lover, Lysander and Demetrius are also present. For failing to accept the suitor he chooses for her, Egeus invokes an ancient Athenian law which pejmits fathers to put their erring daughter to death or marry whoever the father chooses. Theseus offers her another choice: lifelong chastity as a nun worshiping the goddess Artemis.

Peter Quince and his fellow players Nick Bottom, Francis Flute, Robin Starveling, Tom Snout and Snug plan to put on a play for the wedding of the Duke and the Queen and the play is titled the most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe. Quince acts as the director of the play and gives roles to the characters to rehearse.

In a parallel plot line, Oberon, king of the fairies and Titania, his queen have come outside Athens. They are both enstraged because Titania refuses to give her Indian Changeling to Oberon for use. Oberon seeks to punish Titania's disobedience. He calls upon Robin Puck Goodfellow, his shrewd and knavish sprite, to help him concoct a magical juice derived from a flower called love-in-idleness. When the concoction is applied to the eyelids of a sleeping person, that person upon waking falls in love with
the first living thing he sees. He instructs Puck to retrieve the flower with the hope that he might make Titania fall in love with an animal of the forest and shame her for not giving up the little Indian changeling.

Hermia and Lysander have escaped to the same forest in hopes of running away from Athens to Lysander aunt's place. Helena, desperate to reclaim Demetriusl] love tells him about Hermia's elopement plan with Lysander. Helena continually makes advance towards Demetrius, promising to love him more than Hermia. However, he rebuffs her with cruel insults. Observing this, Oberon orders Puck squirt some of the magical juice from the flower on the eyelids of the young Athenian man. Instead, Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius. Helena, coming across him wakes him while attempting to determine whether he is dead or asleep. Upon this happening, Lysander immediately
falls in love with Helena. Hermia accuses Helena of stealing Lysander from her but Lysander claims he never loved Hermia but Helena. Lysander and Demetrius decide to seek a place to duel but Oberon charges Puck to keep the two men from catching up with each other.

Meanwhile, Quince and his band of six labourers venture into the forest to rehearse their play. Bottom is spotted by Puck and transforms his head into that of a donkey making others run away, screaming in terror. Titania, having received the love portion and sleeping nearby is awakened by Bottom's singing and immediately falls in love with her. She dotes on him and assigns several fairies to attend to him. Oberon takes the Indian changeling and thus, achieves his aim. Oberon orders Puck to distract Helena,
Hermia, Demetrius and Lysander separately and make them fall asleep. Waking up, the magic portion wanes off the eyes of those it was applied on and everybody thinks all that had happened was a dream.

Theseus and Hippolyta find the lovers asleep during an early morning hunt. They wake them up and since Demetrius no longer loves Hermia, Theseus over-rules Egeus's demands and arranges a group wedding.

In Athens, Theseus, Hippolyta and the lovers watch the workmen perform Pyramus and Thisbe. The performers are so terrible playing their roles that the guests laugh as if it were meant to be a comedy and everyone retires to bed. Afterwards, Oberon, Titania, Puck and other fairies bless the house and its occupants with fortune.

MAJOR EVENTS

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.

He asserts:
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.

THEMES

Jealousy

The theme of jealousy operates in both the human and fairy realms in the play. Jealousy plays out mostly among the quartet of Athenian lovers who find themselves increasingly entangled in conflicting desire. Helena begins the play feeling jealous of Hermia who has managed to snatch Lysander to herself while Demetrius still longs for the beautiful Hermia. When misplaced fairy mischief leads Lysander into an amorous pursuit of Helena, the event drives Hermia into her own jealous rage.

Jealousy also extends into the fairy realm where it causes a rift between Oberon and Titania who both have eyes for their counterparts in the human realm. Titania accuses Oberon of stealing away with the bouncing Amazon. Oberon accuses Titania of hypocrisy since she also loves another: How canst thou thus for shame, Titania/Glance at my credit with Hippolyta/Knowing I know thy love to Theseus?

This jealous rift incites Oberon to command Puck to fetch the magic flower that eventually causes so much chaos and confusion for the Athenian lovers.

LOVE'S DIFFICULTY

The course of true love never did run smooth, comments Lysander. The theme of Iove's difficulty is often explored through the motif of love out of balance-that is romantic situation in which disparity interferes with the harmony of a relationship. The prime instance of love imbalance in the play is evident among the four Athenians: Hermia loves Lysander, Lysander loves Hermia , Helena loves Demetrius but Demetrius loves Hermia instead of Helena. Also, Oberon loves the Indian changeling while Titania develops passionate love for ass-headed Bottom. From the beginning of the play to the end, these lovers engage in deliberate effort to overcome the obstacles on their ways to achieve lasting love.

MAGIC

The fairies magic, which brings about many of the most bizarre and hilarious situations in the play is another element central to the development of the story. Shakespeare employs magic to embody the almost supernatural power of love and to create a perfect world. Although the misuse of magic causes chaos when Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius. However, the same magic is employed to restore normalcy to the ailing situation.

CHARACTERS

HERMIA

The daughter of Egeus who is deeply in love with Lysander contrary to her father's choice. She expresses firmness of character when she inquires the worst action if she refuses to marry Demetrius, her father's suitor: But I beseech your grace that I may know/T he worst that may befall me in this case/If I refuse to wed Demetrius.

She chooses to elope with Lysander to his auntDs place and be married to him. She demonstrates nobility in the forest by asking Lysander to sleep apart from at night. She happily marries her lover at the end of the play.

HELENA

She is Hermia's friend who admires Demetrius but her love is unrequited. She leaks the elopement plan of Hermia and Lysander to Demetrius who treats her with much disdain in the play. Lysander falls in love with her when Puck mistakenly squirts the magical juice on his face. She feels mocked when Lysander dotes after her. She eventually marries Demetrius who also falls in love with her.

THESEUS

The Duke of Athens who marries the Queen of the Amazons, Hippolyta.

EGEUS

The father of Hermia who chooses Demetrius as husband for his daughter.

PHILOSTRATE

Master of the revels to Theseus

OBERON

He is the King of the fairies and husband of Titania. He uses Puck as his henchman to carryout his magical activities. His affection for the Indian changeling makes him use magic to compel Titania into obedience.

TITANIA

The Queen of the fairies. She falls in love with Bottom when magic portion is applied to her eyelids.

LYSANDER

Hermia's suitor and lover.

DEMETRIUS

An Athenian lad who and suitor to Hermia. He is loved by Helena but he shuns her. He later loves and marries her.

QUINCE, SNUG, BOTTOM, FLUTE, SNOUT, STARVELING

Workmen who stage Pyramus and Thisbe play.

PUCK OR ROBIN GOOD FELLOW

Oberon's errand spirit

PEASEBLOSSOM, COBWEB, MOTH & MUSTARDSEED

Fairies