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From Shakespeare's 'First Folio'
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of his most popular and most performed plays. It is considered Shakespearean Comedy, and deals with the trials and tribulations of various sets of lovers. A Midsummer Night’s Dream craftily combines four individual plots in order to create an intricate comedy that nearly averts a disastrous conclusion.

Shakespearean Comedy is the opposite of Shakespearean Tragedy, it begins with chaos and disagreement, in this case, Hermia disagrees with her father, Egeus, on whom she is to marry. Egeus has chosen Demetrius for her husband, but Hermia loves Lysander. Helena is added to this complicated situation, as she is Hermia’s friend who is in love with Demetrius.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream contains four “sets” of lovers:
  • Theseus, the Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons
  • The “young lovers”: Hermia, Lysander, Helena, and Demetrius
  • Oberon and Titania, the King and Queen of the Fairies
  • Pyramys and Thisbe: characters played by the “rude mechanicals” who provide a reflection of what could have happened with the young lovers

The setting of the woods is extremely important in this play. This is where the young lovers retreat to in attempt to solve their relationship woes. During their time in the woods, their relationships become immensely more complex, thanks to Puck, or Robin Goodfellow’s “love potion”. Puck is instructed by Oberon to put the love potion into the eyes of Demetrius so that he will fall in love with Helena. He mistakenly uses the potion on Lysander instead, and near-insanity ensues.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream contains a “play within a play”, an element that Shakespeare uses in other works such as Hamlet. This play, “Pyramus and Thisbe” is performed by the rude mechanicals, and is a rather botched presentation. Putting its silliness aside, the performance is extremely relevant to the plot because it provides an example of what kind of devastating events could have occurred had the lovers not harmoniously reunited with their mates.

Dramatic irony, or having the audience possess information that the characters are not privy to, is an important aspect of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Puck’s love potion debacle is known step-by-step to the audience, but a tremendous amount of confusion and consequent irony occurs because the young lovers are unaware that they are under the influence of Puck’s mistakenly placed love potion.

In the end, Oberon and Puck manage to help the young lovers avoid tragedy, and a group wedding is held. Theseus allows Hermia and Lysander to marry, as well and Helena and Demetrius. Following this, Puck speaks directly to the audience, suggesting that if they have been offended, the entire occurrence was merely a dream.