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All You Need To Know About Shakespeare
A Midsummer Night's Dream


A Midsummer Night's Dream by Howard David Johnson
Romeo and Juliet
Much Ado About Nothing
Twelfth Night
The Tempest
As You Like It


Characters:
Puck (also known as Robin Goodfellow)- Oberons jester;  a naughty fairy
Oberon- king of the fairies
Titainia- queen of the fairies
Lysander- the man who is in love with
Hermia
Hermia- the woman who is in love with Lysander;  she is a good friend of Helena
Demetrius- another man who is in love with Hermia
Helena- a woman who is in love with Demetrius;  she is a good friend of Hermia
Egeus- Hermia's father
Thesus- hero and duke of Athens;  he is to marry Hippolyta
Hippolyta- the queen of the Amazons;  she is to marry Thesus
Nick Bottom- a weaver who is in the play for Thesus and Hippolyta's wedding
Peter Quince- a carpenter;  he is in charge of the play for the wedding
Francis Flute- a bellows-mender;  he is in the play for the wedding
Robin Starveling- a tailor who is in the play for the wedding
Tom Snout- a tinker who is in the play for the wedding
Snug- a joiner who is in the play for the wedding
Philostrate- master of the revels for Thesus
Mustardseed,
Peaseblossom, Cobweb, and Mote- fairies in service of Titania

Plot:  Thesus, Duke of Athens, is about to marry Hippolyta.  In honour of the celebration, he commands the master of the revels to create a play.  Just then Egeus storms in, daughter and two men in tow.  The men are Lysander and Demetrius.   Egeus wants Hermia to marry Demetrius, who loves Hermia, but Hermia loves Lysander and refuses to follow her father's wishes.  Egeus wants the Duke to punish Hermia.  Thesus gives Hermia the time until his wedding to make up her mind about how she is going to act.  If she refuses to do what her father tells her, she may be sent to a convent or even be killed.  Despite this warning, Lysander and Hermia decide to run away to Lysander's aunt's house (which is seven leagues away from the city).  Hermia tells her good friend Helena of their plans.  Helena was engaged to Demetrius, but he canceled that when he met Hermia.  Helena still loves him, even though he left her.  
    The next group of characters we see is a group of Athenian men.  They are rehearsing a play they wish to perform in honour of Thesus' marriage.  They are all craftsmen, simple and good.  Peter Quince is in charge; he is a carpenter.  Nick Bottom is a weaver who thinks he can do everything better than everyone else.  The play they are to put on is Pyramus and Thisby.  All the parts are assigned.
    While the lovers are plotting and men rehearsing, the fairies are in an uproar.  Oberon and Titania are quarreling over a small mortal boy,  "so sweet a changeling" (act ii;  scene i).  Titania has had the boy ever since she returned from India. She returns to bless Thesus's wedding, but she was encountered with more conflict than she bargined for apparently.  Oberon wishes to make the boy his night of sorts, and Titania wishes to dote upon him.  The King and Queen of Fairies fights again, and Titania storms off.  Oberon sends his serving boy Puck to fetch an herb that will make whoever is under its influence to fall in love with the first person they see.   Oberon wishes to take revenge upon Titania for not giving him the boy.  Right after Puck leaves, Demetrius and Helena enter.  Oberon makes himself invisible so that he may observe the scene.  He is startled to hear how roughly Demetrius tries to shake Helena off.  When the two mortals exit and Puck enters, Oberon instructs him to  use the flower to make Demetrius fall in love with Helena.  Puck follows Oberon's orders and puts the herb juice on the eyes of Titania, to make her fall in love with whomever she sees first.  Then Puck sees a man in Athenean clothing.  Thinking it is the Athenean man of Oberon's instructions, he puts the man to sleep and places the juice on the man's eyes.  Unfortunately, the man is Lysander, and not the intended Demetrius.  Lysander spots Helena, and falls madly in love with her.  He abandons Hermia.  Hoping to undo his mistake, Puck puts the juice on Demetrius's eyes.  Now, both Demetrius and Lysander are in love with Helena.  Helena believes that they are making fun of her so she tries to avoid them and she shuns them.  Hermia becomes insanely jealous and hurt, so she challenges Helena to a duel.  Lysander are mirroring the girls behavior, and nearly come to blows over the matter as well.  In an attempt to save the day, Puck imitates their voices to confuse them and lead all of the young Athenians away from eachother into the forest.  
    Titania wakes up, and when she does the first thing she sees is Nick Bottom, whose head is one of an ass's, thanks to Puck.  She falls madly in love with him because she is under the influence of the herb, and she lavishes him with everything she has availible.  Oberon gets ahold of the little Indian boy that was the cause for this all.  Puck, in an attempt to make things right, puts the herb juice on Lysander's eyes, so that the first person he will see when he wakes is Hermia.  Thesus and Hippolyta find the two pairs of now happy lovers inthe forest and bring them back to Athens.  They all have a group wedding, and afterwards they watch the play put on by Peter Quince and all the other men.  (Nick Bottom has his old head on.)  The play is a deliciously blundering performance of the story of Pyramus and Thisbe.  The newly weds go to bed, and fairies make a short appearance to bless the sleeping couples.  The only one on stage after the fairies exit is Puck, who asks the audience to remember the play as if it was a dream.  

Quotes:
Puck:

If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
if you pardon, we will mend:
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call;
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends.
act v;  scene i

Titania:
Set your heart at rest:
The fairy land buys not the child of me.
His mother was a votaress of my order:
And, in the spiced Indian air, by night,
Full often hath she gossip'd by my side,
And sat with me on Neptune's yellow sands,
Marking the embarked traders on the flood,
When we have laugh'd to see the sails conceive
And grow big-bellied with the wanton wind;
Which she, with pretty and with swimming gait
Following,--her womb then rich with my young squire,--
Would imitate, and sail upon the land,
To fetch me trifles, and return again,
As from a voyage, rich with merchandise.
But she, being mortal, of that boy did die;
And for her sake do I rear up her boy,
And for her sake I will not part with him.
act ii;  scene i

Fairy:
Over hill, over dale,
Thorough bush, thorough brier,
Over park, over pale,
Thorough flood, thorough fire,
I do wander everywhere,
Swifter than the moon's sphere;
And I serve the fairy queen,
To dew her orbs upon the green.
The cowslips tall her pensioners be:
In their gold coats spots you see;
Those be rubies, fairy favours,
In those freckles live their savours:
I must go seek some dewdrops here
And hang a pearl in every cowslip's ear.
Farewell, thou lob of spirits; I'll be gone:
Our queen and all our elves come here anon.
act ii;  scene i

Review:  Love in this play is a difficult beast, not the rose it can be viewed as in Romeo and Juliet.  It is a rough sea, in which there is almost no smooth sailing.  At the same time, love is not examined and explored.  The audience is a casual observer, not the lover.  Love becomes something to be made fun of, something to laugh at when the going gets rough.  Another difficult beast ,magic, is one of the key elements.  It manipulates peoples lives so easily and it is used to achieve other peoples means.  Magic is the conductor of this spectacle.  It is the reason conflict arises.  The central conflict between Lysander, Hermia, Helena, and Demetrius
is caused by Oberon, and later Puck, trying to make something better.  The attempt fails.  Magic is something that seemingly has a mind of it's own, and it is proved to be something to be avoided.  Dreams tie all this together.  In the end, Puck tells the audience to regard the play as a dream.  The title affirms that.  Also, most of the defining action (the application of the herb juice) takes place when the characters sleep.  The play on a whole can leave one wondering if it really was a dream.  

Sources:
A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare
www.sparknotes.com
www-tech.mit.edu
www.allgreatquotes.com