A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

SYNOPSIS

Act I scene i
Theseus, the Duke of Athens, eagerly looks forward to his marriage to Hippolyta, the Queen of the Amazons. Their happy planning is interrupted by the entrance of Egeus, an Athenean noble, who bursts in with his daughter, Hermia, Demetrius, the man he wants her to marry, and Lysander, the man she wants to marry. Egeus cites Athenian law that a child must obey her father or be put to death, and Theseus confirms that this is indeed the law: she must obey, perish, or become a nun. When they're left alone, Hermia and Lysander decide to elope, and confide their plans to Helena, Hermia's dearest friend, to whom Demetrius played court before he transferred his affections to Hermia. After they leave, Helena decides to risk telling Demetrius of Hermia's plan, in the hopes that he will then return to her in gratitude.


Act I scene ii
At the home of Peter Quince the carpenter a rehearsal is called: workmen of Athens, amateur actors, are organizing a performance in honor of Theseus' wedding, hoping to be chosen to perform for the Duke and to win a reward. Nick Bottom, a weaver, whom all the others acknowledge as the best actor they know, wishes to play all of the parts, but eventually is cajoled into playing the hero, Pyramus.


Act II scene i
That night, in a wood near Athens, fairies gather. Oberon, the King of the fairies, and Titania, his Queen, are fighting. Titania has adopted a little boy and dotes on him. The jealousy this provokes in Oberon, and their disputes, are disordering all of the natural world. Oberon sends Puck, another fairy, to fetch a love potion to apply to Titania's eyes, to make her fall in love with something else, something rediculous, so that Oberon can then adopt the boy himself and restore order to their relationship. Demetrius and Helena run into the grove, and Oberon, seeing Demetrius' disdainful treatment of the loving Helena, instructs Puck to put the love potion on the young Athenian's eyes as well.


Act II scene ii
After Titania is sung to sleep by her attendant fairies, Oberon and Puck slip into her bower and apply the potion. Lysander and Hermia, exhausted from their trek from Athens, lie down to rest in the woods, where Puck finds them and, mistaking Lysander for Demetrius, puts the love potion on his eyes. When Helena, who has again been rebuked by Demetrius, awakes Lysander, he immediately falls madly in love with her, and amorously chases her off through the woods. Hermia wakes up, and, finding herself alone, sets off in search of her Lysander.


Act III scene i
Quince and company are also in the woods that night to rehearse their play. Puck happens upon them, and, being unable to resist a prank, magically puts a donkey head on Bottom, causing his mates flee in terror. Titania, being awakened by his terrible singing, the love drops kick in, and she falls madly in love with ass-headed Bottom.


Act III scene ii
Oberon is delighted to learn from Puck that the trick has worked on Titania, but less delighted when Demetrius turns up begging Hermia for her love. Hermia stomps off, Demetrius lies down to brood and falls asleep. Oberon tells Puck to make everything right by fetching Helena to the grove while he personally puts the potion on Demetrius' eyes. Helena does come to grove, hotly followed by Lysander, so that when Demetrius wakes up, BOTH men woo Helena, who assumes that they're mocking her. When Hermia comes back in, she's amazed that her intended has gone over to her friend, and wheels furiously on Helena while Lysander and Demetrius stomp off to fight a duel. Oberon, driven almost to distraction by Puck's careless application of the love potion, instructs him to REALLY put everything right this time. Puck causes a fog to come and confound the confounded lovers, makes them all sleep, and finally gets the magic on the right eyes.


Act IV scene i
Titania and her fairies celebrate the wit and beauty of Bottom, but he's more interested in napping than dallying. Titania joyfully winds him in her lovely arms and falls asleep. Oberon and Puck arrive. Oberon tells Puck that, under the spell of the potion, Titania has given the child into his care, and now, feeling rather sorry for her, he applies the antidote to her eyes and wakes her. She tells her husband that she's had the strangest dream: that she was in love with an ass. Then she sees Bottom. Titania and Oberon renew their love in a dance, then flee the coming of the dawn, leaving Puck to take off Bottom's false head. As the sun rises, Hippolyta and Theseus, who have been out riding on the morning of their wedding, speak ecstatically of their mutual love of the barking of hounds. Then they stumble on the four young lovers, still asleep, and call for hunting horns to sound and waken them. Theseus has mellowed under Hippolyta's benevolent influence and pardons the runaways, inviting them to be married with him and his bride back in Athens. The only mortal now in the woods, Bottom, also wakes up, muses on HIS amazing dream, and races back to town to put on a show.


Act IV scene ii
All is dolor at Peter Quince's house: if there's no Bottom, there's no possiblity of doing the show, so when he runs on, they're overjoyed. The show WILL go on.


Act V
After the wedding, Theseus compares lovers, madmen and poets, finding that they're all more alike than different in their passions, but Hippolyta speaks of the benefits of imagination and the good it can lead to. They're joined by Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius to watch Quince's company perform their play, which limps and hops along to a death scene for Bottom that brings tears to their eyes (of laughter). The play is pronounced a success inspite of everything and all retire to bed. Oberon and Titania, restored to love and attended by their court, sing and dance a blessing on the palace and all within. Puck, left alone on stage, tells the audience that that if they didn't like the play, they should just think of it as a dream, and applaud the actors anyway. And so they should.

(Synopsis by Beverly Bullock)

©2004-2010 ShakespeareNYC

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