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Watercolor of Hermia and Lysander. John Simmons, 1870. Public Domain.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Review

Spoiler Warning: This is an in-depth analysis of the play and spoilers are inevitable!

“A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, a comedy, is one of Shakespeare’s most famous plays. It begins with Theseus and Hippolyta, an engaged couple, talking about how excited they are for their wedding. Then, the audience is introduced to Lysander, a young Athenian, and Hermia, the woman he loves, and who loves him. Unfortunately for them, Hermia’s father, Egeus, is opposed to the match, and wants Hermia to marry another man – Demetrius. According to the law of Athens, Hermia must obey her father, make a vow of perpetual chastity, or die.

Lysander and Hermia plan to run away, at night, to the house of Lysander’s aunt, where they will be safe from the Athenian law, and can be married. Hermia confides the plan to her best friend, Helena. Helena is deeply in love with Demetrius, who does not love her. She tells him what Hermia has told her, and he decides to follow Hermia. Helena follows Demetrius. However, Lysander and Hermia have a head start.

On the way to the house of Lysander’s aunt, Hermia and Lysander must go through a wood, which is inhabited by fairies, including Oberon, the king of fairies, who has a quarrel with Titania, the fairy queen. The wood is also the rehearsal stage for several tradesmen, who are practicing a tragedy to be performed at the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. Oberon tells Puck, his servant, to put a potion on Titania’s eyes which will cause her to fall in love with the first thing she sees. Oberon also spots Demetrius and Helena. Demetrius is looking for Hermia and Lysander, while being mean to Helena at the same time. Oberon tells Puck to put some of the potion in Demetrius’ eyes to make him love Helena.

Puck put the potion in Titania’s eyes. When she woke up, she fell in love with the first person she saw, which was Bottom, one of the tradesmen who was practicing the play. Puck went to put the potion on Demetrius’ eyes, but accidentally put it in Lysander’s eyes instead! He put it in Demetrius’ eyes afterwards. Both men started singing Helena’s praises, and eventually started fighting! Hermia was very confused.

Soon, Oberon and Puck found a counter-potion for Lysander and Titania, and there was peace again in fairyland. They also gave Lysander the counter-potion, and he loved Hermia once more. Egeus consented to their marriage, and Helena married Demetrius. Theseus married Hippolyta, and the tradesmen put on a very funny play about Pyramus and Thisbe.

In my personal opinion, the most virtuous character is Hermia, as she does not betray anyone, or cast any spells.

What makes this play unusual is the absence of an obvious or definite villain. No character was completely wicked. But no character seemed completely good. Perhaps this adds to the comedy of the whole play.

The play within a play is possibly the summit of all the comedy in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Perhaps it is tragic in the eyes of those who acted in it, or those who would have liked to perform instead of those who acted in it, but for everyone else, including most of the characters in it, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”, it is extremely comic.

Katherine says:

– Was Oberon right to order Puck to put Titania under the spell?
No, he was not. In fact, Oberon didn’t have much right to be angry with Titania at all. Titania had a very reasonable desire to care for the child of her friend, and although Oberon may have had pressing reasons for needing the child, he certainly did not give any. The putting of Titania under a spell shows a childish desire for “getting back,” as well as being willing to scheme and manipulate his wife to get what he wanted – neither very nice things for a fairy king to do.

– Was Helena right to tell Demetrius about Hermia and Lysander’s escape into the woods?
No, she wasn’t. Lysander and Hermia were her friends, and she must have known they would certainly not wish for Demetrius to know of their flight. She was treating her own friends (who in fact did like her and treat her kindly) shabbily for the sake of currying favor with a man who, although she happened to be besotted with him, was morally bankrupt and certainly not worthy of any confidence.

– Does Egeus care about Hermia?
It would seem most likely that he doesn’t. Of course, we cannot see into his mind, but none of his actions or words indicate any kind of love for her at all; from his words and behavior, he seems to only care for himself and his friend Demetrius.

Have you read, “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,”? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

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