What happens in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

The Summer Solstice falls in the 3rd week of June. That fine pagan festival is also known as Midsummer. For June’s edition of What Happens in Shakespeare, let’s dive into A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The Reduced Shakespeare Company tweeted: “ ‘The course of true love never did run smooth’ ” (III,2). Everyone likes a nice ass.”

What happens in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

You have your fairies: Oberon and Titania, the Fairy King and Queen; and Puck, Oberon’s right-hand man.

You have your hot young mortals: Hermia, Helena, Demetrius and Lysander. These four are all snarled up in a four-way love knot. Let’s take a moment to unravel that.

Hermia loves Lysander. Lysander loves Hermia.

Demetrius also loves Hermia. She does not love him back.

Hermia’s father wants her to marry Demetrius. In the first scene Hermia’s father actually threatens kill her if she doesn’t marry Demetrius – a jarring moment in an otherwise frothy story.

Helena loves Demetrius. He does not love her back, even though they used to be together.

No one loves Helena.

Then you have your weekend-warrior theater company: Bottom and friends.

The mortals go into the forest: Hermia and Lysander to elope, Demetrius and Helena out of concern that someone is getting sexy and it’s not them. Puck doses the 2 boys with sex pollen, which is barely necessary, what with all the hormones and lack of supervision.

Mixups, crying, and a certain amount of nakedness happen.

Bottom and friends are also in the forest, rehearsing a play for a party being thrown by Hermia’s father.

Oberon and Titania live in the forest and are locked in a domestic power struggle.

Oberon breaks out the sex pollen again to make Titania lust for Bottom, who in a side plot got himself a donkey’s head.

More misplaced and/or sex-pollen-induced acts of lust, more crying.

Puck bustles around trying to cover for his boss, Oberon, who eventually relents and gives out the antidote to the sex pollen.

Problem solved–except for Titania, who is a tad bit mortified. Imagine being the chair of the Opera Gala and discovering some random Lyft driver’s name tattooed on your cleavage.

But this is a Shakespeare comedy, and that means anyone who can married at the end does get married. Titania and Oberon make up. Hermia’s terrible father sees reason. Hermia marries Lysander. And Demetrius now loves Helena and marries her.


For actual scholarship and analysis, visit the Shakespeare Resource Center’s page on A Midsummer Night’s Dream.