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• The Plays
A Midsummer Night's Dream

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania.
Act 2, scene 1, line 62

I'll put a girdle round about the earth
In forty minutes.

Act 2, scene 1, lines 181–182

The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was.
Act 4, scene 1, lines 220–224

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare stages the workings of love. Theseus and Hippolyta, about to marry, are figures from mythology. In the woods outside Theseus' Athens, two young men and two young women sort themselves out into couples—but not before they form first one love triangle, and then another.

Also in the woods, the king and queen of fairyland, Oberon and Titania, battle over custody of an orphan boy; Oberon uses magic to make Titania fall in love with a weaver named Bottom, whose head is temporarily transformed into that of a donkey by a hobgoblin or "puck," Robin Goodfellow. Finally, Bottom and his companions ineptly stage the tragedy of "Pyramus and Thisbe."

Shakespeare probably wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream in the mid-1590s. The play was published as a quarto in 1600. The main plot has no obvious sources, but sources for Pyramus and Thisbe include Ovid’s Metamorphoses. Shakespeare may also have drawn on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and Sir Thomas North’s English translation of Plutarch’s Lives.

Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 1993 Folger Shakespeare Library


Further reading
F. Murray Abraham. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Actors on Shakespaere series. London: Faber and Faber, 2005.

Jay L. Halio. A Midsummer Night’s Dream: a Guide to the Play. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003.

Irene G. Nash. Women's Worlds in Shakespeare's Plays. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1997.

Stuart M. Tave. Lovers, Clowns, and Fairies: An Essay on Comedies. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993.

Mark Taylor. Shakespeare's Imitations. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 2002.

Gary Jay Williams. Our Moonlight Revels: A Midsummer Night's Dream in the Theatre. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1997.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1999, Fox Searchlight Pictures). Directed by Michael Hoffman. Cast includes Kevin Kline, Michelle Pfeiffer, Stanley Tucci, Rupert Everett, Calista Flockhart, and Christian Bale.

A Midsummer Night's Dream (1935, Warner Bros.). Directed by William Dieterle and Max Reinhardt. Cast includes James Cagney, Joe E. Brown, Dick Powell, Mickey Rooney, Victor Jory, and Olivia de Havilland.

Related movie
Get Over It (2001, Ignite Entertainment). Directed by Tommy O'Haver. Cast includes Kirsten Dunst, Ben Foster, Sisqó, Shane West, Colin Hanks, Swoosie Kurtz, Ed Begley, Jr., Zoe Saldana, Mila Kunis, Carmin Electra, and Martin Short.
Charles Kean’s book of costume designs for plays. 19th or 20th century

Mendelssohn. Sommernachtstraum. Ouverture; arr.. Manuscript, 10 July 1829


Puck Statue

Folger Theatre

On Stage: A Midsummer Night's Dream

Inside the Collection

Folios and Quartos from the Collection: A Midsummer Night's Dream

Read the Play

Folger Digital Texts:
A Midsummer Night's Dream

Teacher Resources

Teaching A Midsummer Night's Dream

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