A

A Midsummer Night's Dream

In A Midsummer Night's Dream, residents of Athens mix with fairies from a local forest, with comic results. In the city, Theseus, Duke of Athens, is to marry Hippolyta, queen of the Amazons. Bottom the weaver and his friends rehearse in the woods a play they hope to stage for the wedding celebrations.

Four young Athenians are in a romantic tangle. Lysander and Demetrius love Hermia; she loves Lysander and her friend Helena loves Demetrius. Hermia’s father, Egeus, commands Hermia to marry Demetrius, and Theseus supports the father’s right. All four young Athenians end up in the woods, where Robin Goodfellow, who serves the fairy king Oberon, puts flower juice on the eyes of Lysander, and then Demetrius, unintentionally causing both to love Helena. Oberon, who is quarreling with his wife, Titania, uses the flower juice on her eyes. She falls in love with Bottom, who now, thanks to  Robin Goodfellow, wears  an ass's head.

As the lovers sleep, Robin Goodfellow restores Lysander's love for Hermia, so that now each young woman is matched with the man she loves. Oberon disenchants Titania and removes Bottom’s ass’s head. The two young couples join the royal couple in getting married, and Bottom rejoins his friends to perform the play.

Early printed texts

A Midsummer Night's Dream was first printed in 1600 as a quarto (Q1). In 1619, a new quarto of the play was published (Q2) based on Q1 but with some additional stage directions and some small corretions to the text. That text, in turn, was the basis for the 1623 First Folio (F1) with, again, some minor changes, including the substitution of Egeus for Philostrate in the final scene of the play. Most modern editions, like the Folger editions, are based on the Q1 text.

013283.jpg

View Image Assets
Item Title: 
[Midsummer night’s dream] A midsommer nights dreame.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22302
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1600

013341.jpg

View Image Assets
Item Title: 
[Midsummer night’s dream] A midsommer nights dreame.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22303 copy 1
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1600 [i.e. 1619]

033066.jpg

View Image Assets
Item Title: 
Works. 1623] Mr. William Shakespeares comedies, histories, & tragedies : published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22273 Fo.1 no.68
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1623

057761.jpg

View Image Assets
Item Title: 
Mr. VVilliam Shakespeares comedies, histories, and tragedies. : Published according to the true originall copies.
Item Call Number: 
STC 22274 Fo.2 no.07
Item Creator: 
Shakespeare, William, 1564-1616.
Item Date: 
1632

Picturing A Midsummer Night's Dream

As part of an NEH-funded project, the Folger digitized thousands of 18th-, 19th-, and early 20th-century images representing Shakespeare’s plays. Some of these images show actors in character, while others show the plays as if they were real-life events—telling the difference isn't always easy. A selection of images related to Dream is shown below, with links to our digital image collection.

029220.jpg

View Image Assets
Titania and Bottom (Act 3, scene 1; 19th century)

Titania and Bottom (Act 3, scene 1; 19th century)

Item Title: 
[A series of silhouettes illustrating Midsummer night's dream] [graphic] / P. Konewka ; A. Vogel sc.
Item Call Number: 
ART File S528m5 no.80 part 12 (size M)
Item Creator: 
Vogel, Albert, 1814-1886, printmaker.
Item Date: 
[S.l. : s.n., 19th century]

028166.jpg

View Image Assets
Oberon squeezing potion onto Titania's eyes (Act 2, scene 2; 19th century)

Oberon squeezing potion onto Titania's eyes (Act 2, scene 2; 19th century)

Item Title: 
Oberon and Titania, Oberon: What thou seest when thou dost wake... Midsummer night's dream, act II scene III [i.e. 2] [graphic] / V.W. Bromley, pinxt ; C. Mottram sculpt.
Item Call Number: 
ART File S528m5 no.25 copy 1 (size S)
Item Creator: 
Mottram, Charles, 1817-1876, printmaker.
Item Date: 
[S.l.] : Cassell & Company, [19th cent.]

034919.jpg

View Image Assets
Puck with the sleeping Hermia (Act 3, scene 2; 1918)

Puck with the sleeping Hermia (Act 3, scene 2; 1918)

Item Title: 
Midsummer night's dream, Puck: On the ground sleep sound ... [graphic] / [Louis Rhead].
Item Call Number: 
ART Box R469 no.84 (size S)
Item Creator: 
Rhead, Louis, 1857-1926, artist.
Item Date: 
[not after 1918]

034371.jpg

View Image Assets
William Blake drawing of Oberon and Titania (late 18th or early 19th century)

William Blake drawing of Oberon and Titania (late 18th or early 19th century)

Item Title: 
Midsummer night's dream, figure of Oberon and Titania [graphic] / [William Blake].
Item Call Number: 
ART Box B636 no.2 (size S)
Item Creator: 
Blake, William, 1757-1827, artist.
Item Date: 
[late 18th century or early 19th century]

036285.jpg

View Image Assets
Puck (1901)

Puck (1901)

Item Title: 
Midsummer night's dream [a set of 65 original drawings] [graphic] / Fanny Railton.
Item Call Number: 
ART Box R151.8 no.1 part 60 (size L)
Item Creator: 
Railton, Fanny, artist.
Item Date: 
[1901]

056795.jpg

View Image Assets
 Jiří Trnka lithograph of the mechanicals (1961)

 Jiří Trnka lithograph of the mechanicals (1961)

Item Title: 
Sommernachtstraum [graphic] : 5 Originallithographie n in farbe / Jiří Trnka.
Item Call Number: 
ART Flat d14 no.1-5
Item Date: 
[1961]

036684.jpg

View Image Assets
Titania about to wake and see Bottom (Act 3, scene 1; 1900)

From Herbert Beerbohm Tree's production, Titania about to wake and see Bottom (Act 3, scene 1; 1900)

Item Title: 
Scenes from A midsummer night's dream at Her Majesty's Theatre [graphic] / Fred Pegram.
Item Call Number: 
ART Box P376 no.8 (size XL)
Item Creator: 
Pegram, Fred, artist.
Item Date: 
[1900?]

More images of A Midsummer Night's Dream can be seen in our digital image collection. (Because of how they were cataloged, some images from other plays might appear in the image searches linked here, so always check the sidebar to see if the image is described as part of a larger group.)

Teacher & student resources

Created by teachers and curated by the Folger, these teaching modules can help you with A Midsummer Night's Dream in the classroom:

More teaching modules and resources for teachers and students can be found in our Teach & Learn section.