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A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Actors in colorful costumes performing a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream

Introduction to the play

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’s 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.”

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

The Folger Shakespeare

Our bestselling editions of Shakespeare's plays and poems

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

From the audio edition of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Full recording available from Simon & Schuster Audio on CD and for download.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream in our collection

A selection of Folger collection items related to A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Find more in our digital image collection

Illustrations to A Midsummer Night's Dream. By P. Marcius-Simons.
San Francisco Theatre, A Midsummer Night's Dream, playbill
From a series of silhouettes illustrating A Midsummer Night's Dream. By P. Konewka; A. Vogel sc.
Bottom the weaver. 19th-century drawing by George Cruikshank.

Essays and resources from The Folger Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Learn more about the play, its language, and its history from the experts behind our edition.

About Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream
An introduction to the plot, themes, and characters in the play

Quotes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Reading Shakespeare’s Language
A guide for understanding Shakespeare’s words, sentences, and wordplay

Shakespeare and his world

Learn more about Shakespeare, his theater, and his plays from the experts behind our editions.

Shakespeare’s Life
An essay about Shakespeare and the time in which he lived

Shakespeare’s Theater
An essay about what theaters were like during Shakespeare’s career

The Publication of Shakespeare’s Plays
An essay about how Shakespeare’s plays were published

Related blog posts and podcasts

Teaching A Midsummer Night’s Dream

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. See more primary sources related to A Midsummer Night’s Dream on Shakespeare Documented