"The course of true love never did run smooth." (A Midsummer Night's Dream, 1.1.136) Explore blog posts, podcast episodes, and items from the Folger collection that shed light on the characters, plot, themes, and history of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare's magical comedy.
Jump directly to these A Midsummer Night's Dream resources:
- Plot synopsis
- Character map
- Understanding and interpreting A Midsummer Night's Dream
- A Midsummer Night's Dream in performance
- Famous quotes
- Early printed texts, images, and resources for teachers
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.
A Midsummer Night's Dream character map
Understanding and interpreting A Midsummer Night's Dream
Dramaturg's Notes: Folger Theatre
In her notes on Folger Theatre's 2016 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, dramaturg Michele Osherow writes about the play's characters "confronting, exploring, and indulging imagination, testing conditions under which the imagined turns real."
A Midsummer Night's Dream in performance: Director insights
An Interview with Peter Brook
Director Peter Brook's 1970 A Midsummer Night’s Dream is among that play’s most lauded and best known productions.
A Midsummer Night's Dream in Los Angeles
Director Casey Wilder Mott’s 2017 film adaptation sets Shakespeare’s story in modern Los Angeles.
Still Dreaming: Shakespeare with Seniors
Ben Steinfeld and Noah Brody, co-directors of New York’s Fiasco Theater, worked with residents of the Lillian Booth Actors Home—filled with retired singers, actors, dancers and musicians—on a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Each quote is followed by the character who's speaking and the act, scene, and line number. Read the quote in context on the Folger Shakespeare site.
Things base and vile, holding no quantity, love can
transpose to form and dignity; love looks not with
the eyes, but with the mind. (Helena—1.1)
The course of true love never did run smooth. (Lysander—1.1.136)
Over hill, over dale… (Fairy—2.1.2 ff)
Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania. (Oberon—2.1.62)
In maiden meditation, fancy-free. (Oberon—2.1.170)
I know a bank where the wild thyme blows… (Oberon—2.1.257)
Lord, what fools these mortals be! (Robin—3.2.117)
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact. (Theseus—5.1.7-8)
I’ll put a girdle round about the earth (Robin—2.1.181)
You spotted snakes with double tongue (First Fairy—2.2.9ff)
Sees Helen’s beauty in a brow of Egypt. (Theseus—5.1.10-11)
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumber’d here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream (Robin—5.1.413-418)
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends. (Robin – 5.1.427-428)
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.
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.
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: