header logo
A Midsummer Night's Dream

A Midsummer Night's Dream Summary


Here you will find a A Midsummer Night's Dream summary (William Shakespeare's book).
We begin with a summary of the entire book, and then you can read each individual chapter's summary by visiting the links on the "Chapters" section.

P.S.: As an Amazon Associate, we earn money from purchases made through links in this page. But the summaries are totally free!

Last Updated: Monday 1 Jan, 2024

A Midsummer Night's Dream Summary Overview

The Duke of Athens, Theseus, is preparing for his nuptials with the Amazonian queen, Hippolyta, while an Athenian noble, Egeus, has plans for his daughter Hermia to wed Demetrius, but she defies his desires as she loves Lysander. Despite the potential consequences, Hermia and Lysander decide to flee Athens and wed at Lysander's aunt's home, a plan confided in Hermia's friend Helena, who was once engaged to Demetrius and still pines for him. Helena divulges their plan to Demetrius, hoping to reclaim his affection and leads to Demetrius and Helena following the fleeing lovers into the forest. This very forest is home to two unique groups. One group consists of fairies, including the fairy king Oberon and queen Titania, who have returned to bless Theseus and Hippolyta's marriage. However, they quarrel over a young Indian prince, who Oberon wishes to knight but Titania refuses. In revenge, Oberon instructs his servant, Puck, to procure a magical flower that can induce love. Oberon plans to use it on Titania but also instructs Puck to use it on a young Athenian man, intending for it to be used on Demetrius. Puck mistakenly uses it on Lysander, who wakes up to see Helena and falls in love with her. As Puck tries to rectify his mistake, both Lysander and Demetrius end up in love with Helena, leading to jealousy and near-violence. When Titania awakes, she is madly in love with Bottom, one of the Athenian craftsmen, whose head has been transformed into that of a donkey by Puck. Eventually, Oberon gets the Indian boy, and Puck rectifies his mistake by ensuring that Lysander wakes up in love with Hermia again. As day breaks, Theseus and Hippolyta find the lovers in the forest and bring them back for a joint wedding. The craftsmen then perform a hilariously clumsy play for the newlyweds. After the wedding, the fairies emerge to place a protective charm on the sleeping couples before vanishing, leaving only Puck to ask for the audience's forgiveness and approval, and to suggest that they might remember the play as a mere dream.

act 1 scene 1

In Athens, Duke Theseus and Hippolyta, his soon-to-be wife, are discussing their fast approaching wedding. Wanting to keep the celebrations going, Theseus tasks Philostrate, his Master of Revels, with preparing fun events for the Athenian youth. Even though he won Hippolyta over through battle, he vows to marry her with great joy and festivities. Athens citizen, Egeus, enters with his daughter Hermia, and Athenian boys, Lysander and Demetrius. Egeus complains to Theseus about Hermia's refusal to marry Demetrius, despite his earlier promise. Hermia loves Lysander instead, and Egeus demands legal repercussions for her disobedience. Theseus warns Hermia of severe consequences, either death or life as a nun. Lysander interjects, accusing Demetrius of being unfaithful, as he once loved Hermia's friend Helena, but left her for Hermia. Hearing this, Theseus draws Egeus and Demetrius aside, instructing Hermia to use his own wedding preparation time to decide her future. The group leaves, with only Hermia and Lysander remaining. Lysander consoles Hermia, saying, “The course of true love never did run smooth”. He suggests they elope to his aunt's house, away from Athens and its laws. Hermia agrees, and plans are made for the next night. Hermia's friend Helena, arrives, heartbroken over Demetrius's lost love. Hermia and Lysander reveal their escape plan, wishing Helena luck with Demetrius. Once alone, Helena considers revealing Hermia's plan to Demetrius, hoping to follow him into the woods and reignite his love for her.

act 1 scene 2

Away from Theseus’s palace, in a different part of Athens, some laborers gather at Peter Quince’s home. They plan to practice a play they hope to present at Theseus and Hippolyta's wedding celebration. Quince, a carpenter, struggles to lead the meeting due to continual interruptions from chatterbox weaver, Nick Bottom. Quince reveals their play is The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe, a tragic love story about two separated lovers who talk through a wall hole. The play includes a frightful lion that terrifies Thisbe, she escapes leaving her mantle behind. Pyramus finds the ripped mantle, assumes Thisbe's death, and kills himself. On discovering Pyramus’s dead body, Thisbe kills herself as well. Quince assigns the roles: Bottom gets Pyramus; Francis Flute, Thisbe; Robin Starveling, Thisbe’s mother; Tom Snout, Pyramus’s father; Quince, Thisbe’s father; and Snug, the lion. While distributing roles, Bottom frequently interrupts, insisting he should play every part. He believes he would be an excellent Thisbe due to his ability to mimic a woman’s voice, and an equally impressive lion due to his roaring ability. Quince persuades him that Pyramus, as a handsome character, fits him best. Snug frets over learning the lion’s role, but Quince assures him it's simple, as the lion doesn't speak, just growls and roars. However, this worries the workers who fear if the lion's roar scares the noble women in the audience, they might face execution. Bottom reassures them, saying he can roar as gently as a nightingale. Once again, Quince convinces him to stick to Pyramus. The group eventually breaks up, agreeing to meet in the forest for the next rehearsal.

act 2 scene 1

Two woodland fairies cross paths, one serving Titania and the other, Oberon. Oberon’s minion warns the other to keep Titania away from Oberon, due to their ongoing feud. This is over a charming little Indian boy whom Titania has adopted, and whom Oberon covets as his squire. Despite his insistence, Titania remains firm in her refusal to let the boy go. The fairy in service to Titania recognizes her counterpart as Puck, also known as Robin Goodfellow, a well-known trickster. Puck confirms this and shares some of his classic pranks. Their conversation is cut short as both Oberon and Titania, each with their own entourage, arrive from opposite sides of the glade. The fairy royals confront each other, questioning their presence in proximity to Athens, where Theseus and Hippolyta are soon to wed. Each accuses the other of having ulterior motives related to the upcoming nuptials. The subject of the Indian boy comes up, and despite Oberon’s pleas, Titania stands her ground. She refuses to hand over the boy, keeping him as a tribute to his late mother who was a follower of Titania. Oberon declines her invitation to join the fairy gathering, promising conflict until she relinquishes the boy. Titania storms off and Oberon plots his revenge. He orders Puck to retrieve a flower known as love-in-idleness, struck by one of Cupid’s arrows. The flower’s juice, when applied to a sleeping individual's eyelids, will make them fall in love with the first creature they see upon awakening. He plans to use it on Titania, setting her up to fall for something absurd. He vows not to reverse the spell until she hands over the Indian boy.

act 2 scene 2

Puck embarks on his quest for the flower while Demetrius and Helena come into the clearing. Oberon, unseen, observes as Demetrius, rejecting and insulting Helena, professes his disdain for her and his intention to disrupt Hermia and Lysander's relationship. Despite this, Helena maintains her loyalty and love for Demetrius. As they depart, Oberon resurfaces and predicts that before the night ends, Demetrius will be the one pursuing Helena. Puck returns with the love-inducing flower. Oberon plans to use the flower on Titania, who frequently sleeps in a flower-laden stream bank. He instructs Puck to find an Athenian youth who is the object of a woman's pursuit and to use the flower to make him fall in love with her. Puck is to identify the youth by his Athenian attire. After her festivities, Titania falls asleep by the stream. Oberon, creeping up, uses the flower to cast a love spell, ensuring she falls in love with the first creature she sees upon waking. Just then, Lysander and Hermia appear, lost and deciding to rest until morning. They maintain a distance while sleeping to uphold decorum. Puck, unable to find the Athenian youth and his female admirer, stumbles upon Lysander and Hermia. Mistaking them for the couple Oberon described, Puck uses the potion on Lysander and leaves. At the same time, Helena continues to trail Demetrius. Despite his discourteous behavior and insistence that she stop following him, Helena remains persistent. Eventually, she finds Lysander and awakens him. Under the influence of the potion, Lysander is smitten with Helena and confesses his love. She is disbelieving and leaves in anger, thinking he is jesting. Lysander follows her, leaving Hermia alone. Shocked to find herself alone upon waking, Hermia ventures into the woods in search of Lysander.

act 3 scene 1

The workmen meet in the forest to practice their play. Bottom, aware that they'll be acting for a noble audience, is worried that parts of the play, including Pyramus's suicide and the roaring lion, might scare the ladies and get them executed. His fears are shared by the others, prompting them to draft a prologue stating that the lion and sword aren't real, and no one will really die. They also decide to have one man play a physical wall and another the moonlight, using a bush and a lantern to depict the nighttime setting. While they rehearse, Puck comes across the scene and is amused by their efforts. He plays a prank on Bottom, who is briefly out of sight, by turning his head into an ass’s. Bottom's entry scares the others away. Puck, thrilled by the chaos, chases them. Bottom, however, stays back, puzzled. Meanwhile, Titania, sleeping in the same grove, wakes up. Affected by the enchanted flower juice on her eyelids, she falls head over heels for the ass-headed weaver. She demands that Bottom stay with her, wraps her arms around him, and assigns fairies—Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Mote, and Mustardseed—to cater to his every need. Oblivious to his changed appearance, Bottom assumes his friends are behaving foolishly. He introduces himself to the fairies while Titania gazes at him lovingly, following her to her forest dwelling.

act 3 scene 2

Puck and Oberon discuss Titania's infatuation with Bottom in a different section of the woodland. Pleased with his scheme, Oberon sees Hermia and Demetrius, whom Hermia found after Lysander vanished. Seeing a different man with Hermia from the one Puck bewitched surprises him. Oberon also notices a mistaken enchantment on his part upon seeing a new woman with the man he asked Puck to bewitch. They agree to rectify this. Hermia questions Demetrius about Lysander's location, fearing he's dead. He doesn't know, clearly upset Hermia prefers Lysander, causing her anger to spike. Eventually, he sleeps and Hermia goes looking for Lysander. Once Hermia leaves, Oberon orders Puck to fetch Helena and applies the potion to Demetrius's eyes. Helena and Lysander arrive, the latter still expressing love for Helena, who thinks he's making fun of her. Their argument wakes Demetrius, who sees and falls for Helena. Both men profess their love, arguing about their sincerity, and Helena thinks she's being mocked. Hermia returns upon hearing Lysander's voice, shocked to hear both men professing love for Helena. Helena accuses Hermia of participating in the prank, causing a rift in their friendship. The men threaten to duel for Helena while Hermia, holding Lysander back, incurs his disdain: “I will shake thee from me like a serpent” (III.ii.262). Hermia, suspecting Helena stole Lysander's affection, blames her height for luring him and threatens Helena who becomes scared. The men swear to defend Helena from Hermia, get into an argument and exit to duel. Helena flees Hermia, who leaves expressing her shock at the situation. Lastly, Oberon commands Puck to prevent a duel between Lysander and Demetrius. He instructs Puck to resolve the situation by dawn. Puck navigates the forest, mimicking both men's voices to confuse them and get them lost.

act 3 scene 3

In the end, all four young Athenian lovers individually find their way back to the forest clearing and drift into sleep. Puck applies the love potion to Lysander’s eyes, confidently proclaiming that everything will be fine by morning.

act 4 scene 1

Inside the grove, the Athenian couples are asleep when Titania, along with Bottom who still has a donkey's head, and the fairy servants enter. Titania requests Bottom to rest his head on her lap so she can adorn his hair with roses and kiss his “fair large ears” (IV.i.4). Bottom instructs Peaseblossom to scratch his head and Cobweb to find honey. When Titania asks if he's hungry, he displays an unusual craving for hay. She offers to have a fairy collect nuts for him, but he prefers dried peas. Feeling tired, Bottom decides to sleep in Titania's arms, making her send away the fairies. Looking at Bottom, Titania proclaims, “O how I love thee, how I dote on thee!” (IV.i.42), and they both fall asleep. Puck and Oberon then appear, discussing Oberon's successful revenge. Oberon recounts having teased Titania about her affection for Bottom and she agreed to give him the Indian child in return for undoing the spell. Pleased, Oberon recites the spell-breaking charm over the sleeping Titania. Upon waking up, she is shocked to find herself next to Bottom, who still has the donkey's head. Oberon then asks for music and leads his queen away for a dance. Hearing the morning lark, they leave the glade. Puck restores Bottom's normal head with a spell and trails his master. As the day begins, Theseus, Hippolyta, Egeus, and their attendants arrive, alarmed to find the young Athenian lovers asleep in the glade. Once awake, they struggle to recount the events of the past night, which now feels like a dream. It is clear that Demetrius and Helena, as well as Hermia and Lysander, are in love. Theseus instructs them to join him at the temple for a grand wedding feast. Once everyone leaves, Bottom wakes and recalls his fantastic dream, planning to have Peter Quince compose a ballad about his dream for their upcoming play.

act 4 scene 2

At Quince's place, the artisans are gloomy, concerned about their lost mate, Bottom. They last saw him before a donkey-headed beast appeared in the forest and fear he may have been a victim. They suppose maybe the fairies bewitched him. The question of whether they should perform the play without Bottom arises and Quince insists it's unthinkable since Bottom is the only one who can convincingly play Pyramus. The craftsmen all mourn their witty, intelligent, and outstanding friend. Snug arrives with surprising news: Theseus has wedded along with "two or three lords and ladies" and the newlyweds are keen for a play. The craftsmen miss Bottom more, as his performance could have won him a handsome reward from the duke. Suddenly, Bottom enters, wondering why everyone looks so gloomy. His reappearance fills the men with joy. He hints at a thrilling story from his forest adventure but insists there's no time to tell it. They must get ready for the performance at the duke's palace. As they depart, Bottom advises his friends against consuming onions or garlic, reminding them to "utter sweet breath" during the play.

act 5 scene 1

Theseus and Hippolyta discuss the tales of the Athenian youngsters concerning the enchanting love confusions of the past night at his palace. Theseus doubts their story, suggesting the role of love and darkness in stirring the imagination. However, Hippolyta finds it peculiar that all lovers narrate the same events identically, if the story was untrue. The young lovers arrive and Theseus warmly welcomes them. He suggests a performance to entertain them before bedtime and asks Egeus to suggest a list of plays. All of them are rejected by Theseus. Egeus then informs him about the Pyramus and Thisbe story prepared by the local craftsmen, cautioning its terrible quality. Despite this, Theseus believes the craftsmen's noble intentions would result in some worth in the play, regardless of the performance. The aristocrats take their places, and Quince enters, giving a hesitant prologue. Quince's odd pauses lead to misunderstanding his words. The remaining actors, including those playing Wall and Moonshine, follow and perform a comically bad rendition of the story. The nobles amuse themselves with the actors' peculiar dialogues and misinterpretations, especially Bottom's confusing lines as Pyramus, such as "I see a voice...I can hear my Thisbe’s face". The actor playing Wall, holds up his fingers to portray a crack, across which Pyramus and Thisbe interact. Snug, playing the lion, assures the ladies he isn't a real lion before roaring and tearing Thisbe's mantle, who flees in response. Discovering the torn mantle, Pyramus pretends to kill himself, followed by Thisbe. Post-play, Bottom inquires if the audience wants an epilogue or a dance. Theseus chooses the dance, which is performed by Bottom and Flute, after which they all retire to bed.

act 5 scene 2

Puck steps on stage, notifying that the fairies are approaching the castle since it's nighttime and he has been “sent with broom before / To sweep the dust behind the door” (V.ii.19–20). Oberon and Titania arrive and, through a fairy song, bless the palace and its inhabitants, ensuring lifelong love, beautiful offspring, and safety for Theseus and Hippolyta. After Oberon and Titania depart, Puck turns to the audience for his closing remarks. He suggests that if the play has upset anyone, it should be considered just a dream. Puck bids everyone a good night and requests a round of applause from his friendly spectators.

Enjoying this summary?
Buy the book! (it's better)

People who recommended A Midsummer Night's Dream

Lists that recommended A Midsummer Night's Dream