A Midsummer Night's Dream condensed

We learn quickly in this very old fantasy love story that the duke of Athens, a man named Theseus, is looking forward to his upcoming wedding with Hippolyta.  He is the judge and jury in Athens. We also promptly learn that a man named Egeus is very upset with his daughter, Hermia; upset that she wants to marry Lysander.  Egeus believes that Demetrius would be the more suitable husband for his daughter, Lysander having romanced his daughter with “rhymes and love tokens, having stol’n her fantasy with bracelets, rings and other trifles.” 

Act 1. The play opens with Egeus presenting his case directly to Theseus. Egeus lets us know that according to custom, she must marry a man acceptable to him or she must die.  We learn that Demetrius has been engaged to Helena, a long-time, close friend of Hermia’s, and that Helena is furious, feeling betrayed, having just learned of Demetrius’ interest in her friend Hermia.  Helena cries out at Hermia “O, teach me how you look and with what art you sway the motion of Demetrius’ heart,” believing Hermia has used her charms to gain his attention.  It is a terrible turn of events for Helena.  The air is filled with anger, mostly supplied by Egeus and Helena, Lysander noting “the course of true love never did run smooth.”  To escape the turmoil, Lysander and Hermia plan to elope through the woods to his aunt’s house.  Hermia tells Helena of their plans; Helena in turn tells Demetrius, who in turn plans to follow them, as does Helena.  Separately a group of tradesmen from Athens make plans in the same woods to practice the skit they hope to present at the reception following the duke and Hippolyta’s wedding. 

Act 2. Scurrying through the woods, frightened for her future, Helena begs Demetrius to pay attention to her.  In the most audacious of fantasies, we learn that Oberon, the king of the fairies, is jealous of Titania, his queen, for showing interest in an “Indian boy.”  Oberon has his aide, Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck, secure the flower Cupid’s arrow struck, Cupid intending his arrow to “pierce a hundred thousand hearts,” thereby healing the broken hearts of a hundred thousand maids. Cupid failed.  The nectar of the struck flower, the pansy, now the magic pansy, when placed on one’s eyelids causes the person to fall instantly for the first creature he or she sees on wakening.  He tells Puck to place the nectar on Demetrius’ eyelids; that Puck will know him “by the Athenian garments he hath on.”  Puck picks the wrong guy.  Oberon places the nectar on Titania’s eyelids.  With the nectar having been placed on his eyelids, Lysander wakens and declares his love for Helena.  An infuriated Helena claims he is mocking her. She runs off. Hermia wakens, alone, frightened, and leaves to find Lysander.

Act 3. We find the group of tradesmen practicing their skit in the forest. Puck sees Bottom, one of the tradesmen, and believing Bottom to be a terrible actor converts his head to one of a jackass.  Titania, asleep nearby, wakens and falls for the misshapen Bottom. Bottom receives a lot of attention from Titania and her fairies and he loves it. He falls asleep. Meanwhile, Hermia, finding herself uncomfortably near Demetrius, accuses him of slaying Lysander and exits.  Oberon and Puck overhear the angry conversation and realize the error of mistaken identify.  Following Oberon’s instructions, Puck now places the nectar on Demetrius’ eyelids.  Demetrius wakens and sees Helena.  He declares his love for her. She now feels both men are mocking her.  A frustrated Helena lashes out at Hermia, declaring “O, she is one of this confederacy!”  The women aggressively take it out on each other. All four are exhausted.  Oberon instructs Puck to cause a fog to roll in.  Each of the four falls asleep, not knowing the others are nearby. Puck places the nectar on Lysander’s eyelids. 

Act 4. Bottom wakens, declaring what a wonderful “midsummer night’s dream” he’s had.  Robin converts Bottom’s head back to normal. Oberon once again places the nectar on Titania’s eyelids, she asleep where “the wild thyme blows, where oxlips and the nodding violet grows.”  She wakens and sees Oberon.  She’s in love.  They hold hands and dance. They “rock the ground whereon these sleepers be.”  Bottom reports to his buddies that their short play has been chosen as the play to be performed at the duke’s reception. 

Act 5. At dawn, Theseus, Hippolyta and Egeus enter the woods and practically stumble over the sleeping couples.  Lysander wakens and declares his love for Hermia.  Demetrius wakens and reaffirms his love for Helena.  Egeus accepts this moment as what was meant to be.  Theseus suggests they have a triple wedding in Athens.  They do.  Shakespeare outdoes himself with the reception, the three couples having a fabulous time, enjoying each other’s company, giggling through the outlandishly silly farcical comedy interestingly performed by the craftsman, all loving the amateur actors for whom they are. 


Copyright © 2010 Condensed Shakespeare.