'A Midsummer Night's Dream' - Study Guide

The Ultimate Student Study Guide to 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'

A Midsummer Night's Dream was written in the 1590s and is one of the Bard's most popular comedy plays.

The play is set in a forest, supposedly inspired by the Forest of Arden which once surrounded Shakespeare's hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon. The forest comes alive with magical sprites who manipulate the action. Chief among them is Puck, a mischievous fairy who drives the plot with magic.

This A Midsummer Night's Dream Study Guide brings together plot overviews, character profiles, theme analysis and modern day translations for students.

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The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. Photo © Last Resort / Getty Images

With such a fantastical plot, the best way to begin your study is by reading our plot summary. This resource gives you a one-page overview of the story and gives you a sense of the shape of the play in modern English.

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'A Midsummer Night's Dream'
'A Midsummer Night's Dream'. Photo © NYPL Digital Gallery

Meet Puck; the most mischievous character in the play. Puck's use of magic drives the plot in unexpected directions, as our character analysis reveals.

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Lysander is eloping with Hermia and "tries his luck with her" in the forect. However, he is wrongly anointed with the love potion and falls in love with Helena. 

Discover more in our Lysander character analysis shows.

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Not is all quite right with this pair of lovers. The insecure Helena wants to be more like her friend in order to win back the affections of Demetrius. As the story evolves, Demetrius is drugged to fall in love with her.

Discover the lovers from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' with our character analysis of Helena and Demetrius.

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This exotic pair of lovers are the rulers in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Theseus is the Duke of Athens and Hippolyta is the Queen of the Amazons - and they are soon to be married. Discover more with our Theseus and Hippolyta character analysis.

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 Oberon and Titania from 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' are central characters. This character analysis will help you understand these complex characters.

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Hermia is a feisty female character who agrees to elope with Lysander to the forest. Headstrong as ever, she protects her reputation and integrity by rejecting Lysander's advances in the forest. She insists that he sleeps further off; “But gentle friend, for love and courtesy, Lie further off in humane modesty.” (Act 2, Scene 2).

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Bottom is the comic fop in A Midsummer Night's Dream; he provides the comedy moments and emerges as the play's most memorable character. 

He is the classic comic fool, full of self importance and the belief that he can play any and all of the roles in the mechanical’s play. We are encouraged to laugh at his ridiculous character rather than with him.

This character analysis will help you appreciate why Bottom is so loved!

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Shakespeare (illustration)
CSA Images/Printstock Collection/Getty Images

 Detailed analysis and modern-day translations of A Midsummer Night's Dream, all broken down into individual scenes to help you study this play closely.

Act One

Act Two

Act Three

Act Four

Act Five