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Oberon, Titania and Puck with Fairies Dancing by William Blake, c. 1786

A Midsummer Night's Dream is a comedy play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1590 and 1597. It portrays the events surrounding the marriage of the Duke of Athens, Theseus, and Hippolyta. These include the adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of six amateur actors (the mechanicals), who are controlled and manipulated by the fairies who inhabit the forest in which most of the play is set. The play is one of Shakespeare's most popular works for the stage and is widely performed across the world.


The Athenians

  • Theseus – Duke of Athens
  • Hippolyta – Queen of the Amazons, betrothed to Theseus
  • Philostrate – Master of the Revels
  • Egeus – father of Hermia, wants her to marry Demetrius
  • Nedar  – father of Helena
  • Hermia – daughter of Egeus, in love with Lysander
  • Helena – in love with Demetrius
  • Lysander – in love with Hermia at first but later loves Helena and then goes back to love Hermia
  • Demetrius – in love with Hermia at first and then loves Helena at the end
  • Spirit 1&2 – Talk to Puck and Oberon

The Fairies

  • Oberon – Titania's husband and King of the Fairies
  • Titania – Oberon's wife and Queen of the Fairies
  • Robin Goodfellow/Puck – servant to Oberon
  • Peaseblossom  – fairy servant to Titania
  • Cobweb  – fairy servant to Titania
  • Moth  – fairy servant to Titania
  • Mustardseed  – fairy servant to Titania
  • First Fairy, Second Fairy

The Mechanicals (An acting troupe)


Hermia and Helena by Washington Allston, 1818

The play consists of four interconnecting plots, connected by a celebration of the wedding of Duke Theseus of Athens and the Amazon queen, Hippolyta, which is set simultaneously in the woodland and in the realm of Fairyland, under the light of the moon.[1]

The play opens with Hermia, who is in love with Lysander, not wanting to submit to her father Egeus' demand that she wed Demetrius, whom he has arranged for her to marry. Helena meanwhile pines unrequitedly for Demetrius. Enraged, Egeus invokes an ancient Athenian law before Duke Theseus, whereby a daughter must marry the suitor chosen by her father, or else face death. Theseus offers her another choice: lifelong chastity while worshiping the goddess Diana as a nun.

Peter Quince and his fellow players plan to put on a play for the wedding of the Duke and the Queen, "the most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe".[2] Quince reads the names of characters and bestows them to the players. Nick Bottom, who is playing the main role of Pyramus, is over-enthusiastic and wants to dominate others by suggesting himself for the characters of Thisbe, the Lion, and Pyramus at the same time. He would also rather be a tyrant and recites some lines of Ercles. Quince ends the meeting with "at the Duke's oak we meet".

The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania by Joseph Noel Paton

In a parallel plot line, Oberon, king of the fairies, and Titania, his queen, have come to the forest outside Athens. Titania tells Oberon that she plans to stay there until she has attended Theseus and Hippolyta's wedding. Oberon and Titania are estranged because Titania refuses to give her Indian changeling to Oberon for use as his "knight" or "henchman," since the child's mother was one of Titania's worshipers. Oberon seeks to punish Titania's disobedience. He calls upon Robin "Puck" Goodfellow, his "shrewd and knavish sprite",[3] to help him concoct a magical juice derived from a flower called "love-in-idleness", which turns from white to purple when struck by Cupid's arrow. When the concoction is applied to the eyelids of a sleeping person, that person, upon waking, falls in love with the first living thing they perceive. He instructs Puck to retrieve the flower with the hope that he might make Titania fall in love with an animal of the forest and thereby shame her into giving up the little Indian boy. He says, "And ere I take this charm from off her sight, / As I can take it with another herb, / I'll make her render up her page to me."[4]

Hermia and Lysander have escaped to the same forest in hopes of eloping. Helena, desperate to reclaim Demetrius's love, tells Demetrius about the plan and he follows them in hopes of killing Lysander. Helena continually makes advances towards Demetrius, promising to love him more than Hermia. However, he rebuffs her with cruel insults against her. Observing this, Oberon orders Puck to spread some of the magical juice from the flower on the eyelids of the young Athenian man. Instead, Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius, not having actually seen either before, and administers the juice to the sleeping Lysander. Helena, coming across him, wakes him while attempting to determine whether he is dead or asleep. Upon this happening, Lysander immediately falls in love with Helena. Oberon sees Demetrius still following Hermia and is enraged. When Demetrius decides to go to sleep, Oberon sends Puck to get Helena while he charms Demetrius' eyes. Upon waking up, he sees Helena. Now, both men are in pursuit of Helena. However, she is convinced that her two suitors are mocking her, as neither loved her originally. Hermia is at a loss to see why her lover has abandoned her, and accuses Helena of stealing Lysander away from her. The four quarrel with each other until Lysander and Demetrius become so enraged that they seek a place to duel each other to prove whose love for Helena is the greatest. Oberon orders Puck to keep Lysander and Demetrius from catching up with one another and to remove the charm from Lysander. Lysander returns to loving Hermia, while Demetrius continues to love Helena.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by Charles A. Buchel

Meanwhile, Quince and his band of six labourers ("rude mechanicals", as they are described by Puck) have arranged to perform their play about Pyramus and Thisbe for Theseus' wedding and venture into the forest, near Titania's bower, for their rehearsal. Bottom is spotted by Puck, who (taking his name to be another word for a jackass) transforms his head into that of a donkey. When Bottom returns for his next lines, the other workmen run screaming in terror, much to Bottom's confusion, since he hasn't felt a thing during the transformation. Determined to wait for his friends, he begins to sing to himself. Titania, having received the love-potion, is awakened by Bottom's singing and immediately falls in love with him. She lavishes him with attention and presumably makes love to him. While she is in this state of devotion, Oberon takes the changeling. Having achieved his goals, Oberon releases Titania, orders Puck to remove the donkey's head from Bottom, and arranges everything so that Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius, and Helena will believe that they have been dreaming when they awaken. Puck distracts Lysander and Demetrius from fighting over Helena's love by mimicking their voices and leading them apart. Eventually, all four find themselves separately falling asleep in the glade. Once they fall asleep, Puck administers the love potion to Lysander again, claiming that all will be well in the morning.

The fairies then disappear, and Theseus and Hippolyta arrive on the scene, during an early morning hunt. They wake the lovers and, since Demetrius does not love Hermia any more, Theseus overrules Egeus's demands and arranges a group wedding. The lovers decide that the night's events must have been a dream. After they all exit, Bottom awakes, and he too decides that he must have experienced a dream "past the wit of man". In Athens, Theseus, Hippolyta and the lovers watch the six workmen perform Pyramus and Thisbe. Given a lack of preparation, the performers are so terrible playing their roles to the point where the guests laugh as if it were meant to be a comedy, and everyone retires to bed. Afterwards, Oberon, Titania, Puck, and other fairies enter, and bless the house and its occupants with good fortune. After all other characters leave, Puck "restores amends" and suggests to the audience that what they just experienced might be nothing but a dream (hence the name of the play).

Sources and date

A Midsummer Night's Dream act IV, scene I. Engraving from a painting by Henry Fuseli, published 1796

It is unknown exactly when A Midsummer Night's Dream was written or first performed, but on the basis of topical references and an allusion to Edmund Spenser's Epithalamion, it is usually dated 1595 or early 1596. Some have theorized that the play might have been written for an aristocratic wedding (for example that of Elizabeth Carey, Lady Berkeley), while others suggest that it was written for the Queen to celebrate the feast day of St. John. No concrete evidence exists to support this theory. In any case, it would have been performed at The Theatre and, later, The Globe. Though it is not a translation or adaptation of an earlier work, various sources such as Ovid's Metamorphoses and Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale" served as inspiration.[5] According to John Twyning, the play's plot of four lovers undergoing a trial in the woods was intended as a "riff" on Der Busant, a Middle High German poem.[6]

Publication and text

The title page from the first quarto, printed in 1600

The play was entered into the Register of the Stationers Company on 8 October 1600 by the bookseller Thomas Fisher, who published the first quarto edition later that year. A second quarto was printed in 1619 by William Jaggard, as part of his so-called False Folio.[7] The play next appeared in print in the First Folio of 1623. The title page of Q1 states that the play was "sundry times publickely acted" prior to 1600. The first performance known with certainty occurred at Court on 1 January 1605.

Themes in the story


Both David Wiles of the University of London and Harold Bloom of Yale University have strongly endorsed the reading of this play under the themes of Carnivalesque, Bacchanalia, and Saturnalia.[8] Writing in 1998, David Wiles stated that: "The starting point for my own analysis will be the proposition that although we encounter A Midsummer Night's Dream as a text, it was historically part of an aristocratic carnival. It was written for a wedding, and part of the festive structure of the wedding night. The audience who saw the play in the public theatre in the months that followed became vicarious participants in an aristocratic festival from which they were physically excluded. My purpose will be to demonstrate how closely the play is integrated with a historically specific upper-class celebration."[9]


Hermia and Lysander by John Simmons (1870)

David Bevington argues that the play represents the dark side of love. He writes that the fairies make light of love by mistaking the lovers and by applying a love potion to Titania's eyes, forcing her to fall in love with an ass.[10] In the forest, both couples are beset by problems. Hermia and Lysander are both met by Puck, who provides some comic relief in the play by confounding the four lovers in the forest. However, the play also alludes to serious themes. At the end of the play, Hippolyta and Theseus, happily married, watch the play about the unfortunate lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe, and are able to enjoy and laugh at it.[11] Helena and Demetrius are both oblivious to the dark side of their love, totally unaware of what may have come of the events in the forest:3

Problem with time

There is a dispute over the scenario of the play as it is cited at first by Theseus that "four happy days bring in another moon".[2] The wood episode then takes place at a night of no moon, but Lysander asserts that there will be so much light in the very night they will escape that dew on the grass will be shining[12] like liquid pearls. Also, in the next scene, Quince states that they will rehearse in moonlight,[13] which creates a real confusion. It is possible that the Moon set during the night allowing Lysander to escape in the moonlight and for the actors to rehearse, then for the wood episode to occur without moonlight. Theseus's statement can also be interpreted to mean "four days until the next month". Another possibility is that, since each month there are roughly four consecutive nights that the moon is not seen due to its closeness to the sun in the sky (the two nights before the moment of new moon, followed by the two following it), it may in this fashion indicate a liminal "dark of the moon" period full of magical possibilities. This is further supported by Hippolyta's opening lines exclaiming " And then the moon, like to a silver bow New-bent in heaven, shall behold the night Of our solemnities."; the thin crescent-shaped moon being the hallmark of the new moon's return to the skies each month. The play also intertwines the Midsummer Eve of the title with May Day, furthering the idea of a confusion of time and the seasons. This is evidenced by Theseus commenting on some slumbering youths, that they "observe The rite of May" (Act 4, Scene 1).

Loss of individual identity

Maurice Hunt, Chair of the English Department at Baylor University, writes of the blurring of the identities of fantasy and reality in the play that make possible "that pleasing, narcotic dreaminess associated with the fairies of the play".[14] By emphasising this theme even in the setting of the play, Shakespeare prepares the reader's mind to accept the fantastic reality of the fairy world and its happenings. This also seems to be the axis around which the plot conflicts in the play occur. Hunt suggests that it is the breaking down of individual identities that leads to the central conflict in the story.[14] It is the brawl between Oberon and Titania, based on a lack of recognition for the other in the relationship, that drives the rest of the drama in the story and makes it dangerous for any of the other lovers to come together due to the disturbance of Nature caused by a fairy dispute.[14] Similarly, this failure to identify and to distinguish is what leads Puck to mistake one set of lovers for another in the forest, placing the flower's juice on Lysander's eyes instead of Demetrius'.

Victor Kiernan, a Marxist scholar and historian, writes that it is for the greater sake of love that this loss of identity takes place and that individual characters are made to suffer accordingly: "It was the more extravagant cult of love that struck sensible people as irrational, and likely to have dubious effects on its acolytes".[15] He believes that identities in the play are not so much lost as they are blended together to create a type of haze through which distinction becomes nearly impossible. It is driven by a desire for new and more practical ties between characters as a means of coping with the strange world within the forest, even in relationships as diverse and seemingly unrealistic as the brief love between Titania and Bottom the Ass: "It was the tidal force of this social need that lent energy to relationships".[16]

The aesthetics scholar David Marshall draws out this theme even further [17] by noting that the loss of identity reaches its fullness in the description of the mechanicals and their assumption of other identities. In describing the occupations of the acting troupe, he writes "Two construct or put together, two mend and repair, one weaves and one sews. All join together what is apart or mend what has been rent, broken, or sundered". In Marshall's opinion, this loss of individual identity not only blurs specificities, it creates new identities found in community, which Marshall points out may lead to some understanding of Shakespeare's opinions on love and marriage. Further, the mechanicals understand this theme as they take on their individual parts for a corporate performance of Pyramus and Thisbe. Marshall remarks that "To be an actor is to double and divide oneself, to discover oneself in two parts: both oneself and not oneself, both the part and not the part". He claims that the mechanicals understand this and that each character, particularly among the lovers, has a sense of laying down individual identity for the greater benefit of the group or pairing. It seems that a desire to lose one's individuality and find identity in the love of another is what quietly moves the events of A Midsummer Night's Dream. As the primary sense of motivation, this desire is reflected even in the scenery depictions and the story's overall mood.

Ambiguous sexuality

The Awakening of the Fairy Queen Titania

In his essay "Preposterous Pleasures: Queer Theories and A Midsummer Night's Dream", Douglas E. Green explores possible interpretations of alternative sexuality that he finds within the text of the play, in juxtaposition to the proscribed social mores of the culture at the time the play was written. He writes that his essay "does not (seek to) rewrite A Midsummer Night's Dream as a gay play but rather explores some of its 'homoerotic significations' ... moments of 'queer' disruption and eruption in this Shakespearean comedy".[18] Green states that he does not consider Shakespeare to have been a "sexual radical", but that the play represented a "topsy-turvy world" or "temporary holiday" that mediates or negotiates the "discontents of civilisation", which while resolved neatly in the story's conclusion, do not resolve so neatly in real life.[19] Green writes that the "sodomitical elements", "homoeroticism", "lesbianism", and even "compulsory heterosexuality" in the story must be considered in the context of the "culture of early modern England" as a commentary on the "aesthetic rigidities of comic form and political ideologies of the prevailing order". Aspects of ambiguous sexuality and gender conflict in the story are also addressed in essays by Shirley Garner[20] and William W.E. Slights[21] albeit all the characters are played by males.


Midsummer Eve by Edward Robert Hughes c. 1908

Male dominance is one thematic element found in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Lysander and Hermia escape into the woods for a night where they do not fall under the laws of Theseus or Egeus. Upon their arrival in Athens, the couples are married. Marriage is seen as the ultimate social achievement for women while men can go on to do many other great things and gain societal recognition.[22] In his article "The Imperial Votaress", Louis Montrose draws attention to male and female gender roles and norms present in the comedy in connection with Elizabethan culture. In reference to the triple wedding, he says, "The festive conclusion in A Midsummer Night's Dream depends upon the success of a process by which the feminine pride and power manifested in Amazon warriors, possessive mothers, unruly wives, and wilful daughters are brought under the control of lords and husbands."[23] He says that the consummation of marriage is how power over a woman changes hands from father to husband. A connection between flowers and sexuality is drawn. The juice employed by Oberon can be seen as symbolising menstrual blood as well as the sexual blood shed by virgins. While blood as a result of menstruation is representative of a woman's power, blood as a result of a first sexual encounter represents man's power over women.[24]

There are points in the play, however, when there is an absence of patriarchal control. In his book Power on Display, Leonard Tennenhouse says the problem in A Midsummer Night's Dream is the problem of "authority gone archaic".[25] The Athenian law requiring a daughter to die if she does not do her father's will is outdated. Tennenhouse contrasts the patriarchal rule of Theseus in Athens with that of Oberon in the carnivalistic Faerie world. The disorder in the land of the fairies completely opposes the world of Athens. He states that during times of carnival and festival, male power is broken down. For example, what happens to the four lovers in the woods as well as Bottom's dream represents chaos that contrasts with Theseus' political order. However, Theseus does not punish the lovers for their disobedience. According to Tennenhouse, by forgiving the lovers, he has made a distinction between the law of the patriarch (Egeus) and that of the monarch (Theseus), creating two different voices of authority. This distinction can be compared to the time of Elizabeth I in which monarchs were seen as having two bodies: the body natural and the body politic. Elizabeth's succession itself represented both the voice of a patriarch as well as the voice of a monarch: (1) her father's will which stated that the crown should pass to her and (2) the fact that she was the daughter of a king.[26] The challenge to patriarchal rule in A Midsummer Night's Dream mirrors exactly what was occurring in the age of Elizabeth I.

Performance history

The first page printed in the Second Folio of 1632

17th and 18th centuries

During the years of the Puritan Interregnum when the theatres were closed (1642–60), the comic subplot of Bottom and his compatriots was performed as a droll. Drolls were comical playlets, often adapted from the subplots of Shakespearean and other plays, that could be attached to the acts of acrobats and jugglers and other allowed performances, thus circumventing the ban against drama.

When the theatres re-opened in 1660, A Midsummer Night's Dream was acted in adapted form, like many other Shakespearean plays. Samuel Pepys saw it on 29 September 1662 and thought it "the most insipid, ridiculous play that ever I saw ..."[27]

After the Jacobean/Caroline era, A Midsummer Night's Dream was never performed in its entirety until the 1840s. Instead, it was heavily adapted in forms like Henry Purcell's musical masque/play The Fairy Queen (1692), which had a successful run at the Dorset Garden Theatre, but was not revived. Richard Leveridge turned the Pyramus and Thisbe scenes into an Italian opera burlesque, acted at Lincoln's Inn Fields in 1716. John Frederick Lampe elaborated upon Leveridge's version in 1745. Charles Johnson had used the Pyramus and Thisbe material in the finale of Love in a Forest, his 1723 adaptation of As You Like It. In 1755, David Garrick did the opposite of what had been done a century earlier: he extracted Bottom and his companions and acted the rest, in an adaptation called The Fairies. Frederic Reynolds produced an operatic version in 1816.[28]

The Victorian stage

In 1840, Madame Vestris at Covent Garden returned the play to the stage with a relatively full text, adding musical sequences and balletic dances. Vestris took the role of Oberon, and for the next seventy years, Oberon and Puck would always be played by women.[29] After the success of Vestris' production, 19th-century theatre continued to stage the Dream as a spectacle, often with a cast numbering nearly one hundred. Detailed sets were created for the palace and the forest, and the fairies were portrayed as gossamer-winged ballerinas. The overture by Felix Mendelssohn was always used throughout this period. Augustin Daly's production opened in 1895 in London and ran for 21 performances. The special effects were constructed by the Martinka Magic Company, which was later owned by Houdini.

20th – 21st century

Vince Cardinale as Puck from the Carmel Shakespeare Festival production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, September 2000
Performance Saratov Puppet Theatre "Teremok" A Midsummer Night's Dream based on the play by William Shakespeare (2007)

Herbert Beerbohm Tree staged a 1911 production with live rabbits.

Max Reinhardt staged A Midsummer Night's Dream thirteen times between 1905 and 1934, introducing a revolving set. After he fled Germany he devised a more spectacular outdoor version at the Hollywood Bowl, in September 1934. The shell was removed and replaced by a forest planted in tons of dirt hauled in especially for the event, and a trestle was constructed from the hills to the stage. The wedding procession inserted between Acts IV and V crossed the trestle with torches down the hillside. The cast included John Davis Lodge, William Farnum, Sterling Holloway, Olivia de Havilland, Mickey Rooney and a corps of dancers which included Katherine Dunham and Butterfly McQueen, with Mendelssohn's music.

On the strength of this production, Warner Brothers signed Reinhardt to direct a filmed version, Hollywood's first Shakespeare movie since Douglas Fairbanks Sr. and Mary Pickford's Taming of the Shrew in 1929. Rooney (Puck) and De Havilland (Hermia and Zara) were the only holdovers from the Hollywood Bowl cast. James Cagney starred, in his only Shakespearean role, as Bottom. Other actors in the film who played Shakespearean roles just this once included Joe E. Brown and Dick Powell. Erich Wolfgang Korngold was brought from Austria to arrange Mendelssohn's music for the film. He not only used the Midsummer Night's Dream music but also several other pieces by Mendelssohn. Korngold went on to make a Hollywood career, remaining in the U.S. after the Nazis invaded Austria.

Director Harley Granville-Barker introduced in 1914 a less spectacular way of staging the Dream: he reduced the size of the cast and used Elizabethan folk music instead of Mendelssohn. He replaced large, complex sets with a simple system of patterned curtains. He portrayed the fairies as golden robotic insectoid creatures based on Cambodian idols. His simpler, sparer staging significantly influenced subsequent productions.

In 1970, Peter Brook staged the play for the Royal Shakespeare Company in a blank white box, in which masculine fairies engaged in circus tricks such as trapeze artistry. Brook also introduced the subsequently popular idea of doubling Theseus/Oberon and Hippolyta/Titania, as if to suggest that the world of the fairies is a mirror version of the world of the mortals. British actors who played various roles in Brook's production included Patrick Stewart, Ben Kingsley, John Kane (Puck) and Jennie Stoller (Helena).

Since Brook's production, directors have used their imaginations freely in staging the play. In particular, there has been an increased use of sexuality on stage, as many directors see the palace as a symbol of restraint and repression, while the wood is a symbol of unrestrained sexuality, both liberating and terrifying.

A Midsummer Night's Dream has been produced many times in New York, including several stagings by the New York Shakespeare Festival at the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park and a production by the Theatre for a New Audience, produced by Joseph Papp at the Public Theater. In 1978, the Riverside Shakespeare Company staged an outdoor production starring Eric Hoffmann as Puck, with Karen Hurley as Titania and Eric Conger as Oberon, directed by company founder Gloria Skurski. There have been several variations since then, including some set in the 1980s.

In September 2013 Michael Grandage staged a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Noël Coward Theatre. The production featured TV star Sheridan Smith as Titania and TV star and comedian David Walliams as Bottom.

The University of Michigan's Nichols Arboretum's program Shakespeare in the Arb has presented a play every summer since 2001. Shakespeare in the Arb has produced A Midsummer Night's Dream three times. These performances[30] take place in a 123-acre (49.7 hectares) natural setting, with lush woods, a flowing river, and steep hills. The performance takes place in several places, with actors and audience moving together to each setting. "As one critic commented, 'The actors used the vastness of its Arb[oretum] stage to full advantage, making entrances from behind trees, appearing over rises and vanishing into the woods.'"[31]

Adaptations and cultural references


St. John's Eve written in 1853 by Henrik Ibsen relies heavily on the Shakespearean play.

Botho Strauß's play Der Park (1983) is based on characters and motifs from A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Neil Gaiman's comic series The Sandman uses the play as a focal point in issue #19. In it, Shakespeare and his company perform the play for the real Oberon and Titania and an audience of fairies. The play is heavily quoted in the comic. Shakespeare's son Hamnet Shakespeare appears in the play as the Indian boy. It is strongly hinted that he is later taken away by Titania, much like the changeling in the story. This issue was the first and only comic to win the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction, in 1991.[32]

Terry Pratchett's book Lords and Ladies (1992) heavily spoofs the Shakespearean play.

Musical versions

Henry Purcell

The Fairy-Queen by Henry Purcell consists of a set of masques meant to go between acts of the play, as well as some minimal rewriting of the play to be current to 17th century audiences.

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy

In 1826, Felix Mendelssohn composed a concert overture, inspired by the play, that was first performed in 1827. In 1842, partly because of the fame of the overture, and partly because his employer King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia liked the incidental music that Mendelssohn had written for other plays that had been staged at the palace in German translation, Mendelssohn was commissioned to write incidental music for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream that was to be staged in 1843 in Potsdam. He incorporated the existing Overture into the incidental music, which was used in most stage versions through the 19th century. The best known of the pieces from the incidental music is the famous Wedding March, frequently used as a recessional in weddings.

The choreographer Marius Petipa, more famous for his collaborations with Tchaikovsky (on the ballets Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty) made another ballet adaptation for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg with additional music and adaptations to Mendelssohn's score by Léon Minkus. The revival premiered 14 July 1876. English choreographer Frederick Ashton also created a 40-minute ballet version of the play, retitled to The Dream. George Balanchine was another to create a Midsummer Night's Dream ballet based on the play, using Mendelssohn's music.

Between 1917 and 1939 Carl Orff also wrote incidental music for a German version of the play, Ein Sommernachtstraum (performed in 1939). Since Mendelssohn's parents were Jews who converted to Lutheranism, his music had been banned by the Nazi regime, and the Nazi cultural officials put out a call for new music for the play: Orff was one of the musicians who responded. He later reworked the music for a final version, completed in 1964.

Ralph Vaughan Williams

"Over Hill, Over Dale", from Act 2, is the third of the Three Shakespeare Songs set to music by the British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. He wrote the pieces for a cappella SATB choir in 1951 for the British Federation of Music Festivals, and they remain a popular part of British choral repertoire today.

Benjamin Britten

The play was adapted into an opera, with music by Benjamin Britten and libretto by Britten and Peter Pears. The opera was first performed on 1 June 1960 at Aldeburgh.


The theatre company, Moonwork put on a production of Midsummer in 1999. It was conceived by Mason Pettit, Gregory Sherman and Gregory Wolfe (who directed it). The show featured a rock-opera version of the play within a play, Pyramus & Thisbe with music written by Rusty Magee. The music for the rest of the show was written by Andrew Sherman.

The Donkey Show

The Donkey Show is a disco-era experience based on A Midsummer Night's Dream, that first appeared off Broadway in 1999.[33]


In 1949 a three-act opera by Delannoy entitled Puck was premiered in Strasbourg.

Progressive Rock guitarist Steve Hackett, best known for his work with Genesis, made a classical adaptation of the play in 1997.

Hans Werner Henze's Eighth Symphony is inspired by sequences from the play.

The Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts Theatre Department presented the show as a musical adapted/directed by Beverly Blanchette (produced by Marcie Gorman) using the songs of The Moody Blues. The show was called Midsummer and was subsequently performed at Morsani Hall/Straz Performing Arts Center in Tampa, at the Florida State International Thespian Society Festival. Text/Concept Copyright, 9 December 2011.

In 2011, Opera Memphis, Playhouse on the Square, and contemporary a cappella groups DeltaCappella and Riva, premiered Michael Ching's A Midsummer Night's Dream: Opera A Cappella.[34]


  • George Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream, his first original full-length ballet, was premiered by the New York City Ballet on 17 January 1962. It was chosen to open the NYCB's first season at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center in 1964. Balanchine interpolated further music by Mendelssohn into his Dream, including the overture from Athalie.[35][36][37][38] A film version of the ballet was released in 1966.
  • Frederick Ashton created his "The Dream", a short (not full-length) ballet set exclusively to the famous music by Félix Mendelssohn, arranged by John Lanchbery, in 1964. It was created on England's Royal Ballet and has since entered the repertoire of other companies, notably The Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theatre.[38]
  • John Neumeier created his full-length ballet Ein Sommernachtstraum for his company at the Hamburg State Opera (Hamburgische Staatsoper) in 1977. Longer than Ashton's or Balanchine's earlier versions, Neumeier's version includes other music by Mendelssohn along with the Midsummer Night's Dream music, as well as music from the modern composer György Sándor Ligeti, and jaunty barrel organ music. Neumeier devotes the three sharply differing musical styles to the three character groups, with the aristocrats and nobles dancing to Mendelssohn, the fairies to Ligeti, and the rustics or mechanicals to the barrel organ.[39] Neumeier set his A Midsummer Night's Dream for the Bolshoi Ballet in 2005.[40]
  • Elvis Costello composed the music for a full-length ballet Il Sogno, based on A Midsummer Night's Dream. The music was subsequently released as a classical album by Deutsche Grammophon in 2004.

Film adaptations

A Midsummer Night's Dream has been adapted as a film many times. The following are the best known.

TV productions


British astronomer William Herschel named the two moons of Uranus that he discovered in 1787 after characters in the play, Oberon and Titania. Another moon, discovered in 1985, has been named Puck.


See also


  1. ^ Shakespeare (1979), p. cxx
  2. ^ a b Shakespeare (2003).
  3. ^ "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Shakespeare Navigators. Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 33–34. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  4. ^ "A Midsummer Night's Dream". Shakespeare Navigators. Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 183–184. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  5. ^ Hunter (1870).
  6. ^ Twyning (2008).
  7. ^ S4Ulanguages.Com See title page of facsimile of this edition, claiming James Roberts as a publisher and 1600 as the publishing date
  8. ^ Wiles (1998), pp. 208–223.
  9. ^ Wiles (1998), p. 213.
  10. ^ Bevington (1996), pp. 24–35.
  11. ^ Bevington (1996), p. 32.
  12. ^ Shakespeare (2003), II. 209–213.
  13. ^ Shakespeare (2003), l. 81.
  14. ^ a b c *Hunt, Maurice (Summer 1986). "Individuation in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'". South Central Review 3 (2): 1–13. JSTOR 3189362. 
  15. ^ Kiernan (1993), p. 212.
  16. ^ Kiernan (1993), p. 210.
  17. ^ Marshall, David (Autumn 1982). "Exchanging Visions: Reading 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'". ELH 49 (3): 543–575. JSTOR 2872755. 
  18. ^ Green (1998), p. 370.
  19. ^ Green (1998), p. 375.
  20. ^ Garner (1998), pp. 129–130.
  21. ^ Slights (1998), p. 261.
  22. ^ Howard (2003), p. 414.
  23. ^ Montrose (2000), p. 65.
  24. ^ Montrose (2000), pp. 61–69.
  25. ^ Tennenhouse (1986), p. 73.
  26. ^ Tennenhouse (1986), pp. 74–76.
  27. ^ Halliday (1964), pp. 142–3, 316–7.
  28. ^ Halliday (1964), pp. 255, 271, 278, 316–17, 410.
  29. ^ "Stage History". Royal Shakespeare Company. Retrieved 11 May 2014. 
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  32. ^ Comics were subsequently restricted to the World Fantasy Special Award: Professional category.
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  34. ^ Waleson, Heidi (25 January 2011). "A Remarkably Inventive A Cappella Premiere". The Wall Street Journal. 
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  40. ^ "Biography of John Neumeier on Hamburg Ballet website". Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  41. ^ Watts, Richard W. "Films of a Moonstruck World". In Eckert, Charles W. Focus on Shakespearean Films. p. 48. 
  42. ^ "Television: Around The Beatles". 28 April 1964. Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  43. ^ "A Midsummer's Nightmare episode". Internet Movie Database. 12 August 2006. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  44. ^ "A Midsemester Night's Dream (TV Series 2014– )". Internet Movie Database. 
  45. ^ "Vanderbilt seniors lead modern Shakespeare adaptation". The Vanderbilt Hustler. 


  • Bevington, David (1996). "But We Are Spirits of Another Sort': The Dark Side of Love and Magic in 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'". In Dutton, Richard. A Midsummer Night's Dream. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 24–35. 
  • Buchanan, Judith (2005). Shakespeare on Film. Harlow: Pearson. Ch. 5, pp. 121–149. ISBN 0-582-43716-4. 
  • Croce, Benedetto (1999). "Comedy of Love". In Kennedy, Judith M. & Kennedy, Richard F. A Midsummer Night's Dream. London: Athlone Press. pp. 386–8. 
  • Garner, Shirley Nelson (1998). "Jack Shall Have Jill;/ Nought Shall Go Ill". In Kehler, Dorothea. A Midsummer Night's Dream Critical Essays. New York: Garland Publishing. pp. 127–144. ISBN 0-8153-2009-4. 
  • Green, Douglas E. (1998). "Preposterous Pleasures: Queer Theories and 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'". In Kehler, Dorothea. A Midsummer Night's Dream Critical Essays. New York: Garland Publishing. pp. 369–400. ISBN 0-8153-2009-4. 
  • Halliday, F. E. (1964). A Shakespeare Companion 1564–1964. Baltimore: Penguin. 
  • Howard, Jean E. (2003). "Feminist Criticism". In Wells, Stanley & Orlin, Lena Cowen. Shakespeare: An Oxford Guide. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 411–423. 
  • Hunter, John (1870). A Midsummer Night's Dream. London: Longmans, Green and Co. 
  • Huke, Ivan & Perkins, Derek (1981). A Midsummer Night's Dream: Literature Revision Notes and Examples. Walton-on-Thames: Celtic Revision Aids. ISBN 0-17-751305-5. 
  • Kiernan, Victor (1993). Shakespeare, Poet and Citizen. London: Verso. ISBN 0-86091-392-9. 
  • Montrose, Louis (2000). "The Imperial Votaress". In Brown, Richard Danson & Johnson, David. A Shakespeare Reader: Sources and Criticism. London: Macmillan Press. pp. 60–71. 
  • Shakespeare, William (1979). Brooks, Harold F., ed. The Arden Shakespeare A Midsummer Nights Dream. Methuen & Co. ISBN 0-415-02699-7. 
  •  ——— (1997). "'A Midsummer Night's Dream'". In Evans, G. Blakemore & Tobin, J.J.M. The Riverside Shakespeare. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 256–283. ISBN 0-395-85822-4. 
  •  ——— (2003). Foakes, R. A., ed. A Midsummer Night's Dream. The New Cambridge Shakespeare (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521532471. 
  • Slights, William W. E. (1998). "The Changeling in A Dream". Studies in English Literature, 1500–1900. Rice University Press. pp. 259–272. 
  • Tennenhouse, Leonard (1986). Power on Display: the Politics of Shakespeare's Genres. New York: Methuen. pp. 73–76. ISBN 0-415-35315-7. 
  • Twyning, John (2008). Forms of English History in Literature, Landscape, and Architecture. New York: Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-230-02000-9. 
  • Wiles, David (1998). "The Carnivalesque in 'A Midsummer Night’s Dream', from 'Shakespeare and Carnival After Bakhtin". In Bloom, Harold & Marson, Janyce. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Bloom's Shakespeare Through the Ages. New York: Bloom's Literary Criticism. pp. 208–223. ISBN 978-0-7910-9595-9. 

External links

2 Annotations

Albert Sanchez Moreno  •  Link

"A Midsummer Night's Dream" - one of Shakespeare's best-loved comedies, about two couples whose romances are complicated by fairies trying to cause mischief.

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.