A Midsummer Night's Dream is a comedy by William Shakespeare about love and the magic of Midsummer when Faeries cast spells on unsuspecting mortals.
It has a number of parts for young actors. Aside from Oberon and Titania, Puck and the fairies can be played by children. Puck should be at least eleven or twelver to handle the demands of the part. The lovers; Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius and Helena can be older teenagers. Some of the hapless actors that star in the play within a play can be teenagers as well. Flute, Snout, Snug and Straveling can be played by teens. Bottom and Quince should be played by more mature actors. It is the one Shakespearean play that can be successfully performed by high school students without seeming as if the young actors are just playing dress-up. It remains a very accessible play to young audiences.
Set in Athens, two young men are fighting over the beautiful Hermia. Her father wants her to marry the young man she does not love; Demetrius. She wants to marry the other young man; Lysander. Meanwhile a beautiful young lady called Helena suffers from unrequited love for Demetrius. The play is set on the eve of the marriage of Duke Theseus and the Amazon Queen; Hyppolita. Theseus is obviously supposed to be the hero from Greek myth, but as this is romantic comedy, none of his heroic exploits are on display. Back to Hermia. Her father; Egeus wants her to marry Demetrius or to be put to death.
Hermia and Lysander decide to elope and they tell Hermia's best friend; the unloved Helena. After they leave Helena decides to tell Demetrius that Hermia is running away so that he might look kindly on her for telling him. Demetrius sets off to reclaim Hermia and Helena stalks him.
A miserable excuse for an acting troup find themselves rehearsing a play about a mythical romantic couple; Pyramus and Thisbe. Of course in Shakespeare's trime, all the actors had to be men, ergo Thisbe would have been played by a young man. A timid young man named Francis Flute gets the unhappy job of playing the romantic female lead. He says he would rather play a "wandering knight". Bottom, (and there are many jokes made at the expense of his name) is a loud, vain and very poor actor. He gets to play the romantic male lead. They rehearse bits of the play and are truly awful.
Meanwhile the King of the fairies(Oberon) is involved in a war of the sexes with his queen;
They are fighting over the possession of a litle changling boy. After Titania leaves Oberon concocts a plot with his mischievious sidekick; Puck, Puck will take the juice from an enchanted flower and put it in the fairy queen's eyes while she sleeps.
Fetch me that flower; the herb I shew'd thee once:~Oberon, King of the Faeries
The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees.
The joke is that when she awakes, she will madly fall in love with the first creature that she sees.
Unfortunately for the mistake prone-Puck he ends up infecting Lysander and Demetrius who both fall madly in love with the formerly unloved Helena which leads to a catfight in the woods between Hermia and Helena.
Meanwhile Puck has stumbled across the misfit band of actors rehearsing their unforgiveable play. Puck fixes poor Bottom's head with the head of an ass. His fellow actors, upon seeing him, run in terror. Titania wakes from her drowsy sleep and spies him and falls hopelessly in love. All her queenly airs have disappeared and she won't take no for an answer from this half man, half-ass.
But as the night starts to fade into light, Oberon and Puck have made amends and rectified their misdeeds, and when the 4 young lovers wake from a charm-induced sleep they find their true loves. Lysander is reunited with Hermia and Helena finds that Demetrius truly does love her. Oberon wakes his Queen who is horrified to see that the ass sleeping on the ground was her paramour. But the night's madness seems 'No more vexing than a dream."
It is the next night. Theseus and Hyppolita have been wed and they are going to watch a play to while away the hours before sleep. The young lovers have been invited to attend, and the acting group is of course Bottom's group of merry men. By now, Bottom has been restored to the regular ass that he was and he leads his men into a triumphant disaster on the stage.
When the play ends and the mortals have left the stage, the fairies take over to "bless this place" The last fairy left is Puck who becomes an actor asking for forgiveness from the audience if they did not enjoy the show.
If we shadows have offended,-Puck
Think but this, and all is mended
That you have but slumbered here
Whilst these visions did appear
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