You have been automatically redirected from an old page. Please bookmark this new URL:

A Midsummer Night's Dream

"The lunatic, the lover and the poet

Are of imagination all compact . . . ."

Read | Questions | Resources | Links | Performance | Papers | Back


  • For a "blow-by-blow" summary of the action as it unfolds in the play, see Amy Ulen's "The Dream Unfolds," part of her MND Web site at Don King's notes on the play for a quick overview of important points and features
  • If you need to brush up on your gods and goddesses, check out this helpful guide to Mythology in A Midsummer Night's Dream (with information from Bulfinch's Mythology)
  • Michael Hoffman's 1999 production starring Michelle Pfeiffer and Kevin Kline (discussed in Screening Shakespeare, pp. 49-57) is delightful. The film's official Web site has information and excerpts.
  • Fun for Engish majors! For an example of the influence of literary tradition at work, read Wallace Stevens' poem entitled "Peter Quince at the Clavier" and try to figure out why he named his poem after this particular character in A Midsummer Night's Dream.


    (1) What is the relationship among the four plot lines in the play (Athenian lovers, fairies, royalty, "rude mechanicals")? Why does Shakespeare put such a motley crew together in the same play?

    (2) What is the significance of the play's setting? What major shifts in locale take place in the play, and when do they occur? How might this movement in the play's setting be symbolically interpreted?

    (3) To what extent is order vs. disorder a major theme in the play? How does disorder exist--and how is it turned into order--in each of the four plot lines? Is Theseus, as he has often been called, the main agent bringing about order in the play?

    (4) Consider the significance of the play's title, A Midsummer Night's Dream. What dreams occur within the play? Why is dreaming such an appropriate metaphor for describing what happens to many of the characters in the play? What recurring imagery patterns in the play tie in with this theme of dreaming and with the whole idea of perceiving things both accurately and inaccurately?

    (5) Judging from this much of the play, what observations can we make about Shakespeare's ideas on the nature and effects of love?

    (6) This play contains a play within it. How is the rude mechanicals' little play related to the larger play in which it appears? Is the little play a comedy or a tragedy? To what degree does the little play raise the question, in artistic terms, of how one distinguishes between illusion and reality (a question that certainly plagues the lovers in the larger play as well)?

    (7) What other kinds of illusion exist in the play? How are such illusions finally dispelled?

    (8) What does Puck's epilogue to the entire play suggest about Shakespeare's final comment on the subject of the power of art?

    (9) What does Theseus mean when he claims that "The lover, and the poet / Are of imagination all compact"? How are love and imagination similar in this play, in terms of a) their effects, b) the way they both operate, c) the way they both transform characters' perceptions, and d) the way they are both irrational powers?

    (10) Bottom's "translation" into an ass is a kind of emblem for all of the transformations that occur in the play. What are these transformations? In the play, how are love and art similar in their power to transform people's perceptions of things?

    Amy Ulen has created an entire Midsummer Night's Dream study guide Web site!


    "The Green World" and "The Green World in MND"

    Northrop Frye on comedy

    Insightful articles available in the library include these:

    Many more useful links on MND (sources, influences, performance, etc.) are available from Shakespeare in Europe, courtesy of the University of Basel, Switzerland.


  • an illustration of Bottom and Titania entitled "Opposites Attract"
  • an illustration entitled "Titania Imagined"
  • an illustration of Pyramus and Thisbe from Ovid's Metamorphoses (Book 4.55-104)
  • For MND history and illustrations, visit Harry Rusche's Shakespeare Illustrated site.


    Here is a partial list of TV and film productions of MND; a great classic is the 1935 Max Reinhardt version starring Mickey Rooney as Puck.

    Performance reviews available in the library include these:


  • Consider the four young lovers and their differences and similarities. To what degree is Shakespeare trying to develop them as individual characters, and why? This could turn into a variant on the Character Analysis paper in discussing the degree of development of these characters and why Shakespeare may not have chosen to develop them fully. In connection with this topic, you may wish to read the following article:
  • If you were intrigued by our discussion of the play's title and by the short selection by Barber, you might find the following chapter (or sections of it) interesting and capable of generating a Context Study paper on the play:
  • You could easily do a Source Study paper on the play. The classical and mythological sources for the story are laid out in

    Gwen Ladd Hackler, Ph.D., 1998-2001
    Southern Nazarene University
    e-mail | homepage | conditions of use
    last updated: 24 May 2001