History Of the Play
Probably composed in 1595 or 1596, A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of Shakespeare's early comedies, but can be distinguished from his other works in this group by describing it specifically as the Bard's original wedding play. Most scholars believe that Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night's Dream as a light entertainment to accompany a marriage celebration, and while the identity of the historical couple for whom it was meant has never been conclusively established, there is good textual and background evidence available to support this claim. At the same time, unlike the vast majority of his works (including all of his comedies), in concocting this story, Shakespeare did not rely directly upon existing plays, narrative poetry, historical chronicles or any other primary source materials, making it a truly original piece. Most critics agree that if a youthful Shakespeare was not at his best in this play, he certainly enjoyed himself in writing it.
Preface to the Summary
The initial setting of the play's scenes is Athens under the reign of Theses and Hippolyta, who are themselves characters from ancient Greek mythology. But it must be understood that the "Athens" of A Midsummer Night's Dream is neither that of ancient Greece nor of its Renaissance counterpart, but an amalgamation of the former with the folk culture of Elizabethan England. After Act I, the play shifts to the "fairyland woods" and remains there through Acts II, III, and IV, returning to "Athens" in Act V for the concluding weddings and the performance of "Pyramus and Thisbe" by the uncouth, unskilled, but irrepressible company of Bottom and his fellow mechanicals.
Scene i: The play opens in the Athenian court of Theseus as he looks forward to wedding his bride, the former Queen of the...