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Free Study Guide-A Midsummer Nights Dream by William Shakespeare-Free
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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS

SETTING

The action is first set in Medieval Athens, where Theseus is referred to by the medieval title of "Duke" and not as King. His forthcoming marriage with Hippolyta sets the merry mood of the play. Later the action shifts to the woods nearby Athens, which is inhabited by fairies and their King Oberon and Queen Titania. It is an appropriate setting for a play where fairies and mortals jostle with each other like in a dream.

CHARACTER LIST

Characters are drawn from three different worlds: the Athenian Gentry, the Craftsmen of Athens, and the Fairy World.

The Athenian Gentry

Theseus

The Duke of Athens, who is admired by the people. He is a noble warrior; after defeating Hippolyta, the queen of the Amazons, he decides to marry her. Their wedding is to take place in four days.

Hippolyta

The queen of the Amazons. She was defeated by Theseus and is now betrothed to him.

Hermia

The daughter of Egeus who is in love with Lysander. She refuses to marry Demetrius, the youth chosen by her father; as a result, she faces the death penalty, per an ancient Athenian law.


Lysander

The Athenian youth who is in love with and marries Hermia.

Demetrius

The man chosen by Egeus to marry his daughter, Hermia. He had been in love with Helena, but has now shifted his attention to Hermia. In the end gives up his claim on Hermia and marries Helena.

Helena

Hermia's friend, who was once loved by Demetrius. In spite of his desertion of her, she continues to love him and is married to him at the end of the play.

Egeus

The father of Hermia. He is an obstinate old man who insists that his daughter should either marry Demetrius or face death. He finally relents and allows Hermia to marry Lysander.

Philostrate

The master of ceremonies in Duke Theseus' court.

The Craftsmen of Athens

Nick Bottom

A weaver by profession. He is harmlessly conceited and believes that he could play all roles in any drama. It is rather ironic that he is made to wear an ass's head during the play.

In the interlude presented on the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, he plays Pyramus.

Peter Quince

A carpenter who organizes the interlude and reads its prologue.

Francis Flute

A bellows mender who plays Thisbe in the interlude.

Tom Snout

A tinker who is the wall in the interlude.

Snug

A joiner who is the lion in the interlude.

Starveling

A tailor who plays Moonshine in the interlude.

Fairy Kingdom

Oberon

The King of the fairies. In his attempt to teach Titania a lesson, he causes the confusion that contributes a great deal to the dramatic action of the play.

Titania

The fairy queen who has quarreled with Oberon over a changeling boy. She is put under a magic spell by Oberon and falls in love with Nick Bottom.

Puck or Robin Good Fellow

Oberon's attendant and a mischievous spirit who is given to pranks.

Peace Blossom, Cobweb, Moth, Mustardseed

The fairies that attend Titania.

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