A Midsummer Night’s Dream Reading Questions

Acts I and II:

  1. What future event is anticipated in the very first lines of A Midsummer Night’s Dream?
  2. Who was Hippolyta before she was wooed by Theseus? How did Theseus win her over?
  3. Egeus has a complaint that he brings to Theseus—what is it? Does Theseus sympathize with Egeus’s case?
  4. What will Hermia’s punishment be if she refuses to adhere to her father’s will?
  5. For what event are the artisans preparing to perform in 1.2? What will they perform, and does this seem an appropriate story for a wedding celebration? Who are these people? What do their names mean? (For help, take a look at the footnotes at the beginning of 1.2)
  6. What is the history behind Titania and Oberon’s argument? What effects do we learn it has had on the world?
  7. Take a careful look at the descriptions of the incident involving the Changeling boy as described by Puck (begins at 2.1.18), and Titania (2.1.23). Is there a contradiction between these stories?
  8. What do we learn is “unnatural” Helena’s relation to Demetrius in 2.1?
  9. What is the potion that Puck uses? What power does it have, and what mistake(s) does Puck make in using it?

Acts III and IV:

  1. Whom does Titania fall for under the spell of the potion? What does she say she loves about him, in particular?
  2. Why is Helena so annoyed with Demetrius and Lysander for the attention they pay her (she calls it “injury” at 3.2.149). What has caused this turn of events?
  3. Look at Helena’s speech at 3.2.199-220—how does she describe her relationship with Hermia in the past? What angers her about Hermia’s behavior? What do we imagine Hermia doing at line 3.2.299?
  4. What prevents Lysander and Demetrius from being able to fight?
  5. How does Hermia describe her condition 3.3.30-34. Do we feel sorry for her?
  6. Why is the scene at the opening of 4.1 so shocking (and funny!)? How is the humor of this scene working on the audience?
  7. Why does Oberon decide to release the spell from Titania (4.1.43-67)?
  8. In 4.1, Egeus once again asks Theseus to intervene on his behalf. How does Theseus respond this time? What has changed since Act I?

Act V:

  1. Take notice of Egeus’s speeches in Act V. Do they seem different from the speeches he gives in Act IV? How? Have a look at note 1 on the bottom of p. 851 for an explanation (we’ll talk more about this in class!)
  2. How much time is to pass before the marriage at the beginning of Act I? How much time is there yet to pass in Act V?
  3. What choices is Theseus given for his entertainment in Act V? Have a look at the notes in the Norton, which will explain these stories. Do you have any ideas why these might be appropriate entertainment for his wedding?
  4. How does Egeus describe the artisan players at 5.1.72-3? What do you think this tells us about the attitude he and his fellow audience members have toward the players? Overall, how would you characterize the court’s response to the “Pyramus and Thisbe” play?.
  5. At the opening of Act V, we learn who is present at this performance. Look at the characters listed in stage directions on 851 and then figure out who in this group remains silent throughout the scene.
  6. The title of the play is, of course, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Robin, in his Epilogue, tells the audience to imagine that they have just been in a dream. What other “dreams” do we find in this play?
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