Who would you want to be?
The nobles of Athens
Theseus a powerful, heroic duke
Egeus Hermia's strict, bossy father
Hermia a beautiful woman in love
Helena Hermia's friend, in love with Demetrius
Lysander a man in love with Hermia
Demetrius a selfish, young man
Hippolyta Queen of the Amazons
Philostrate the duke's entertainment officer
Oberon the powerful king of the fairies
Titania queen of the fairies
Puck (aka Robin Goodfellow) a mischievous sprite, loyal to Oberon
Peaseblossom a fairy, loyal to Titania
Cobweb a fairy, loyal to Titania
Mote a fairy, loyal to Titania
Mustardseed a fairy, loyal to Titania
Bottom a weaver, dramatic and enthusiastic
Quince the director of their play
Flute a bellows-maker, plays the main female role in the play
Snout a tinker with a small part in the play
Snug a joiner who plays the lion in the play
Starveling a tailor who plays a woman
A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of the specially abridged plays for primary school children from The Shakespeare Schools Festival.
READ THE STORY
With 16 pages of notes and discussion, this is an excellent retelling for older children 9+.
To be included in a Shakespeare for School listing, please email email@example.com
Theseus: Go, Philostrate, stir up the Athenian youth to merriments. Awake the pert and nimble spirit of mirth.
Theseus and Hippolyta are getting married in four days. Philostrate is asked to arrange the celebrations - to gather the young people of Athens and liven the place up with laughter and happiness.
Egeus to Theseus: Full of vexation come I with complaint against my child, my daughter Hermia... As she is mine, I may dispose of her – which shall be either to this gentleman (Demetrius) or to her death – according to our law.
Hermia's father goes to the duke about his daughter Hermia's refusal to marry Demetrius. He says, as her dad, he has the right to decide who she marries. But Hermia loves Lysander, and Lysander loves Hermia! The duke gives Hermia until the wedding to decide. If she won't marry Demetrius, she must die or become a nun! Hermia and Lysander decide to run away. Hermia tells her friend Helena, who is madly in love with Demetrius. Helena then runs to tell Demetrius, thinking he will love her for it.
Quince: Here is the scroll of every man’s name which is thought fit, through all Athens, to play in our interlude before the duke and the duchess, on his wedding day at night.
In the forest, a funny group of tradesmen gather to rehearse a play for the duke's wedding. Quince gives Bottom and Flute the lead roles of lovers Pyramus and Thisbe. Flute is worried about playing a woman as he's growing a beard. Quince tells him to wear a mask and put on a high voice (in Elizabethan times, only men were allowed to be actors so they played all the female roles).
To find out what happens in the forest, go to Act II
Puck to one of Titania's fairies: The king doth keep his revels here tonight. Take heed the queen come not within his sight.
The king and queen of the fairies are not talking to one another. They are in a bitter argument over an Indian child who Titania has adopted. Oberon wants the child to be his page. Their feuding upsets the balance of nature.
Oberon to Puck: Fetch me that flower. The herb I showed thee once. The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid will make or man or woman madly dote upon the next live creature that it sees.
Oberon asks Puck to go and get him a magic flower. Puck promises to go round the world forty minutes to bring it back to him. Suddenly, Helena and Demetrius enter the forest – Demetrius is looking for Hermia and Helena is following him like a puppy, hoping he'll give her some affection Oberon makes himself invisible to overhear their conversation and hears how unkind Demetrius is to Helena. He decides to help her.
Oberon: What thou seest when thou dost wake, do it for thy true love take.
Oberon sends Puck to drop some love potion onto Demetrius, while he does the same to the sleeping Titania. The plan is that when they wake they will fall in love with the first thing they see. Oberon wants to teach them both a lesson. But Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius, and when Lysander wakes up, he falls in love with Helena! It's all gone wrong!
To see the torment this causes the girls, go to Act III
Titania (waking): What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?
When Titania wakes up, the first thing she sees is Bottom, who has been given a donkey's head by the mischievous Puck. She falls in love with him instantly and promises Bottom that the fairies will wait on him and give him everything he wants. When Puck tells Oberon what has happened to Titania, Oberon is delighted. But then he finds out that Demetrius has escaped the love potion. Oberon decides to find him and give Demetrius him the love potion himself.
Puck: Captain of our fairy band, Helena is here at hand, And the youth, mistook by me, pleading for a lover’s fee.
When Demetrius wakes, he sees Helena and falls in love, just as he was supposed to do in the first place. But Helena is now being pursued by Lysander as well! She thinks they are both making fun of her. Hermia can't believe Lysander has turned against her and is angry with Helena. Oberon decides it is time to put things right, and Puck goes to undo the magic on Lysander.
Puck: All shall be well.
Puck reverses the magic, on some of them... read about it in Act IV
Titania to Bottom: Come, sit thee down upon this flowery bed while I thy amiable cheeks do coy... and kiss thy fair large ears, my gentle joy.
Titania is attentive and adoring to Bottom, stroking his hairy donkey cheeks and kissing his long donkey ears. Bottom enjoys all the attention from Titania and her fairies. Oberon starts to pity Titania – she is making a fool of herself – but he only returns her to her normal self after she gives him the Indian boy. When the magic is undone, she and Oberon are happy together again. Puck removes the donkey's head from Bottom and waits for him to wake up.
Demetrius: Are you sure that we are awake? It seems to me that yet we sleep, we dream.
The duke and Egeus find the four young lovers asleep in the forest. When they wake, they wonder if they are still dreaming. Demetrius tells them that his love for Hermia has melted and he is now in love with Helena. Lysander is back in love with Hermia. The duke is delighted and orders them all to the temple for a triple wedding.
The wedding celebrations are about to begin. See Act V.
Hippolyta: This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.
After the wedding they all sit down to watch the tradesmen's ridiculous play. It entertains them until night-time. Theseus ends the celebrations by saying it is time for bed. It will soon be 'fairy time'.
Oberon: So shall all the couples three ever true in loving be. And the blots of Nature’s hand shall not in their issue stand.
Oberon blesses the three couples, saying their love will always be strong and their children will be healthy.
Puck: If we shadows have offended, think but this, and all is mended – that you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear. And this weak and idle theme, no more yielding but a dream.
Puck ends the play by apologising to the audience, if they found the play silly or offensive. He asks those who didn't enjoy it to think they have just been asleep and that it was all in their imagination – no more than a dream.
Illustrations © Adria Meserve 2014. Text © Penny Worms 2014. All rights reserved.