A Midsummer Night's Dream

Synopsis - The Story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream

This production is set in a classroom in a British school. It is late in the afternoon on a day in June.

Theseus has ordered that Hermia must marry Demetrius in accordance with her father’s wishes, instead of Lysander, the young man she loves and who loves her in return.

ACT I

The students, deprived of their adult supervisors, witness a clash between Oberon and Tytania. They are quarreling over possession of an orphan child. Oberon is infuriated with Tytania’s presumption. The natural order is upset, and the children, as they always will, notice the strife.

Oberon, planning revenge on Tytania, calls upon Puck to seek out “Love in Idleness”—the love juice, which, when sprinkled upon the eyes of a sleeper, will cause that person to fall desperately in love with the first person he or she sees upon awakening. He plans to use it on Tytania, and then steal the boy while she is distracted. Puck departs in search of the drug.

Hermia and Lysander arrive, attempting to run away from the harsh decision imposed upon them by Theseus. They realize that the course of true love never does run smooth. Lysander urges Hermia to run away with him. They agree to meet later, ready to flee.

Demetrius enters, looking for Hermia and Lysander. Helena, who is intent on winning back Demetrius’s love, follows him. Although he once loved her, he now professes his love for Hermia. Helena cannot understand why his earlier feelings for her have changed. Oberon sees the confrontation between them and takes pity on Helena.

Puck returns with the magical love juice. Oberon instructs him where he might find Tytania sleeping so that he might sprinkle the juice upon her eyes, and also tells him to do the same to the youth (i.e., Demetrius) whom he will find nearby, causing him to fall in love with the sweet lady (i.e., Helena) who loves him unrequitedly.

Six workers enter, ready to plan the production of Pyramus and Thisbe that they wish to perform for Theseus on the occasion of his marriage to Hippolyta. Peter Quince hands out the parts: Pyramus is to be played by Nick Bottom, Thisbe by Francis Flute. Snug is to be the Lion, and the others will take various roles. They agree to meet up later that night to rehearse, planning to have their parts memorized.

Hermia and Lysander re-enter, prepared to run away, but they are tired and need to rest. They sleep apart, and Puck, seeing Lysander, assumes he must be the disdainful youth of whom Oberon spoke. He squeezes love juice on the sleeping Lysander. Helena and Demetrius re-enter as well, Demetrius in hot pursuit of Lysander, and Helena following him, exhausted. After Demetrius leaves, she sees Lysander and tries to wake him. As he sees her, he immediately declares his undying love for her. Helena cannot believe her ears and runs from him. He, in turn, hopes that Hermia will stay asleep and will never come near him again. He runs off in pursuit of Helena. Hermia wakes after having a nightmare about Lysander, and leaves, trying to find him.

Tytania enters with her retinue who prepare her for her rest. After they leave, Oberon appears and, unseen, attacks Tytania with love juice while she sleeps. Wanting to wreak a goodly amount of humiliation together with his vengeance, he admonishes her to wake when some vile thing is near, so that she might then fall in love with it.

ACT II

As the six workers rehearse their play, Puck shows up and realizes he has stumbled upon a wonderful possibility. Bottom leaves to prepare for an entrance in the play, but when he returns, his fellow players realize in horror that he has been transformed into a creature half-man, half-ass. They run from him. He sings to keep his spirits up, and wakens Tytania, who inevitably and instantly falls in love with him. She immediately summons her underlings to perform for Bottom and to tend to his every desire. His first cravings are for some honey to eat, a good head scratch, and for a little musical entertainment. He then prepares for a nap.

Oberon returns to see what has transpired. He is pleased that Tytania has fallen in love with a monster, but when Demetrius and Hermia enter, both looking for Lysander, Oberon is outraged to discover that Puck has mistakenly anointed the eyes of the wrong youth. Oberon sends Puck in search of Helena, and as Demetrius falls asleep, Oberon squeezes the juice onto the young man’s eyes. Puck returns with both Helena and Lysander, and Demetrius, upon awakening, declares his ardent love for Helena. Helena is appalled at this turn of events—how could she possibly have transformed instantly from the unloved one to a woman with whom not one but two men are in love, and one of them none other than the suitor of her best friend, Hermia? Hermia arrives and Helena confronts her. How could she have taken part in this charade to humiliate Helena? As she realizes that Lysander no longer loves her, Hermia rises to the challenge and fights back. The boys run away to find a place to fight.

Oberon instructs Puck to cause confusion so that no one actually gets hurt. Puck leads Lysander and Demetrius on a wild goose chase, luring them on so that they think they are going to fight the other, but bringing them eventually right back to where they started, where he compels them both to sleep. He also brings Helena and Hermia to the same place, and sees that they sleep as well. He then applies the antidote to the love juice to Lysander’s eyes, hopeful that when the lovers awake, all will be righted.

ACT III

Oberon, now in possession of the little orphan boy he so coveted, arrives to see Tytania entwined with Bottom. He sprinkles Tytania’s eyes with the antidote to the love juice, and when she awakes, she is stunned to discover who her bed-partner is. Oberon orders Puck to return Bottom to his human form, and Oberon then reconciles with Tytania, without telling her precisely how she got into this compromising situation.

As the lovers are awakened by Theseus’s hunting horns, they realize, on their own and with each other, that something has changed. They recognize their true loves: Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius. They know they belong to each other but can never actually own the other. They have recognized the paradox of love.

After the lovers have left to return to their normal lives, Bottom awakes and realizes he has had a most peculiar dream. The five other workers come back, mourning the loss of their beloved companion, and are stunned to find Bottom back to his normal self. They leave in high spirits.

That evening, during the celebration of the marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta, Pyramus and Thisbe is chosen as the desired entertainment. The rustics enact the play complete with audience warnings, an explanatory lecture, realistic costumes, a mad scene, and all the appurtenances of good theater. The lovers eventually tire of the antics, and prepare to go to bed.

Oberon, Tytania, Puck, and the children appear. They approve of the matches made by the grown-ups, knowing that everything is back in its proper order. At the end, Puck makes sure that the last remaining imbalance is righted.

Young Artists Program
206-389-7680, ext. 1310
young.artists@seattleopera.org

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