Study guide questions

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STUDY GUIDE QUESTIONS - A Midsummer Night's Dream

1. How is Hippolyta’s reasoning concerning how quickly the next four days will pass different from that of Theseus? Note how Shakespeare portrays the patience and calmness of Hippolyta in contrast to the impatience and need for action of Theseus.

Hippolyta is much calmer than Theseus. Theseus wants the days the days to go faster, so he decides to party for 4 days. Hippolyta thinks the next 4 days will pass like a dream.

2. Why has Egeus brought his daughter and her two suitors to Theseus? What does Egeus expect him to do?

He is trying to make his daughter Hermia marry Demetrius; however, she loves Lysander.

3. What was the proper role for women/daughters in Athenian society according to Egeus and Theseus?

Women have no rights and are the property of their fathers. They have to follow what the man in their live tells them to, and should treat their fathers like Gods.

4. What is Theseus’s ruling concerning Hermia?

• Marry Demetrius

• Become a nun

Or death

5. How does Lysander’s comment about Demetrius’s previous love affair with Helena complicate things?

He is basically telling Egeus that he will cheat on Hermia because Demetrius had done it before with Helena. (It makes Demetrius unfaithful and unfit for marriage.)

6. What do Lysander and Hermia plan to do about this seemingly impossible situation?

They plan to run away with each other to Lysander's aunt house where they will marry. They also plan to meet in the woods tomorrow night so that they can travel together.

7. Why do they tell Helena what they plan to do?

So that Helena can stop being upset and stop thinking that Hermia is going to marry Demetrius.
8. Even though Helena loves Demetrius and is Hermia’s best friend, why does she decide to tell Demetrius of Hermia and Lysander’s plans?
Helena plans to betray Hermia by turning her into a whore because if Demetrius finds her sleeping with Lysander, Demetrius will declare her unfaithful leaving Hermia as the only faithful woman left, and that will make him love her.

1. Why does Nick Bottom want to play all the parts?

He wants to be the only one playing all the parts because he likes the attention and thinks he is the best actor of the group.
2. How do you suppose the threat of being hanged if they scare the ladies will affect the artisans’ interpretation of the tragedy of Pyramus and Thisby?
They have to censor the play so much that way it won’t scare the ladies. They edit the story to make it funnier and less scary.

3. In what way is this scene funny? Why do you suppose Shakespeare included this scene?

It’s funny because it shows how much of a jackass Bottom is and because they are making all the wrong decision about how to perform their play. Shakespeare probably put it in there to lighten the story up a little bit.

4. Where are the actors to meet the following night? Who else is meeting in these same woods at the same time?

All the actors meet in the woods, and all the lovers: Demetrius and Helena, and Lysander and Hermia.

1. What does the reader find out about the current relationship between Oberon, King of the Fairies, and Titania, Queen of the Fairies, from Puck and the first fairy?

Titana and Oberon are married and they are fighting about a changeling that belongs to Titania.
2. How have Oberon and Titania been involved in the past with Theseus and Hippolyta, and why have they come to Athens?
Titania loves Theseus and Oberon loves Hippolyta. They've both come to Athens to bless the wedding.

3. What effect has their quarrel had on nature, on the seasons, on humans?

Their disagreement causes storms to happen and causes harm and disasters to humans.

4. Why won’t Titania give up the changeling to Oberon?

She promised the changeling’s mother that she would take care of her child. So, it is her job to take care of the child.
5. What does Oberon send Puck to find?
A flower pierced by Cupid's arrow. It is called Love-in-Idleness
6. What are Oberon’s plans for Titania?

Put the flower juice on her eyes to make her fall in love with an animal or monster.

7. How does Helena react to Demetrius’s verbal abuse?
Helena doesn’t seem to care what Demetrius says about her.
8. What is her response to his threats of physical abuse?
That she is like a dog - the more he beats her, the more she'll love him. She wants to be a like a dog – loyal and near him.
9. In what way is Helena’s behavior inappropriate for Athenian women?
It is inappropriate behavior because she is chasing Demetrius and he should be the one chasing her.
10. What does Oberon tell Puck to do about Demetrius and Helena?
He said that he had to put the flower's juice on Demetrius’s eyes so that way he falls in love with Helena.


1. Why does Oberon want Titania to wake and fall in love with some vile thing?
It is an act of revenge because she didn’t give him the changeling.
2. Why does Hermia insist Lysander sleep a little ways from her?
It is inappropriate because they are not married, and it is against society rules: they must remain virgins until their wedding day.
3. Why does Puck anoint Lysander’s eyes?
He mistook Lysander for Demetrius.
4. How does Helena react to Lysander’s sudden love for her when he awakens?
She is mad, offended, and confused about the whole thing. She thinks Lysander is playing a trick on her.
5. How is Hermia’s dream a reflection of reality?
Her dream of a snake eating her heart out represents Lysander's new betrayal (he now loves Helena).

1. How are the actors going to keep from scaring the ladies when Pyramus kills himself or when the lion roars?

They’re going to write two prologues explaining that they’re actors and everything they’re doing is fake because it is a play; therefore, it is not real.
2. How are the actors going to manage the setting/scenery such as the moonlight and the wall?
Write yet another prologue where each actor will introduce themselves, their costumes, and who they are playing.

3. Why do the rest of the actors run off when Bottom reappears?

Because his head has been changed to that of a donkey (ass).
4. What does Puck plan to do when he follows after the other actors?
Scare them by changing himself into various grotesque beasts and chase them around the forest making them get lost in the process.
5. How does Bottom react to Titania and the other fairies?
He doesn’t seem to care.
6. Bottom says, “…reason and love keep little company together nowadays.” Why is this quote such an appropriate statement at this point in the play?
Because there’s no reason for any of our characters to be acting the way they are.

1. What does Hermia accuse Demetrius of doing?

“Killing” Lysander
2. How are Puck and Oberon going to correct Puck’s earlier mistake?
Put the spell on Demetrius and lay him down next to Helena.
3. Why is Helena upset when Demetrius says he loves her? Isn’t this what she had wanted all along?
She thinks he’s playing on her because just the day before he said he hated her.
4. Of what does Helena accuse Hermia?
She accuses Hermia of putting the men up to this cruel joke.
5. How close had Hermia and Helena been in the past?
They were best friends, like sisters.
6. How does Lysander treat Hermia? Why can’t she believe what he says?
Lysander says he hates Hermia, but she can’t believe it cause they were in love.
7. Of what does Hermia accuse Helena?
She accuses Helena of putting the men up to this cruel joke.
8. Why is Helena afraid of Hermia?
She doesn’t know how to fight.

9. What are Lysander and Demetrius going off to do?

They’re going off to go fight over Helena.
10. What does Oberon tell Puck to do about the two young men?

  • Make it very dark and foggy so they can’t see where they’re going

  • Make them run around the woods by imitating the other man’s voice

  • Make sure they get exhausted and pass out

  • Remove the spell from Lysander.

11. What is Oberon going to do about Titania?

Ask for the boy again and then remove the spell.
12. Why doesn’t Oberon fear the coming of day?
Because he is the King of the Faries and therefore he can come and go as he pleases.
13. How well does Puck’s trickery work?

Very well; he manages to make everyone exhausted and fall asleep next to one another.


1. How has Bottom adjusted to the attention of Titania and her fairies?

He loves it. He’s actually ordering the other fairies around.
2. What is Oberon’s reaction to Titania’s infatuation with Bottom?
He has pity for her because she’s in love with a donkey.
3. What sort of explanation will Oberon make to Titania’s question about what happened to her? Do you think he will tell her the truth?
He never really does give her an explanation on what happened and there is a huge possibility that he won’t tell her what happened.
4. Why are Theseus, Hippolyta, Egeus, and the others out in the woods so early in the morning?
They are on a fox hunt, but they were also kind of searching for the lovers since they had been gone for a long time.
5. What is Theseus’s first explanation of why the young people are asleep in the woods?
To observe the midsummer’s day.
6. What explanation does Demetrius make? Why does he compare his love for Hermia to an illness?
He says that he followed Hermia and Lysander to the woods, and Helena followed him. He also tells Theseus that his love for Hermia had melted like snow, returning him to his more “natural taste”. He compares his love to Hermia as a sickness because he found out his cure was that he really loved Helena.
7. What is Theseus’s decision concerning the four young people?
That they are going to get married, along with Theseus and Hippolyta.
8. Why can’t the young people be sure whether they are awake or dreaming?
Because they only can remember what happened when they were following each other into the woods and right when they just woke up.
9. Bottom believes he too has had a dream. How is he going to use that dream to entertain the Duke?
He’s going to turn it into a song called “Bottom’s Dream.”

1. What opinion do the other artisans now have of Bottom since they think he is lost?

They all agree that Bottom was the best out of all of them.
2. What do they most regret losing by not being able to perform the play?
They money because they all could’ve used it.
3. Why must the artisans hurry to the Duke’s palace?
They have to hurry because the wedding is going to start and they want to be one of the groups chosen to perform.

1. Why does Theseus dismiss the stories of the four young people?

He thinks they’re making it up and he thinks they were just dreaming.

2. Why does Theseus choose to see the play about Pyramus and Thisby rather than the other entertainments?

He is curious about it based on the paradoxical description of the play: “…how can a play be short and long at the same time?”
3. Why does Philostrate try to keep Theseus from seeing the play? What does he say is wrong with it?
Because they’re amateurs, and he says they were so bad that he was crying from laughing so hard.
4. What does Theseus mean by the lines, “For never anything can be amiss, when simpleness and duty tender it”?
That there is nothing wrong with simple people trying hard.
5. What is accomplished by having the Prologue tell the whole story that the actors are then going to enact?
To give the audience a brief summary of the play, explain each actor’s role, and ask forgiveness.

6. How does Shakespeare use the comments from the audience to enhance the humor of the play that they are watching?

It adds to the humor: you’re watching actors make fun of acting.
7. What is Hippolyta’s reaction to the play?
She feels sorry for them because they’re being made fun of.
8. In what way is Thisby’s final speech humorous?
He starts out trying to deliver the speech in a woman’s voice, but, by the end of it, he is delivering it in a regular man’s voice.
9. What does Oberon tell the fairies to do?
To bless all the marriages.
10. What is the purpose of Puck’s final speech?

Given the title A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it is no surprise that one of the main themes of the play is dreams, particularly as they relate to darkness and love. When morning comes, ending the magical night in the forest, the lovers begin to suspect that their experience in the woods was merely a dream. Theseus suggests as much to Hippolyta, who finds it strange that all the young lovers would have had the same dream. In the famous final speech of the play, Puck turns this idea outward, recommending that if audience members did not enjoy the play, they should assume that they have simply been dreaming throughout. This suggestion captures perfectly the delicate, insubstantial nature of A Midsummer Night’s Dream: just as the fairies mended their mischief by sorting out the romantic confusion of the young lovers, Puck accounts for the whimsical nature of the play by explaining it as a manifestation of the subconscious.

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