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Theatre / A Midsummer Night's Dream

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As the play is Older Than Steam and most twists in Shakespeare's plots are now widely known, all spoilers on this page are unmarked.
"Titania and Bottom" by Edwin Landseer

"This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard."

A comedy by William Shakespeare about a Love Dodecahedron that goes out of control thanks to the meddling of fairies with a Love Potion.

Two young Athenians, Hermia and Lysander, are in love. Alas, Hermia's wealthy father Egeus has just promised her to another man named Demetrius, who was formerly with a girl named Helena — who just happens to be Hermia's best friend. The lovers go to court, where Duke Theseus (who has his own impending marriage on his mind), rules in favor of Egeus. He gives Hermia the choice to accept the marriage, be executed, or become a nun.

So Hermia and Lysander slip away by night. Before they leave, they confide in Helena and ask her not to tell anyone; naturally, Helena tells Demetrius in hopes of getting back into his good graces. Demetrius follows the lovers, with Helena chasing after him, and all of them end up lost in the same forest.

Meanwhile, Oberon, King of the Fairies, is in a petty quarrel with his wife, whom he plans to prank with magical eyedrops that will make anyone fall in love with the next person they see. After eavesdropping on Helena and Demetrius and seeing how he mistreats her, Oberon is moved to pity and sends his servant Puck to give the potion to "a youth in Athenian garb," traveling in the woods with a woman, so that she will be the first thing he sees. Oberon then finds Titania asleep and applies the juice to her eyes.

Puck duly uses the potion on a young man in Athenian garb asleep in the woods near a young woman. Unfortunately, it was Lysander, not Demetrius, and the woman who wakes him is Helena. Hermia finds that her beau is now madly in love with her best friend. Unaware of his error, Puck proceeds to his part of the prank regarding Titania. He finds a none-too-bright actor in a group rehearsing a play to be performed at Theseus' wedding, turns his head into a donkey's, scares off the rest of the performers, and leaves him where Titania will see him.

Upon discovering that the wrong Athenian was hexed, Oberon tries to mend matters by giving the potion to the intended victim, Demetrius. This backfires too, and now both men have rejected Hermia for Helena, who thinks that the other three are mocking her. By the midpoint of the play, Titania is in love with the guy with a donkey's head and refusing to let him out of her sight (though he doesn't seem too unhappy about it), Demetrius and Lysander are close to blows over Helena, Puck is openly laughing at how Oberon's good intentions have gone astray, and it's going to take some serious Deus ex Machina to straighten things out.

Of course, order eventually prevails, everyone is paired off in a triple wedding, and the local tradesmen get to perform their hilariously awful play for the Duke and entourage.

One of Shakespeare's silliest and most light-hearted plays, the fantasy setting and comedy heavy on slapstick and farce make it one of his most popular with children — often the first play of his that many see. This is the play that that kid killed himself over in Dead Poets Society. Also, that music which plays at the end of weddings? Felix Mendelssohn wrote it for an 1846 production of this play.


Animated Film

  • A stop-motion film made in 1959 by the Czech animator Jiri Trnka



  • Henry Purcell composed a semi-opera named the Fairy-Queen in 1692 (not to be confused with Edmund Spensers's The Faerie Queene) which intersperses Shakespeare's text with masques and music. The score was considered lost following the composer's death, but was rediscovered early in the 20th Century.
  • Felix Mendelssohn famously wrote an overture (1826) and incidental music (1842) for the play, which includes a certain wedding march.
  • Benjamin Britten wrote an opera of the play in 1960. The opera's libretto is only barely "adapted" from Shakespeare's original text; except for a few lines here and there, Britten uses Shakespeare's words practically verbatim.
  • In 1962 and 1964, the story was adapted twice for ballet, set to Mendelssohn's music: the first version choreographed by George Balanchine, and the second one, titled The Dream, by Frederick Ashton.
  • Baz Luhrmann composed music for Benjamin Britten's production, which set the play in India, with the fairies taking the appearance of Hindu gods. A remix of his finale, "Trip Away", appears on his CD "Something For Everybody"


  • BBC One did a TV movie production for the 400th Anniversary of Shakespeare's death, adapted and directed by Russell T Davies. This version was set in modern times and had several adaptational changes, such as turning Theseus into a villainous fascist conqueror, having Demetrius see Lysander following his love flower exposure, and giving Titania and Hippolyta their own love subplot.

Western Animation

  • The first episode of Shakespeare: The Animated Tales was an adaptation of the play.
  • House of Mouse did an adaptation of the play for one of their Mouse Tales segments, starring Mickey, Minnie, Donald, Daisy, Scrooge, Von Drake, and Goofy as Lysander, Hermia, Demetrius, Helena, Egeus, Theseus and Puck respectively. Apart from some incorporating some cartoon gags here and there and omitting the subplot of Oberon getting revenge on his wife, the short stays rather faithful to the original play.

The play includes examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: The Mechanicals keep referring in Ninus's tomb as "Ninny's tomb", to Quince's increasing frustration.
  • All Amazons Want Hercules: "Hippolyta, I wooed thee with my sword/And won thy love, doing thee injuries..." Also specifically invoked when Theseus tries to impress Hippolyta with his hounds. She teasingly tells him that she went hunting with Hercules and his hounds were better. (In Greek mythology, Hippolyta was always paired with either Theseus or Hercules.)
  • All Just a Dream: At the end of the play, the couples and Nick Bottom decide, with the help of The Fair Folk, that the night's events were just a dream, and in the epilogue spoken by Puck, he advises the audiences: "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."
  • All Love Is Unrequited: This situation arises for a short time between the four mortal lovers after Lysander is magically induced to love Helena and before Demetrius is.
  • Amazon Chaser: Theseus to Hippolyta. Her courtship with Theseus was based on fighting and one of his first lines is how his marriage proposal was their duel.
  • Anachronism Stew: As is typical of Shakespeare.
    • The "crew of patches" putting on the "Pyramus and Thisbe" play are based on the Elizabethan-era working class, so their names and professions don't reflect the "ancient Greece" setting.
    • The names of the play actors (Peter, Nick, Tom, etc.) use modern naming conventions that did not exist in Ancient Greece.
    • The presence of the aforementioned play and theater in Mythical Greece is an anachronism. According to the Greeks the first actor ever was a man named Thespis born around sixth century BCE. The entire concept of acting was unknown in the time of Theseus.
    • Hermia alludes to Dido and Aeneas ("And by that fire which burn'd the Carthage queen,/When the false Troyan under sail was seen") even though the Trojan War (and thus Aeneas's flight from burning Troy and eventual arrival at Carthage) happens after the life of Theseus in Greek mythology.
    • Also, Theseus decrees that if Hermia doesn't marry Demetrius, she'll either be executed or have to become a nun. Not exactly a lot of nunneries in mythological Greece. (Although Shakespeare might have meant that she'd have to become a priestess of Artemis, who were required to be chaste.)
    • The fairies (or Oberon and Titania, at least) come from stories originating in medieval France. Bottom seems to know this, as he repeatedly refers to the minor fairies as "Monsieur."
    • There's a line where Puck says, "When they him spy, As wild geese that the creeping fowler eye, Or russet-pated choughs, many in sort, Rising and cawing at the gun's report." Problem, guns were not invented for centuries!
    • Robin Goodfellow, or Puck, comes from English folklore. Not even the fairies match.
    • The origin of the flower that Oberon uses? A failed attempt by Cupid to make Queen Elizabeth fall in love.
    • The text also mentions Saint Valentine, a reference to a figure not born for millennia and a religion not yet founded.
    • Theseus is called the duke of Athens multiple times, a common name for him in the Middle Ages, but the duchy of Athens wasn't established until the Fourth Crusade.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: The flower that causes people to fall in love with whoever they see first, and the flower that reverses that effect.
  • Arbitrary Skepticism: Theseus — slayer of the Minotaur, kinsman of Hercules, husband of the Amazon Queen — doesn't believe in fairies, apparently.
  • Archer Archetype: Hippolyta's status as this in mythology is referenced when she likens the waning moon to "a silver bow/New-bent in heaven".
  • Arranged Marriage: Egeus has promised his daughter Hermia to Demetrius. She's not happy about it, but nothing can be done until Demetrius calls the thing off.
  • Babies Ever After: Heavily implied by Oberon's speech at the end; his blessing on the three couples ensures that their future children will be free from birth defects.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": The actors playing Bottom and the rest of the tradesmen are absolutely required to give their best worst performances during Pyramus and Thisbe. Bottom ought to chew the scenery like there is no tomorrow, but it's up to the rest of the Players to determine just how they'll mangle the play.
  • Berserk Button: Don't call Hermia short. She'll try to claw your eyes out!
  • Best Her to Bed Her: Hippolyta: Theseus "wooed her with his sword"
  • Beta Couple: At least two: Oberon & Titania, Theseus & Hippolyta. They may be one and the same, though.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall:
  • Changeling Tale: In the backstory — Oberon and Titania are fighting over custody of a human child they abducted.
  • The Chessmaster:
    • Oberon.
    • Also Theseus, depending on interpretation. He manages to resolve the Love Dodecagon without anyone facing an unpleasant end, and then provides the perfect play to show the lovers what could have happened had he not stepped in. Multiple characters threaten murder and suicide, and Midsummer could easily have ended more in line with Pyramus and Thisbe.
  • Child Marriage Veto: Hermia refuses her Arranged Marriage to Demetrius, but Theseus tells her Egeus is within his rights. The situation is resolved when Demetrius refuses the marriage.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: Hermia and Lysander are pardoned and allowed to marry. Demetrius and Helena get together too, while Oberon and Titania reconcile.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: Helena follows Demetrius into the woods all the way from Athens because she's that clingy.
  • Coupled Couples: Hermia and Lysander are the first couple, Demetrius and Helena are the second.
  • Crystal Dragon Jesus: Apparently in mythological Greece, nuns served Diana. In Shakespeare's time, the Greek word for the maidens who served Diana was often translated as "nuns" because their vows also required celibacy. Thus this may be "nearest modern equivalent" translation rather than an actual Crystal Dragon Jesus trope.
  • Cue Card Pause: During the Prologue to "Pyramus and Thisbe".
  • Dance Party Ending: For both the mortals and the fairies.
  • Death by Childbirth: Titania's mortal handmaiden and close friend, before the story begins, died giving birth to a baby boy. For her sake, Titania raises the boy as her own, and keeps him close.
  • Double Entendre: "Hippolyta, I woo'd thee with my sword." Also pretty much every line in the play. The mechanicals are particularly bad about this, but unlike with Theseus, it's (probably) unintentional.
  • Double Standard: Rape, Divine on Mortal: Titania, dosed with a love potion, falls desperately in love with the next thing she sees, which is Bottom. As he's having a rough day, he proposes to head home, not realizing that she's a fairy queen, and fairy queens aren't used to hearing the word "No". The scene of her capturing him is never played as anything but hilarity, not say, kidnapping and sex slavery. The trope is complicated by the fact that she herself is acting under the influence of a love charm administered by Oberon.
    Titania: Out of this wood do not desire to go:
    Thou shalt remain here, whether thou wilt or no.
    I am a spirit of no common rate;
    The summer still doth tend upon my state.
  • Down the Rabbit Hole: The plot can be considered a precursor to modern "portal fantasies". Misfit youths find themselves in a parallel world of magic and whimsy where they are forced to act differently (and sometimes more honestly) than they normally do, and return wiser for the experience. No one goes into a hole, although many phases of the plot end with characters falling asleep on the ground.
  • Elopement: Hermia and Lysander run off to do this, since Hermia is going to be forced into an Arranged Marriage to Demetrius (or put into a convent). However, events work out so that Demetrius cancels the wedding and the two are able to get married in Athens after all.
  • Ensemble Cast: Focus is split evenly between the lovers, the fairies, and the actors (mostly Bottom), with no one person who can be called the main character.
  • Eternal Love: Oberon and Titania.
  • Exact Words: Oberon specifically instructs Puck to put the love flower's juices on a man in "Athenian garb." Puck does just that...but the problem is there are two men in "Athenian garb"—Lysander and Demetrius—in the forest that night, and he doesn't know that Oberon meant the latter, not the former. When Oberon tries to take Puck to task for this, the fairy uses this trope to defend himself—he did just what the king ordered him to do, and thus can't be punished.
  • Extremely Short Timespan: There's a reason it's called A Midsummer Night's Dream. The action onstage all takes place in less than 48 hours, and most of it over one night.
  • The Fair Folk: Probably near-single-handedly responsible for ensuring a darkish version of the fairies was always remembered despite Victorian Bowdlerization, which is mildly ironic because one of Shakespeare's subversions in the show is that his fairies act more or less human and benevolently, vice the contemporary view that they were cruel and alien.
  • Fairy Ring: The play alludes to fairy rings in Act II, Scene 1 ("And I serve the fairy queen, / To dew her orbs upon the green" and "To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind").
  • Final Speech: Parodied in the Show Within a Show. Bottom takes forever to die as Pyramus, and Hippolyta complains that he's such a bad actor, he doesn't deserve to have his Thisbe take forever to die for him: "I hope she will be brief." Can be a subverted parody, in Thisbe's final speech. Some interpretations have Flute actually turning out to be a good actor, dropping his bad falsetto, and using his final monologue to show what could have easily happened to the lovers. This gives Theseus's approval of the play (and his insistence that the epilogue was unnecessary) a very different connotation.
  • Fisher King: Disharmony between Oberon and Titania causes disharmony in the land and seasons.
  • The Fool: Puck plays the jester for Oberon, but the real Fool in this play is Bottom, whose accidental witticisms occasionally contain great insight (which goes right over his head). Note that in Shakespeare's plays, the fool is often wiser than he appears. Bottom is supposedly a great actor, though he doesn't show it. In some performances, Flute's final monologue becomes dramatic, when Flute finally gets fed up with being mocked and essentially states the (very relevant) message of Pyramus and Thisbe outright. The sudden change of tone is quite powerful, and would not have been possible had Bottom not ensured the rest of the play was hilariously bad. Generally this is portrayed as accidental, but not always.
  • Forced Transformation: Bottom's head turned into that of an ass. He never seems to actually notice that anything is different (although he does express a craving for hay and oats).
  • The Ghost: The changeling boy, who causes the conflict between Titania and Oberon in the first place, never even appears on stage in the script. Some productions do have him appear, but obviously he doesn't get any lines.
  • Great Gazoo: Puck is one of the Trope Codifiers, as a magical trickster who causes most of the hilarity.
  • Green-Eyed Monster:
    • Titania accuses Oberon of being jealous over her love for the changeling boy.
    • Helena is also quite jealous of Demetrius's sudden pursuit of Hermia.
  • Happily Ever Before: In Greek mythology the Amazons rescue Hippolyta the day of their wedding, leading to Theseus instead pursue Helen of Troy. The play ends right before any of this goes down.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: The American elision of "arse" to "ass" added an extra pun to Bottom's name.
  • Height Insult: Zeroth Law!
    Helena: And though she be but little, she is fierce.
    Hermia: "Little" again! Nothing but "low" and "little"! Why will you suffer her to flout me thus? Let me come to her.
    Lysander: Get you gone, you dwarf; You minimus, of hindering knot-grass made; You bead, you acorn.
  • He Really Can Act: An In-Universe example—some productions, such as the 1999 film, have Flute-as-Thisbe deliver his speech about Pyramus's death in the tomb in a genuinely moving, well-acted manner, which contrasts the hilariously amateurish style of the rest of the play-within-a-play.
  • Hollywood History: The Elizabethan version — the lifestyles of the ancient Greeks look very English. On the other hand, "fairy" was a common medieval and early modern translation for Greek νύμφη and Latin nympha.
  • Homosocial Heterosexuality: Lampshaded when Lysander tells Demetrius he should just marry Egeus, since Egeus loves him but Hermia doesn't!
  • Honor Thy Parent: Hermia wants to marry Lysander but her father Egeus has engaged her to Demetrius. Egeus petitions Theseus, the Duke of Athens, to enforce a law according to which Hermia must submit to her father or incur the death penalty! Theseus offers Hermia a third option - to become a nun of the goddess Diana, but she rejects this option and Theseus feels compelled to enforce the law, giving Hermia some time to think about it. Hermia and Lysander, however, resolve to flee Athens, and this drives the rest of the plot.
  • Hourglass Plot: At the start of the play, Hermia is loved by two men, Helena is the abandoned woman loved by none, Lysander is mutually in love with one woman and respectful of the other, and Demetrius has abandoned the woman who loves him to chase the woman who doesn't. By the time of the lovers' quarrel in the forest, the two women have swapped places in this pattern, as have the two men, thanks to the effects of the magic flower.
  • I Gave My Word: Hermia gives Lysander a monologue essentially saying this when he asks her to come with him.
  • Instantly Proven Wrong: As soon as Lysander says to Helena "Demetrius loves [Hermia] and he loves not you", Demetrius wakes up and instantly starts professing love to Helena.
  • Interspecies Romance: Titania and Bottom, briefly.
  • Intro Dump: Peter Quince rattles off the names of every other actor in the company, as he's assigning parts.
  • It Amused Me: Puck's screwing up with the love potion. Sure it was a mistake but he's enjoying the results. "Then will two at once woo one. That must needs be sport alone. All these things do best please me, that befall preposterously."
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Demetrius. Sure, he's sweet to Helena at the end—but it's the love potion talking.
  • Karma Houdini: Oberon humiliates his wife for an extremely petty reason, and gets exactly what he wanted out of it. Titania doesn't seem to care at all once the spell is removed.
  • Kiss Up the Arm: In a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream the two male leads (under the influence of a love spell) both grab one of Helena's hands and kiss it. They try to one up each other by kissing up her arm, and it finished with one of them sniffing her hair. Needless to say, Helena is not amused.
  • Land of Faerie: The woods are inhabited by fairies, and Titania and Oberon would be the Queen and King of that land.
  • Large Ham:
    • Bottom. Also Flute, who idolizes him, and sometimes Quince, in the prologue.
    • Oberon as well, in some performances. It's hard to take lines like "I am / Invisible!" totally seriously.
  • Living MacGuffin: The changeling boy at the center of Oberon and Titania's quarrel. Despite all their arguments, he's clearly just a pretext for their latest disagreement — he doesn't even get a name!
  • Love at First Sight: The magic flower juice causes this. The consequences are hilarious.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: The love spell turns Lysander and Demetrius into violent crazies who are prepared to duel for Helena's hand.
  • Love Martyr: Helena. At one point she claims she wouldn't mind if Demetrius treated her like a dog so long as she could be his dog. She also seems pretty unconcerned when he threatens to rape her. Granted, it's because she doesn't think he'd go through with it, but still.
  • Love Potion: The juice of a certain flower, applied to the eyes, will cause someone to fall in love with the first person they see.
  • Love Triangle: Lysander and Hermia love each other, Demetrius loves Hermia, Helena loves Demetrius. Demetrius used to love Helena until Hermia's beauty (or Egeus' money) caught his eye.
  • Malaproper: Bottom, who is the poster boy for this trope, saying, for example, 'odious' for 'odours' and 'Ninny's tomb' for 'Ninus' tomb' (Ninus was the legendary founder of Nineveh). Bottom goes onto say that the lion "deflowered my dear!" instead of "devoured".
  • Man of a Thousand Voices: An In-Universe variation. Bottom firmly believes that he's such an incredible actor that he could easily play all of the roles in "Pyramus and Thisbe"... problem is, he's barely able to play his own role, let alone any other.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Played with in many productions. In the end, the lovers are left with nothing but their dreams which are startlingly consistent with one another and explain why Demetrius suddenly decided to come back to Helena. Theseus and Hippolyta discuss this when they argue about it (Hippolyta thinks it's magic, Theseus thinks it's mundane).
  • Meaningful Name:
    • All the mechanicals have meaningful names.
      • Bottom. He's an ass. The "bottom" was also a tool used in weaving.
      • The "quince" a tool used in carpentry.
      • Flute was a common name for a church organ, which, in Shakespeare's time, used a bellows to pump air; Francis Flute is a bellows-mender, or repairer of such items. He also, in many productions, puts on a high voice in the role of Thisbe.
      • "Snout" in Elizabethan English meant simply "spout". Snout is a tinker, and tinkers mended teakettles.
      • "Starveling" means "someone who is thin from lack of food", and the stereotype about tailors was that they never had enough to eat.
      • Ironic Name: In the 1935 film, he is played by the chubby, jovial-looking Otis Harlan.
      • "Snug" is a good name for a joiner, who should be able to fit everything together snugly.
    • The name "Titania" comes from Ovid's Metamorphosis, where he assigns that name to the daughters of the Titans.
    • "Helena" means "light" or "torch". "Fair Helena, who more enguilds the night/Than all yon firey oes and eyes of light". Helena is supposed to be fair-haired and tall. This also an ironic wink at Helen of Troy and the many much-sought Helens based on her.
  • MST: During Pyramus and Thisbe. Possibly the Ur-Example.
  • MST3K Mantra: In-Universe, no less, as part of Puck's final soliloquy: "If the story offended you, remind yourself it was nothing but a dream."
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Demetrius wants Helena to stop following him because she's in danger of rape going out at night — and this while he still hates her. (Although his phrasing sort of suggests the danger comes from him.)
  • Mythology Gag: Pyramus and Thisbe can be considered a spot on lampoon of Shakespeare's other famous play Romeo and Juliet, complete with Star-Crossed Lovers, spoilerific prologue, and sudden Downer Ending. It's also a real myth, told by Ovid. Shakespeare based Romeo and Juliet on Pyramus and Thisbe, not the other way around.
  • Narm Charm: In-universe example: this is the court's reaction to the mechanicals' awful Show Within a Show.
    • First, there's Theseus's reaction to the goofy description of the play (as "merry and tragical [and] tedious and brief"):
    Theseus: I will hear that play, for never anything can be amiss, when simpleness and duty tender it.
    • Then the court is charmed by Bottom's pathos as Pyramus, despite his scenery chewing:
    Hippolyta: Beshrew my heart, but I pity the man.
  • Nice to the Waiter: Surprisingly, Bottom, when Titania puts her entire fairy court at his service, takes time out to talk politely with several attending fairies and ask how their families are getting on. This may not be quite kindliness, depending on how the actor plays it — if Bottom thinks it's a dream, then he's just having fun and making a lot of bad puns, or he could be trying out the feeling of noblesse oblige. Or he's terrified of them. Nonetheless, he's making an effort.
  • No Antagonist: The plot is driven by several love triangles, no character is truly evil here.
  • No Fourth Wall: The audience was expected to interact with the players. There's a reason Robin tells the audience directly not to take it seriously.
  • No Guy Wants to Be Chased: Demetrius is doubly repulsed when Helena comes to him before she tells him the news.
  • Oh, Crap!: Puck usually has a hilarious one when he realizes that he enchanted the wrong person. While he stands next to Oberon.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted. Puck's other name is Robin Goodfellow, and Starveling's first name is Robin.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: The original play used this trope by making the fairies less sinister than they were commonly portrayed at the time.
  • Overly-Long Gag: The mechanicals' play goes on for way too long, and is that much the funnier for it.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: "It is the wittiest partition that ever I heard discourse, my lord."
  • Overshadowed by Awesome: Between the lovestruck kids and the great passive-aggressive fairie divorce settlement, people don't give much thought to the rude mechanicals. Bottom is the fool who has the best summation of the entire play: he gets his head turned into a donkey. Meaning, "Love makes asses of us all".
  • Pair the Spares: Demetrius and Helena ending up together functions as this. Some productions will subvert this by implying that Demetrius did love Helena and the love juice just reawakened those feelings - turning them into the Beta Couple.
  • Panthera Awesome: In the Show Within a Show, Thisbe is threatened by a lion.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Egeus orders Hermia to marry Demetrius instead of Lysander. It should be noted that Athenian Law dictated that a woman who disobeyed her father's will would be executed.
  • Person of Mass Destruction: Oberon and Titania most definitely are this, more than possibly any other Shakespeare character. An argument between the two causes a massive hurricane. Not a fight, an argument.
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Oberon is hardly the nicest of characters, but he does feel sorry for Helena and attempt to help her by getting Demetrius to fall in love with her. Unfortunately, that just makes things worse.
    • Overall Demetrius compares unfavourably with Lysander, being a fickle lover who abandoned of Helena before the start of the play. However, during the lovers' quarrel in the forest, when both men have both been magically induced to love Helena, Demetrius at least shows some consideration for Hermia and objects to Lysander's (admittedly magic-induced) cruel abuse of her.
  • Playing a Tree:
    • In Pyramus and Thisbe, Tom Snout, one of the would-be rustic actors, plays a wall. Possibly the Ur-Example.
    • Robin Starveling wields a lantern as "Moonshine".
  • Plot Parallel: Titania falling under a love spell for Bottom parallels Lysander and Demetrius doing the same for Helena.
  • The Power of Friendship: Helena tries to use this trope to win over Hermia in the confusion in the woods when she thinks that Hermia betrayed her. It doesn't work. (Made worse in that Helena betrays Hermia first.)
  • Rape by Proxy: Oberon more or less commits this against both Titania and Bottom by drugging the former with a love potion that causes her to fall desperately in love with the latter, capturing and having her way with him. The whole thing is Played for Laughs.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: An In-Universe example with the Rude Mechanicals' play—they notice that the script calls for Pyramus and Thisbe to meet under the light of the moon. After consulting an almanac, they decide that it's better to have someone play the Moon itself rather than risk any problems.
  • Runaway Fiancée: Hermia, to avoid marrying Demetrius.
  • Shipper on Deck: Oberon really wants to see Helena's love for Demetrius reciprocated.
  • Show Within a Show: Pyramus and Thisbe, from the myth told by Ovid.
  • A Simple Plan: Lysander and Hermia's elopement seems like it should be simple...
  • Sirens Are Mermaids: Oberon's story of the magic flower for the love potion includes a mermaid's beautiful singing, though she calms the sea rather than lures anyone to death.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Nick Bottom is so confident of his abilities to the point that he believes that he can do anything. He can't.
  • So Bad, It's Good: invokedPyramus and Thisbe, when things are taken too literally, the play slowly turns from a tragedy to a comedy. But everybody gets a good laugh at the end.
  • Stealth Pun: A man whose name is Bottom gets given the head of an ass. There's some debate over whether "ass" was in common usage at the time, or if the play itself popularized the euphemism, or it evolved later. It's possible that "ass" and "arse" sounded similar in the accent of Shakespeare's day, as well.
  • Suspect Is Hatless: Oberon tells Puck to smear the love potion on the eyes of a youth dressed in Athenian garb. Given the play is set in a forest just outside of Athens, it is perhaps not too surprising that Puck smears the potion on the eyes of the wrong youth dressed in Athenian garb. Puck even points this out to Oberon, when his king is blaming him for the resulting mess.
  • Stylistic Suck: The Show Within a Show. The Setting Update Get Over It made it a Totally Radical musical of the original play.
  • Take a Third Option: Or rather a fourth. Instead of marrying Demetrius, being executed or taking the veil, Hermia elopes with Lysander.
  • Taking the Veil: Offered to, and rejected by, Hermia.
  • Title Drop: The title comes from Nick Bottom's conclusion that the whole play was All Just a Dream.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Helena. Go run to the unknown woods, chasing after a guy that is very angry with your Yandere behaviour, who has a very short fuse. Demitrius openly states that it's "brave" of her and that he very well could "do [her] some mischief", which she doesn't seem nearly bothered enough by.
  • Unrequited Love Switcheroo: Despite the obvious application of the name, the only true example of the trope is when Helena rejects her former crush Demetrius because she thinks he's playing with her feelings.
  • Unspoken Plan Guarantee: We know that Hermia and Lysander will try to elope, so of course we know it won't work.
  • Viewers Are Morons: What Bottom thinks that the audience of his So Bad, It's Good play is and takes things too literally, because he thinks that they don't have a Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
  • Weddings for Everyone: The climax is at Theseus and Hippolyta's wedding, where the weddings of Lysander and Hermia and Helena and Demetrius are announced too.
  • When the Clock Strikes Twelve: Despite being set in Ancient Greece, Theseus alludes to the fairies coming out when the clock strikes at midnight.
  • Why Don't You Marry It?:
    Lysander: You have her father's love, Demetrius — let me have Hermia's. Do you marry him!

The 2016 film by Russell T Davies adds examples of:

  • Adaptational Angst Downgrade:
    • Titania is perfectly fine with having had a tryst with Bottom, and even smiles and waves at him in the final scene. When the charm is lifted from her eyes and she sees him lying asleep beside her, she does not react with horror, but instead with suspicion and then anger directed at Oberon for having messed with her.
    Titania: (suspiciously) How came these things to pass?
    Oberon: (laughs quietly)
    Titania: (to Oberon; angrily) O, how mine eyes do loathe your visage now!
    • Upon being told he will play the lady Thisbe, Francis Flute is very happy and shows none of the reluctance of his counterpart from the original text.
  • Adaptational Angst Upgrade:
    • Hermia's situation at the beginning of the play is more dire than in the text, because Theseus has been transformed from a relatively benevolent ruler to an evil despot who shows her zero sympathy and does not offer her the third option of becoming a nun.
    • The Mechanicals are in a much higher-stakes situation than in the text when they perform; Mistress Quince is accordingly frantic in her efforts to keep things moving and stop any performers from irritating Theseus.
  • Adaptational Diversity: This specific production features a bisexual Titania, a lesbian Hippolyta played by the half-English, half-Japanese Eleanor Matsuura, a black Oberon played by Nonso Anozie, a Sri Lankan Puck, a black, ambiguously bi Demetrius, a gender-flipped Quince, a black Snug, Flute and Egeus and an Indian Peaseblossom.
  • Adaptational Species Change: When she is freed, Hippolyta is revealed to be a fairy with wings.
  • Adaptational Jerkass: Puck comes across Lysander and Hermia while they are still awake and hears some of their loving discourse, which makes his subsequent enchanting of Lysander look less like an honest mistake and more like deliberate mischief, in contrast to the original text in which he only discovers them when they're asleep. He is also responsible for leading the four lovers on a chase to the edge of a cliff.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Titania is bisexual, being romantic with Oberon, Bottom and Hippolyta who is lesbian in this version. Demetrius also has some shades of Ambiguously Bi.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Theseus is an evil despot and Hitler-Expy who keeps Hippolyta as a prisoner in a straitjacket and marks for death any Mechanical who irritates him.
  • Ambiguously Bi: As in the text, Demetrius serially loves both Hermia and Helena (whom he marries), but in this version he also briefly falls for Lysander (albeit by magic) and later comments on the attractiveness of Francis Flute as Thisbe.
  • Background Halo: Used twice for Helena and once for Lysander as they become the objects of magic-flower-induced affection.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Several of them in the final scenes, but most epic is the one between Titania and Hippolyta, both of whom have spread their wings and flown up to the rafters hand-in-hand.
  • Blasting It Out of Their Hands: When Oberon approaches the sleeping Titania to enchant her, he does this when her fairies move to confront him with weapons.
  • Bound and Gagged: Hippolyta spends most of the film tied up in a straitjacket and gagged. At the end of the story, when she is finally freed, it is revealed that she is a fairy with beautiful wings.
  • Cast Full of Gay: As expected, being a Russell T Davies production. Flute and one of the Athens guardsmen hit it off; Titania is romantic with Oberon, Bottom and Hippolyta; Demetrius sees and briefly falls for Lysander under the love spell, but also comments on Flute's attractiveness whilst the latter is playing Thisbe. As Hippolyta shows exactly zero affection for Theseus, we could conclude that gives two gay, two bisexual, and one lesbian in the characters.
  • Contrast Montage: Near the end, there is a very moving one between Flute as Thisbe in the Mechanicals' play delivering her final speech and stabbing herself, and Theseus dying for real in the corridors, almost making Thisbe's speech into an elegy for him.
  • Crystal-Ball Scheduling: Theseus begins to suffer his heart attack when Pyramus stabs himself in the Mechanicals' play, and dies when Thisbe stabs herself.
  • Cute Clumsy Girl: The very tall Helena is implied to be somewhat gangly as she trips over while following Demetrius through the woods.
  • Darker and Edgier: Here, Athens is a quasi-Nazi state with a villainous Theseus as an Expy of Hitler who rules with an iron fist and has Hippolyta bound and gagged. The lovers' quarrel in the forest is also Played for Drama to an even greater extent than the original text, with a chase culminating in Hermia dangling over a cliff with only Demetrius holding her by the arm. The scene of the Mechanicals' performance is also played in a sinister and suspenseful manner (far from the comic relief of the original text), as Theseus silently notes which performers he finds irritating and marks them for "elimination"; the joyful resolution is delayed until the last few minutes of the film.
  • Death by Adaptation: Theseus dies of a heart attack in the final scene.
  • Dies Differently in Adaptation: In the original mythology, Theseus was thrown off a cliff by King Lycomedes. Due to the play having been set at an earlier point in Theseus' life and thus, lacking Lycomedes, the more overtly villainous Theseus in this adaptation of the play dies from a heart attack.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Theseus marks for implied "elimination" those Mechanicals by whom he is irritated. Hermia's death sentence for refusing to marry Demetrius also counts, especially since in this version, the third option of becoming a nun is not present.
  • Evil Laugh: Parodied, as Oberon is definitely not evil, but he engages in this kind of laughter a few times through the film.
  • Gender Flip: The Mechanicals are led by Mistress Quince. Titania's fairies are female but, comically, Bottom still uses the male forms of address from the original text while talking to them. They are not pleased.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: Although Oberon is initially jealous and angry about Titania's relationship with Hippolyta, he comes around to it, and even helps in rescuing the latter from her bondage which allows her to be with Titania.
  • Literal Cliff Hanger: During the lovers' quarrel scene, Puck leads them on a wild chase through the forest, with Demetrius carrying Hermia, until he suddenly stalls at a cliff and accidentally lets her fall over the edge, where she hangs from one of his arms for an alarming fifty seconds (while Helena delivers her "I evermore did love you Hermia" speech). Demetrius finally manages to pull her back up.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: It isn't made clear whether Theseus' fatal heart attack was natural, or magically induced by the fairies.
  • Meaningful Echo: Although the Fairies' lullaby to Titania is omitted, the lines "Never harm nor spell nor charm, come our lovely lady nigh" are said twice: first by Cobweb in the forest when, confronted by Oberon's fairies, she summons Titania; and the second time at the end of the film, uttered by Titania herself (altered to "come my lovely lady nigh") as she frees Hippolyta.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Hermia seems to think so, preferring the bespectacled Potteresque Lysander to the conventionally handsome, manly Demetrius. Demetrius himself has a minute with this trope too, thanks to the magic flower...
  • Pet the Dog: A possible one for the villainous Theseus when he overrules Egeus' will and allows Hermia to marry Lysander. However, this is undermined by the fact that a) Demetrius' change of heart made the earlier ruling untenable, and b) Theseus would have something to gain by being flanked by two happy couples during his marriage to Hippolyta, to distract from the fact that the latter is very much not happy.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Granted, Lysander's under a spell and thus not himself, but the fact that Hermia is black makes his "Out, tawny Tartar, out!" line downright racist. Thank goodness that his arguably even worse line, "Away, you Ethiope!" from the original text was cut.
  • Screw This, I'm Out of Here!: When addressed by Bottom, Moth promptly screams and flies away. This helps to explain why she is not mentioned again among the other fairies Titania summoned (Peaseblossom, Cobweb and Mustardseed).
  • Serial Romeo: Demetrius has shades of this; partly thanks to the magic flower, he falls in love with all three of the other lovers in turn. Lampshaded when he addresses Helena with almost exactly the same extravagant lines as he said to Lysander just one minute ago.
  • Shock and Awe: At one point, Oberon creates a skyward lightning bolt, not as a weapon but as a dramatic display of his power. Demetrius sees it from another part of the forest and stares in awe before Hermia comes up and slaps him.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Statuesque Stunner: Helena is very tall, blonde, and beautiful. This is emphasised even further when she is shown smiling in a Background Halo shot as first Lysander and then Demetrius fall for her.
  • Tension-Cutting Laughter: Oberon delivers some when he says "Lord, what fools these mortals be!", to Puck's relief that the King of the Fairies is not angry with him at that moment. This stands out as a contrast to the moments when the laughing Puck promptly shuts up when he sees that Oberon is not amused.
  • Tiny Guy, Huge Girl: Downplayed. Demetrius is not tiny, but the statuesque Helena is still noticeably taller than him. She also towers over Lysander and especially Hermia who has to jump up to kiss her on the cheek.
  • What Did I Do Last Night?: Bottom wakes up and is frustrated at not being able to remember what happened during the night. During the final scene, he is very happy at being reminded when Titania smiles and discretely waves at him in acknowledgement.
  • 0% Approval Rating: Theseus maintains fear-based order and obedience, but seems almost universally disliked. His appearance on the screens meet with boos from the tavern-goers, and his death is followed by a universal celebration, with the only (vaguely implied) elegy for him coming from Flute delivering his final speech in the role of Thisbe.

Other productions and adaptations add examples of:

  • Accidental Kiss: Downplayed in the Frederick Ashton ballet, "The Dream", in which the lovers' quarrel in the forest has a couple of accidental hugs between Lysander and Demetrius as both simultaneously move to hug Helena and she slips out of their way at the last moment.
  • Adaptational Angst Downgrade: As part of its simplification of the story, the George Balanchine ballet adaptation downplays the lovers' quarrel in the forest. When Demetrius wakes up and declares his love for Helena, she reciprocates almost immediately after a moment of surprise, and does not doubt his sincerity as she did in the original. In addition, despite being a two-act ballet, the whole story is resolved by the end of Act I, with Act II consisting of an extended wedding dance celebration without any narrative drama.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The 1999 film gives Bottom's life outside the main story some focus - showing that he has a nagging wife and is the laughing stock of the town for his antics.
  • Adaptational Sexuality: Quite a few 21st century productions have introduced LGBT themes into the play, sometimes by Gender Flipping one or more of the lovers (see Gender Flip below).
  • And You Were There: In many productions, the actors playing Theseus and Hippolyta also play Oberon and Titania. Theseus' servant Philostrate is usually Puck as well. Some productions—such as the filmed 1996 production by the Royal Shakespeare Company—even go the whole nine yards and double Flute, Snug, Snout and Starveling as Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth and Mustardseed (in no particular order).
  • Ascended Extra: The changeling boy will often get portrayed on screen, when he's The Ghost in the original play.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: The two ballet adaptations usually have similar costume designs in contrasting colours for the two mortal couples, to help the audience to keep track of who is who in the absence of spoken dialogue. George Balanchine's ballet (NYC Ballet's 2017 production) has Hermia and Lysander as the "blue couple" and Helena and Demetrius as the "red couple", while in Frederick Ashton's ballet adaptation titled "The Dream" (American Ballet Theatre production) it's the other way round.
  • Eternal Sexual Freedom: The 1999 film has the scene of Lysander and Demetrius appealing to Theseus happen after Theseus's party has found the four lovers naked and lying next to each other - looking as if they've had sex in a field. Not only does Theseus appear unfazed by this shameless display of premarital sex, Egeus doesn't even bat an eyelid at his daughter being found naked in public. The couples are also seen sleeping together in the epilogue, even though they're not married yet.
  • Fairy Sexy: Titania is often given a form-flattering gown. The 1999 film depicts Oberon this way too, as he's a Walking Shirtless Scene.
  • Gay Best Friend: In Emma Rice's 2016 Globe production, Helenus (the gender-flipped Helena) initially has this kind of relationship with Hermia. They confide in each other and spontaneously break out into synchronised dancing together while Lysander stands awkwardly by.
  • Gender Flip:
    • Titania's fairies can be of either gender (although they are referred to with male forms of address in the text by Bottom), Puck is occasionally played as female, and various members of the Mechanicals are sometimes played as women. In fact even as early as the 19th century, it was something of a tradition for Puck to be portrayed as a graceful ballerina.
    • Numerous 21st century productions, such as Sheila Daniels' 2011 Seattle Shakespeare Company performance or Emma Rice's 2016 version at The Globe, have also gender-swapped Helena or Lysander or both (often renaming them Helenus and/or Lysandra - or, in the case of the 2004 Melmoth production at the Greenwich Theatre, simply swapping their names), resulting in gay and lesbian relationships.note  A female Lysander can add another level to the "forbidden love" aspect of her relationship with Hermia and lend a plausible homophobic aspect to Egeus' reason for opposing it (and his speech about Lysander "bewitching" his daughter). A male Helena, on the other hand, can turn Demetrius' character arc into a Coming-Out Story and lend credence to the theory that he was in denial of his true feelings at the beginning of the story (because, in this case, he was closeted); this can re-contextualise his "But like a sickness did I loathe this food..." speech in a very moving way.
    • A 2019 Bridge Theatre production swaps out the roles of Oberon (Oliver Chris) and Titania (Gwendoline Christie); in this version Titania uses the love-flower on Oberon, making him fall in love with Bottom. Also the Rude Mechanicals are split equally down gender lines.
  • Green-Skinned Space Babe: The 1968 film has all the fairies in green body paint. All of them, yes, but most of them are children, two of them are dudes, and only one is beautiful young Judi Dench wearing nothing but the green paint and ivy for pasties.
  • Horned Humanoid:
    • Oberon is this in many productions. In the 1935 version, it looks less like antlers, and more like he's suffering from a strange brachiating disease—and after Oberon scoops up the changeling boy, the boy grows similar weird antlers.
    • Many productions also horn Puck, most likely to play up his devilishness (and because Robin Goodfellow is depicted with horns in woodcuts from Shakespeare's time — he basically resembles a satyr).
  • Hotter and Sexier:
    • The 1968 film depicts all the fairies as being mostly nude. Titania is actually only covered up by strategically placed leaves.
    • The 1999 film introduces lots of sexual elements. Lysander tries to have sex with Hermia in the woods before they fall asleep—of course, that's at least hinted at in Shakespeare's text with Hermia's line "Lie further off yet/Do not lie so near." Hermia and Helena have a sexy mud fight, there are Fanservice Extras among Titania's entourage, Bottom and Titania have sex, the four lovers are found naked by Theseus and Hippolyta, and the epilogue has scenes of them all sleeping together after the wedding.
  • I Have No Son!: In the 1999 movie version, Egeus quietly excuses himself from his daughter's wedding, flashing Hermia a Death Glare. With no added dialogue, he made it clear, that he would never forgive Hermia, for going against his wishes, and marrying Lysander.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: A common way to play Oberon's relationship with Titania. In the scene where he disenchants her, he's just won her changeling boy without a fight, and he's humiliated her as much as could be wished. But while that would have been a fine laugh in Elizabethan days, to modern audiences it comes off as smug and mean. So actors might play Oberon as despondent, realizing that a Titania, who'll obey his every command isn't the proud, and fiery Queen he fell in love with.
  • Lohengrin and Mendelssohn: As noted above, the "Mendelssohn" part, namely the "Wedding March" (the now-traditional wedding recessional music), was originally written by Felix Mendelssohn as part of his incidental music for an 1842 stage production of this play.
  • Not Now, We're Too Busy Crying Over You: Depending on the director, the play has this when Bottom returns to the Mechanicals, after his adventure with the fairies.
  • Old-Fashioned Rowboat Date: Lysander and Hermia go on just such a date early in the 1968 film as they plot their escape from Athens.
  • Pajama-Clad Hero: The 1996 Adrian Noble directed film features a majority of the characters in Victorian/Edwardian sleepwear the whole way through.
  • Setting Update: Due to the Anachronism Stew mentioned above, it's often prone to these.
    • The 1935 film updates it to the Renaissance.
    • The 1968 film takes place in early 20th century England.
    • The 1999 film is in late 19th century Tuscany.
  • Significant Double Casting: Several productions have the same actors play Oberon / Theseus and Titania / Hippolyta, since there's something of a parallel between their two marriages (and the significance will no doubt be clear to the audience); this way you don't have two actors off-stage for most of the play; and the four characters never appear on stage at the same time, so you can get away with it.