A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Probably composed in 1595 or 1596, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s early comedies, but can be distinguished from his other works in this group by describing it specifically as the Bard’s original wedding play.
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Probably composed in 1595 or 1596, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of Shakespeare’s early comedies, but can be distinguished from his other works in this group by describing it specifically as the Bard’s original wedding play. Most scholars believe that Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream as a light entertainment to accompany a marriage celebration, and while the identity of the historical couple for whom it was meant has never been conclusively established, there is good textual and background evidence available to support this claim. At the same time, unlike the vast majority of his works (including all of his comedies), in concocting this story, Shakespeare did not rely directly upon existing plays, narrative poetry, historical chronicles or any other primary source materials, making it a truly original piece. Most critics agree that if a youthful Shakespeare was not at his best in this play, he certainly enjoyed himself in writing it. The main plot of Midsummer is a complex contraption that involves two sets of couples (Hermia & Lysander and Helena & Demetrius) whose romantic cross-purposes are complicated still further by their entrance into the play’s fairyland woods where the King and Queen of the Fairies (Oberon & Titania) preside and the impish folk character of Puck or Robin Goodfellow plies his trade. Less subplot than a brilliant satirical device, another set of characters — Bottom the weaver and his bumptious band of “rude mechanicals” — stumble into the main doings when they go into the same enchanted woods to rehearse a play that is very loosely (and comically) based on the myth of Pyramus and Thisbe, their hilarious home-spun piece taking up Act V of Shakespeare’s comedy.