A Midsummer Night's Dream Summary and Analysis

Act 2

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Act Two, Scene One

Robin Goodfellow, also called Puck, meets with a fairy who serves Queen Titania. She tells him that Titania is coming to the woods outside of Athens that night. Puck informs the fairy that it would be better if Titania and his master, Oberon, did not meet since they only quarrel when they do so.

Seconds later both Oberon and Titania arrive onstage, both accompanied by their respective fairy followers. Immediately they begin an argument, with both of them accusing each other of infidelity and jealousy. Titania has stolen a young boy whom she keeps with her and spends her time caring for. Oberon, jealous of the attention the boy is receiving, demands that Titania give the boy to him, a request she refuses.

After Titania departs, Oberon vows to get revenge on her for causing him embarrassment. He sends his puck to fetch some pansies, the juice of which is supposed to make a person love the first thing he or she sees upon waking up. Oberon's plan is to put the juice onto Titania's eyes while she sleeps, so that she will fall in love with the first animal she sees after waking up. Puck leaves him and Oberon hides himself.

Demetrius and Helena arrive in the woods right next to where Oberon is hidden. Demetrius tells Helena to go away, and that he does not love her even though she has told him about Hermia and Lysander trying to run away. She threatens to chase him down if he should try to leave her in the woods.

Oberon, having overheard the entire conversation, decides to make Demetrius fall in love with Helena. He tells Robin Goodfellow to take some of the juice and go anoint the eyes of the Athenian man in the woods, but doing so only when it is certain that the woman by his side will be the first person he sees. The puck agrees, and goes off to carry out his errand.

Act Two, Scene Two

Titania calls for a quick dance in the woods with her fairies, after which they sing her to sleep. Oberon takes the opportunity to sneak up and drop the pansy juice onto her closed eyelids. Soon thereafter Lysander and Hermia, tired of walking and having lost their way, decide to go to sleep as well. They lie down, but Hermia demands that Lysander sleep a short distance away in order to keep up her sense of modesty since she is not married to him yet.

The puck enters, having vainly searched the woods for an Athenian. He spies Lysander lying apart from Hermia and deduces that this must be the hard-hearted Athenian which Oberon spoke about. Robin Goodfellow quickly drops some of the juice onto Lysander's eyes.

Demetrius, followed closely by Helena, runs into the clearing where Lysander is lying asleep. She begs him to stop running away from her, but he refuses and leaves her there alone. Helena finally sees Lysander on the ground and shakes him awake, unwittingly becoming the first woman he sees when he opens his eyes. Lysander immediately falls in love with Helena, and tells her that he deeply loves her. She thinks it is a cruel joke and tells him to stop abusing her.

Helena leaver, and Lysander decides to forget about Hermia and follow Helena instead. Hermia wakes up because she is scared about a dream she has had in which a serpent eats her heart. She calls for Lysander, but he is no longer near her. She then leaves her bed to go search for him.

Analysis

The aspect of the woods as a place for the characters to reach adulthood is made even more explicit in this scene. In the dialogue between Helena and Demetrius, the woods are a place to be feared, and also are a place to lose virginity. As Demetrius warns, "You do impeach your modesty too much, / To leave the city and commit yourself / Into the hands of one that loves you not; / To trust the opportunity of night / And the ill counsel of a desert place, / With the rich worth of your virginity" (2.1.214-219). Thus the forest can be allegorically read as a sort of trial for the characters, a phase they must pass through in order to reach maturity.

Hermia's serpent serves as a sign of the monsters which are in the woods. This plays into the fact that the woods are not only a place which the characters must escape from, but are also a place of imagination. Hermia's fear of her dream, in which the monster and the danger are only imagined, is meant to show the audience that the danger in a play is only imagined by the audience; neither the play nor Hermia's dream are real.