A Midsummer Night's Dream

Adaptations and cultural references


St. John's Eve written in 1853 by Henrik Ibsen relies heavily on the Shakespearean play.

Botho Strauß's play Der Park (1983) is based on characters and motifs from A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Neil Gaiman's comic series The Sandman uses the play as a focal point in issue #19. In it, Shakespeare and his company perform the play for the real Oberon and Titania and an audience of fairies. The play is heavily quoted in the comic. Shakespeare's son Hamnet Shakespeare appears in the play as the Indian boy. It is strongly hinted that he is later taken away by Titania, much like the changeling in the story. This issue was the first and only comic to win the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction, in 1991.[32]

Terry Pratchett's book Lords and Ladies (1992) heavily spoofs the Shakespearean play.

Musical versions

Henry Purcell

The Fairy-Queen by Henry Purcell consists of a set of masques meant to go between acts of the play, as well as some minimal rewriting of the play to be current to 17th century audiences.

Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy

In 1826, Felix Mendelssohn composed a concert overture, inspired by the play, that was first performed in 1827. In 1842, partly because of the fame of the overture, and partly because his employer King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia liked the incidental music that Mendelssohn had written for other plays that had been staged at the palace in German translation, Mendelssohn was commissioned to write incidental music for a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream that was to be staged in 1843 in Potsdam. He incorporated the existing Overture into the incidental music, which was used in most stage versions through the 19th century. The best known of the pieces from the incidental music is the famous Wedding March, frequently used as a recessional in weddings.

The choreographer Marius Petipa, more famous for his collaborations with Tchaikovsky (on the ballets Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty) made another ballet adaptation for the Imperial Ballet of St. Petersburg with additional music and adaptations to Mendelssohn's score by Léon Minkus. The revival premiered 14 July 1876. English choreographer Frederick Ashton also created a 40-minute ballet version of the play, retitled to The Dream. George Balanchine was another to create a Midsummer Night's Dream ballet based on the play, using Mendelssohn's music.

Between 1917 and 1939 Carl Orff also wrote incidental music for a German version of the play, Ein Sommernachtstraum (performed in 1939). Since Mendelssohn's parents were Jews who converted to Lutheranism, his music had been banned by the Nazi regime, and the Nazi cultural officials put out a call for new music for the play: Orff was one of the musicians who responded. He later reworked the music for a final version, completed in 1964.

Ralph Vaughan Williams

"Over Hill, Over Dale", from Act 2, is the third of the Three Shakespeare Songs set to music by the British composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. He wrote the pieces for a cappella SATB choir in 1951 for the British Federation of Music Festivals, and they remain a popular part of British choral repertoire today.

Benjamin Britten

The play was adapted into an opera, with music by Benjamin Britten and libretto by Britten and Peter Pears. The opera was first performed on 1 June 1960 at Aldeburgh.


The theatre company, Moonwork put on a production of Midsummer in 1999. It was conceived by Mason Pettit, Gregory Sherman and Gregory Wolfe (who directed it). The show featured a rock-opera version of the play within a play, Pyramus & Thisbe with music written by Rusty Magee. The music for the rest of the show was written by Andrew Sherman.

The Donkey Show

The Donkey Show is a disco-era experience based on A Midsummer Night's Dream, that first appeared off Broadway in 1999.[33]


In 1949 a three-act opera by Delannoy entitled Puck was premiered in Strasbourg.

Progressive Rock guitarist Steve Hackett, best known for his work with Genesis, made a classical adaptation of the play in 1997.

Hans Werner Henze's Eighth Symphony is inspired by sequences from the play.

The Alexander W. Dreyfoos School of the Arts Theatre Department presented the show as a musical adapted/directed by Beverly Blanchette (produced by Marcie Gorman) using the songs of The Moody Blues. The show was called Midsummer and was subsequently performed at Morsani Hall/Straz Performing Arts Center in Tampa, at the Florida State International Thespian Society Festival. Text/Concept Copyright, 9 December 2011.

In 2011, Opera Memphis, Playhouse on the Square, and contemporary a cappella groups DeltaCappella and Riva, premiered Michael Ching's A Midsummer Night's Dream: Opera A Cappella.[34]


  • George Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream, his first original full-length ballet, was premiered by the New York City Ballet on 17 January 1962. It was chosen to open the NYCB's first season at the New York State Theater at Lincoln Center in 1964. Balanchine interpolated further music by Mendelssohn into his Dream, including the overture from Athalie.[35][36][37][38] A film version of the ballet was released in 1966.
  • Frederick Ashton created his "The Dream", a short (not full-length) ballet set exclusively to the famous music by Félix Mendelssohn, arranged by John Lanchbery, in 1964. It was created on England's Royal Ballet and has since entered the repertoire of other companies, notably The Joffrey Ballet and American Ballet Theatre.[38]
  • John Neumeier created his full-length ballet Ein Sommernachtstraum for his company at the Hamburg State Opera (Hamburgische Staatsoper) in 1977. Longer than Ashton's or Balanchine's earlier versions, Neumeier's version includes other music by Mendelssohn along with the Midsummer Night's Dream music, as well as music from the modern composer György Sándor Ligeti, and jaunty barrel organ music. Neumeier devotes the three sharply differing musical styles to the three character groups, with the aristocrats and nobles dancing to Mendelssohn, the fairies to Ligeti, and the rustics or mechanicals to the barrel organ.[39] Neumeier set his A Midsummer Night's Dream for the Bolshoi Ballet in 2005.[40]
  • Elvis Costello composed the music for a full-length ballet Il Sogno, based on A Midsummer Night's Dream. The music was subsequently released as a classical album by Deutsche Grammophon in 2004.

Film adaptations

A Midsummer Night's Dream has been adapted as a film several times. The following are the best known.

  • A 1925 German silent film Wood Love directed by Hans Neumann
  • A 1935 film version was directed by Max Reinhardt and William Dieterle. The cast included James Cagney as Bottom, Mickey Rooney as Puck, Olivia de Havilland as Hermia, Joe E. Brown as Francis Flute, Dick Powell as Lysander and Victor Jory as Oberon.[41]
  • A 1968 film version was directed by Peter Hall. The cast included Paul Rogers as Bottom, Ian Holm as Puck, Diana Rigg as Helena, Helen Mirren as Hermia, Ian Richardson as Oberon, Judi Dench as Titania, and Sebastian Shaw as Quince. This film stars the Royal Shakespeare Company, and is directed by Peter Hall.
  • A 1969 film version was directed by Jean-Christophe Averty. The cast included Jean-Claude Drouot as Oberon, Claude Jade as Helena, Christine Delaroche as Hermia, Marie Versini as Hippoltia, Michel Modo as Flute, Guy Grosso as Quinze.
  • A Midsummer Night's dream/Sen noci svatojánské (1959) was director by Czech animator Jiri Trnka. This was stop-motion puppet film that followed Shakespeare's story simply with a narrator (The English language version was narrated by Richard Burton).
  • A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy (1982) was a film written and directed by Woody Allen. The plot is loosely based on Ingmar Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night, with some elements from Shakespeare's play.
  • 'Bottom's Dream' (1983) was an animated short directed by John Canemaker showing events of the play from the point of view of Bottom. The film uses selections of Mendelssohn's music, as well as some lines from the play, combined with surreal imagery to convey Bottom's experience.
  • Dead Poets Society features the play as a production for which Neil Perry tries out for and wins the role of Puck, in spite of his father's disapproval of his acting aspirations.
  • A 1996 adaptation directed by Adrian Noble. The cast included Desmond Barrit as Bottom, Barry Lynch as Puck, Alex Jennings as Oberon/Theseus, and Lindsay Duncan as Titania/Hippolyta. This film is based on Noble's hugely popular Royal Shakespeare Company production. Its art design is eccentric, featuring a forest of floating light bulbs and a giant umbrella for Titania's bower.
  • A 1999 film version was written and directed by Michael Hoffman. The cast includes Kevin Kline as Bottom, Rupert Everett as Oberon, Michelle Pfeiffer as Titania, Stanley Tucci as Puck, Sophie Marceau as Hippolyta, Christian Bale as Demetrius, Dominic West as Lysander, and Calista Flockhart as Helena. This adaptation relocates the play's action from Athens to a fictional "Monte Athena", located in Tuscany, Italy, although all textual mentions of Athens are retained.
  • A 1999 version was written and directed by James Kerwin. The cast included Travis Schuldt as Demetrius. It set the story against a surreal backdrop of techno clubs and ancient symbols.
  • The Children's Midsummer Night's Dream (2002) directed by Christine Edzard, was produced by Sands Films at their studio in Rotherhide, London, UK using 350 school children, from Southwark, between the ages of eight and eleven, all theatrically untrained. The sets and costumes were designed to scale and made on site.
  • A Midsummer Night's Rave (2002) directed by Gil Cates Jr. changes the setting to a modern rave. Puck is a drug dealer, the magic flower called love-in-idleness is replaced with magic ecstasy, and the King and Queen of Fairies are the host of the rave and the DJ.
  • The 2008 movie, "Were the World Mine," is inspired by the play, and prominently features a modern interpretation of the play put on in a private high school in a small town. Additionally, this musical's lyrics are largely based on Shakespeare's original text. For example, the title comes from a line in a song, drawn from a line in a play, "Were the world mine, Demetrius being bated / The rest I'd give to be to you translated."

TV productions

  • The 1981 BBC Television Shakespeare production was produced by Jonathan Miller and directed by Elijah Moshinsky. It starred Helen Mirren as Titania, Peter McEnery as Oberon, Phil Daniels as Puck, Robert Lindsay as Lysander, Geoffrey Palmer as Quince and Brian Glover as Bottom.
  • An abbreviated version of A Midsummer Night's Dream was made into an animated short (with the same title) by Walt Disney Television Animation in 1999 as part of the "Mouse Tales" series. It was featured in a 2002 episode of Disney's House of Mouse ("House of Scrooge", Season 3, Episode 34). The star-crossed lovers are played by Mickey Mouse (Lysander), Minnie Mouse (Hermia), Donald Duck (Demetrius), and Daisy Duck (Helena). The character based on Theseus is played by Ludwig Von Drake, and the character based on Egeus by Scrooge McDuck. Goofy appears as an accident-prone Puck. The story ends with the revelation that it was a dream experienced by Mickey Mouse while sleeping at a picnic hosted by Minnie.
  • In a 2006 episode of the Disney Channel show The Suite Life of Zack & Cody called "A Midsummer's Nightmare", the title characters perform in a low-budget production of the play that goes awry. The plot of the episode ironically (and loosely) follows that of the play.[42]
  • In 2005 ShakespeaRe-Told, the BBC TV series, aired an updated of the play. It was written by Peter Bowker. The cast includes Johnny Vegas as Bottom, Dean Lennox Kelly as Puck, Bill Paterson as Theo (a conflation of Theseus and Egeus), and Imelda Staunton as his wife Polly (Hippolyta). Lennie James plays Oberon and Sharon Small is Titania. Zoe Tapper and Michelle Bonnard play Hermia and Helena.
  • The "play within a play" from Act V, Scene I, Pyramus and Thisbe, was performed by the members of the British pop music group The Beatles on 28 April 1964 for a British television special; Around The Beatles (Broadcast in the UK on ITV on 6 May, and in the US on ABC on 15 November). Paul McCartney appeared as Pyramus, John Lennon as Thisbe, George Harrison as Moonshine, and Ringo Starr as Lion. The performance, before a live audience, was done with great comic intent and included a number of intentional hecklers.[43]
  • On 29 October 2014, Third Star Productions released the first episode of A Midsemester Night's Dream.[44] This web series, produced by Julia Seales, Rachel Brittain, and Lauren Mandel, is set in Nashville, Tennessee and takes place on a modern college campus.[45]


British astronomer William Herschel named the two moons of Uranus that he discovered in 1787 after characters in the play, Oberon and Titania. Another moon, discovered in 1985, has been named Puck.

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