Author logo Studying A Midsummer Night's Dream

Comparison with Romeo and Juliet
How the play presents the nature of love
Stagecraft in Pyramus and Thisbe
Stagecraft and language in 2.1
Criteria for assessment


This web page is intended for students who are following the AQA/NEAB GCSE syllabuses in English Language (1111/1112) and English literature (1121). It may also be of general interest to students of Shakespeare's plays.

This is a basic guide. I have written a more advanced and detailed guide to the play. Click on the link below to open it:

Comparing A Midsummer Night's Dream
and Romeo and Juliet

The course of true love | Puck and Oberon/Friar Laurence and the Nurse | Almost fairy time | Verona and Athens | Tragedy and comedy | Fathers and daughters | Contrast | Order and disorder | Pyramus and Thisbe | The plays in performance | Conclusion

For your GCSE course you are required to study one or more of Shakespeare's plays. This task allows you to write about two plays. You could write at great length but this is not necessary, or even sensible. Do not try to retell the plot of either play as a narrative (story). Do look at how the play works on stage: use of props, costume and physical actions - either as suggested in the text, or as these appeared in any versions you have seen in performance. You should consider effects of language and imagery, in context. Below are some ideas, which could form the outline of a response to the plays. You may find these helpful; ignore those that aren't.

When you (speak or) write about the play, you must refer to evidence: either quote dialogue, or explain what is happening in terms of action. Ideally, you should give Act and Scene (Roman [e.g. III, ii] or Arabic [e.g. 3.2] numbers) and line numbers (not page numbers - do you know why?). Always comment on, or explain the point of, what you quote. Do not write the verb quote at any point in your work, unless it is to explain that one character in the play quotes another! In formal written English, quote is a verb and quotation is the corresponding noun. Quote as a noun is fine in speech, especially when referring to an estimate for work to be done (builder's quote).

Back to top

The two plays were first performed at around the same time in the 1590s. They have obvious similarities of plot and theme, but clearly different structure and outcome. Briefly (no more than half a page) summarise these similarities and differences.

"The course of true love never did run smooth"

How far are Lysander's words proved true by the (total) events in either play? Are they a more suitable motto for one than the other? Why?

Puck and Oberon versus Friar Laurence and the Nurse

In A Midsummer Night's Dream Puck and Oberon watch over the young lovers (and Bottom) and save them from coming to any harm. Explain how they are able to do this, through their magical powers. In Romeo and Juliet the Friar and the Nurse try to help the tragic lovers but fail to save them. Compare their efforts to help Romeo and Juliet with the efforts of Puck and Oberon. How and why are the fairies successful where human helpers fail? Compare the Friar's use of magical or seeming magical herbs with Oberon's use of magical plants (Cupid's flower and Dian's bud).

"'Tis almost fairy time"

In both plays characters refer to fairies. Romeo and Juliet's longest speech (spoken by Mercutio) is a description of Queen Mab, the "fairies' midwife", but he admits to making it up. In A Midsummer Night's Dream Theseus refers jokingly to “fairy time”, but may well not believe in fairies any more than Romeo and Mercutio. What difference do the fairies make to the comic world of A Midsummer Night's Dream compared to the harsher view of the world that we see in Romeo and Juliet?

Back to top
Verona and Athens

In both plays, the place where the action occurs is important. Comment on the various settings within each play, and explain what it has to do with what happens. (In A Midsummer Night's Dream look at Athens and the Palace Wood outside the city; in Romeo and Juliet look at the city square in Verona, Capulet's house and garden, the Friar's cell, Mantua, and the Capulet tomb.)

Tragedy and comedy

Try to explain what these terms mean, as descriptions of types of play, when we apply them to A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet. Try to refer to their structure, theme and mood.

Fathers and daughters

In both plays we find heroines (Juliet and Hermia) who are subject to the authority of their fathers. In one play we see a father begin by giving his daughter a lot of freedom, and end by removing it from her; in the other, we see a father try to control his daughter's life for most of the play, but who is reconciled to her near its end. Comment on these relationships, as you see them in the two plays. (Pyramus and Thisbe also supposedly have tyrannical parents).


Both plays exploit obvious contrasts for theatrical effect. Among these are light and dark (or day and night), love and hate and the upper and lower ends of the social scale. Explain how any of these work to make the drama more effective.

Back to top
Order and disorder

This is a contrast of theme you will find in almost any of Shakespeare's plays. In both A Midsummer Night's Dream and Romeo and Juliet we see rulers (Theseus/Oberon and Prince Escalus) try to restore or maintain order, in the face of disruptive or anarchic behaviour. Show how this appears in each play, and how important it is to the play's central themes. In each play there are figures who represent disorder (Bottom and Puck; Mercutio and Tybalt). Explain how these challenge the rulers' attempts to preserve order in their domains (territory).

Pyramus and Thisbe

In A Midsummer Night's DreamThe workmen's Lamentable Comedy can be seen as a parody (silly copy) of Romeo and Juliet. There are obvious similarities in the plot (can you say what these are?) but not in the theatrical qualities of the two pieces. In Pyramus and Thisbe we see how not to do things which are done much better elsewhere in A Midsummer Night's Dream,in Romeo and Juliet or in other plays by Shakespeare. (These include depicting wild animals, a wall, moonlight and killing on stage). Comment on how these things are done both in Pyramus and Thisbe and in the plays proper. Comment on how hard or easy it is for actors to speak the dialogue in Shakespeare's plays generally, and to speak the verse we meet in Pyramus and Thisbe (look at the end of the Prologue, and the dying speeches of the two lovers). Explain how the workmen's play is a good commentary on young lovers who take themselves too seriously.

Back to top
The plays in performance

Comment on how the plays were presented in the versions you have seen. Was it a cinema, TV or stage performance? Comment on such things as costume, props and action; you may also refer to lighting, music, SFX, and anything else which caught your interest. If you were to direct (in a given medium - stage, TV, cinema) how would you approach these things?


Explain what you like about either play or both. Say how well they work in performance, and what kind of response they provoke in the audience.

Remember to present your work attractively, with illustrations (for eaxmple, to show costume or props) and any diagrams (ideas for staging) to clarify your ideas.

Back to top

How, in a Midsummer Night's Dream,
does Shakespeare present the nature of love?

To answer this question, you must consider what happens in the play to a wide range of characters, why love does, or does not run smoothly at various points in the play, and what comments the characters make on the subject of love, which may be relevant to your question. Sub-headings are used here for your convenience, but need not appear in your essay: you should use paragraphs to mark the different stages of your answer.

This study guide is written to help you. You should not feel tied down by it. You may wish to arrange the parts of your essay in an order different from that used here. You may add information and comment of your own, and should leave out any part you feel unhappy about.

"I wooed thee with my sword"

Theseus says this to Hippolyta in the opening lines of the play. Theseus' defeat of the Amazons and his courtship of Hippolyta are already in the past when the play starts, but the audience will certainly know this story. How does what the audience knows about these two give a point of comparison with the plight of the young lovers? Comment on the contrast between the maturity of Theseus and Hippolyta and the youth or immaturity of the four lovers: how does this affect their speech and conduct? How might his own experiences enable Theseus to be sympathetic to the others?

What does Lysander mean when he says: "The course of true love never did run smooth"?

You should consider the situation in which Lysander makes his statement. Why, here, is love failing to "run smooth" for the four young lovers? Consider:

  • the views of Egeus and "the sharp Athenian law";
  • Lysander's plan to elope; the wisdom of telling Helena of this plan, and her response to the information;
  • why Demetrius might prefer Hermia.

Back to top

The lovers in the wood

Explain what happens in the wood and how the four young lovers react. Consider:

  • Demetrius' abuse of Helena;
  • Lysander's protestation of loyalty to Hermia (Act 2, scene 2, line 62) and his words to Helena on waking (Act 2, scene 2, line 102);
  • the effect of the juice of "love-in-idleness" on Demetrius;
  • the response of the two women to the inexplicable change in the men's affections;
  • the men's ignorance of the cause of the alteration;
  • the increasing confusion in the relations of the lovers, which reaches a potentially murderous climax in Act 3, scene 2.

"Gentle concord in the world"

Explain what happens when Puck cures Lysander of his love for Helena. Consider: how ready the former rivals are to be friends; their confusion about what has happened; Theseus' decision to "overbear" Egeus' will and honour the young lovers with a joint marriage ceremony.

"Ill met by moonlight"

When we first meet the fairy king and queen, we see that their love does not "run smooth". Explain what is the cause of their quarrel, and its effect. (Look at Titania's long speeches in Act 2, scene 1.) How does Oberon propose to sort out their dispute?

Back to top

"What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?"

Oberon expects Titania to fall in love with a wild beast. His servant, Puck, responds to the appearance in the wood of the workmen in a way of which his master approves greatly. What does he do? Why does it please Oberon so much that he will say: "This falls out better than I can devise"? How does Puck's mischief here help restore relations between Oberon and Titania?

Pyramus and Thisbe

The plan of the workmen to put on a play for Theseus' wedding gives Shakespeare an opportunity for some knockabout comic scenes, showing the workmen's limitations as performers and Bottom's misuse of language. It also provides a suitable sweetheart for the drugged Titania - Bottom with an ass's head.

But the subject of the workmen's play also reflects Lysander's ideas about "the course of true love". Explain how Pyramus and Thisbe (in outline, but not as performed here!) is very similar to Shakespeare's own Romeo and Juliet which was probably written shortly before A Midsummer Night's Dream. When the workmen put on the play, we are made to laugh (among many things) at lovers who take themselves too seriously. Why might this make the play surprisingly suitable, despite its tragic story, for the wedding of the three couples here?

Back to top

"Hand in hand with fairy grace/Will we sing and bless this place"

In the play we see the king and queen of the fairies renew their love, once Titania has given the little changeling boy up to Oberon. But this is not all we see. Oberon (helped by Puck) and Titania (helped by her fairies) are powerful spirits, friendly to men and women (in spite of Puck's pranks). We see this in a number of ways, all of which are connected with fertility and sexual love.

Titania's long speech in Act 2, scene 1 shows how her quarrel with Oberon has led to a breakdown in the natural world, to weather which does not suit the season, and to a loss of fertility in field and fold, for which she feels guilty. In the 16th century bad weather and a poor harvest could be disastrous - people could not store food in freezers and tins, as they do today.

Oberon, seeing Demetrius spurn Helena, is eager to humble Demetrius but ultimately to pair him off with her.

Once Oberon and Titania are "new in amity" they are able to do their work properly: to dance together, to bring fertility and to ensure that the children conceived by the three brides will be healthy in mind and body. An Elizabethan audience might not exactly believe in fairies but would see their activities here as very serious.

Theseus and the law

Theseus, in Greek myth, is celebrated as a great ruler and lawgiver. He is sympathetic to Hermia in Act 1, scene 1, but cannot alter the law without undermining his own position. When Demetrius gives up his claim to Hermia (in Act 4, scene 1) he is able to "overbear" Egeus' will, because Demetrius cannot be forced to marry Hermia (he is not under parental authority).

However, it is worth noting how Theseus tries in Act 1, scene 1 to solve the problem Egeus has given him;

  • he points out a provision of the law (becoming a nun) which Egeus has overlooked, and which is preferable to death;
  • he plays for time;
  • he admits that he has already intended to speak to Demetrius about his treatment of Helena;
  • he has some "private schooling" for Egeus and Demetrius at the end of this scene.

It is worth examining in detail the conversation of Theseus with Hermia in lines 46-90. Theseus tries to find out how serious Hermia is about Lysander, advises her to wait before making a decision, and argues that marriage is better than becoming a nun, with the very striking simile of a rose which keeps its beauty but is barren, or loses it, but is fertile (lines 76-78; note how Hermia, in reply, echoes his exact words).

Back to top

The language of love

You can consider Lysander's comment in terms of what happens in the play, but should also attend to what is said, and sometimes how it is said. At various points in the play we hear characters, as Lysander does, make statements about love. We are invited to consider these but we do not have to agree with them. We may agree that something is generally true but is not true of the situation it is applied to, or we may agree in part only.

Sometimes the way in which a thing is said affects how we view it. You might consider some or all of the following:

  • Act 1, scene 1, 132-155 (especially 136-141: what is odd about these lines?)
  • Hermia's conversation with Helena, and Helena's soliloquy (speaking alone i.e. thinking aloud) at the end of this scene (1.1)
  • Act 2, scene 2, 102-121 (compare with Demetrius' speech in Act 3, scene 2, 137-144)
  • Act 3, scene 1, 140-145
  • Act 4, scene 1, 161-177
  • Act 5, scene 1, 4-22.

"Lord, what fools these mortals be!"

When Puck says this he is speaking specifically of the mortals he has met in the wood, but he is also speaking about all of us, including the audience, to whom he speaks more or less directly at various points in the play. Puck and Oberon have a close relationship with the audience: we know what is happening, where those on stage are in the dark (literally and metaphorically). If you look closely at the text, you will see that Oberon is frequently on stage but not saying anything: he is invisible to the human characters, but listens to and watches them attentively.

We are not made to laugh only at the very obviously comic behaviour of the workmen. The young lovers are often just as ridiculous. We see this in their exaggerated speech and excessive seriousness. When the two young men have been given the juice of the flower, they become even more ridiculous, because they are overwhelmed with love for Helena. They say and do things that appear silly to others, but about which they are deadly serious, while wondering why Helena does not believe that they are. We are amused by the men's threats, but they really mean to kill each other till Puck intervenes.

Back to top

The action of comedy

Nowadays, "comedy" usually refers to something that is meant to make us laugh. Although the plays we call "comedies" have some passages which are written with this purpose, this is not what the term means for Shakespeare. (Some of his very funniest scenes occur in tragedies, and some comedies have relatively few scenes that are particularly funny.)

As it happens, A Midsummer Night's Dream probably is the play that is most frequently found funny by modern audiences.) For Shakespeare, a comedy is a play in which the chief characters undergo various misfortunes, which are put right near the end of the play, which has a more or less happy ending.

This play is unusual because the problems of the young lovers are put right very early, at the end of Act 3 (this is where Puck promises that "all shall be well" in the next scene Lysander is given the "remedy" for his infatuation with Helena), while in Act 4, scene 1, Titania and Bottom are restored to their proper conditions. Part of Act 4 and all of Act 5 are thus left free for the celebration of true love restored, and the marriage that follows this.

" 'Tis almost fairy time"

The play uses many contrasts and parallels. One of the most important is the contrast between the logical, daylight world of Athens, with its conventional human ruler, and the fantastic nighttime world of the Palace Wood with its fairy ruler.

To most Elizabethans, especially town-dwellers, such a place would be fearful. People would scoff at tales of fairies, sprites and changelings, but would not readily enter a wood at night. It is also clear that some of the characters in the play think like this; when Bottom is "translated" his friends do not stay to attempt a rescue.

But this strange place with its dream-like qualities is where the serious problems of the young lovers are resolved (put right). At the end of the play, Theseus suggests that he, Hippolyta, and the newly-weds should go to bed because it is "almost fairy time". Maybe he is not serious, but if he is, then there is irony in his words. We see here that the fairies have the power and the discretion (freedom or choice) to leave their normal haunts. They can enter the homes of men and women, in order to bless their offspring.

Back to top


The world of the play is a world of magic and dreams (a word that occurs frequently in the latter part of the play). Puck admits this to the audience. He means, of course, partly that it is Shakespeare's dream (that is, made up by him) but also a dream in that we, as the audience, have imagined it, and are no surer than Bottom or Demetrius what "really" happened.

Perhaps Puck also means that we have seen the world not as it normally is or normally appears (if there are powerful spirits of nature we cannot see them, outside of the theatre). Instead he has shown us the world as it might, and ought to, be, as we call what we wish to happen a dream. It is not very hard to see whether, and why, Lysander is right or wrong when he makes his remark about "the course of true love". It is also fairly clear that Shakespeare wants us to work out the answer to the question as it applies to the world of the play.

Back to top

Pyramus and Thisbe and Shakespeare's stagecraft

In what ways does the play-within-the play (Pyramus and Thisbe) show Shakespeare's stagecraft elsewhere, and reflect events in the rest of A Midsummer Night's Dream?

To answer this question, you may use the plan below, but may also follow ideas of your own.

Explain what theatrical "problems" the workmen have in putting on their play of Pyramus and Thisbe. What solutions to these problems are suggested (Act 3, scene 1), as they rehearse. What solutions appear in the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe (Act 5, scene 1).

You should write about:

  • the lion;
  • the killing;
  • the wall;
  • moonlight.

How in this play or others does Shakespeare solve such problems? Think of:

  • Capulet's orchard wall in Romeo and Juliet;
  • moonlight in A Midsummer Night's Dream;
  • animals in the plays - Theseus's hounds in Act 5 of A Midsummer Night's Dream or a bear in The Winter's Tale;
  • sea storms in Othello and The Tempest.

Probably you will not know many of these plays, but write about things you have seen in plays you do know. Your teacher may be able to give other examples.

What other theatrical problems does Shakespeare face in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

Back to top

You should write about how the following are presented:

  • The fairies and the magic they perform (the two magic flowers; Bottom's ass's head);
  • the over-the-top passion of the four young lovers;
  • Theseus's and Hippolyta's wedding celebration;
  • night, darkness and moonlight
  • the wood, especially the description of Titania's "bower" (where she sleeps) in Act 2, scene 1.

Explain how characters describe what Shakespeare cannot show directly, such as:

  • Cupid firing his bow;
  • the Indian changeling boy and his mother;
  • the effects of the fairies' quarrel on fertility in the natural world.

Note that all of these are found in the same scene, Act 2, scene 1.

Theseus says (in Act 5, scene 1): "The best in this kind are but shadows, and the worst are no worse if imagination amend them". Explain what this comment means about Pyramus and Thisbe specifically; and about theatre in general. Why does Hippolyta reply: "It must be your imagination then, and not theirs"?

Back to top

In what ways do things in Pyramus and Thisbe resemble other things in this play? You might like to refer, in your own words, to the bullet points below.

  • It has verbal echoes: Pyramus's "O grim look'd night" is like Helena's "O weary night etc." in Act 3, scene 2. The short alternate lines (called stichomythia = verbal fencing) from "My love, thou art my love etc." resemble those of Hermia and Lysander in Act 1, scene 1 (from "But either it was different in blood").
  • Pyramus and Thisbe "prove" Lysander's theory about "the course of true love". The doomed lovers make us think of how Lysander sees himself and Hermia at the start of the play (and of how Romeo sees himself and Juliet in Shakespeare's tragedy about them).
  • In laughing at the exaggerated (over the top) passion of these lovers, Lysander and Demetrius are laughing at their own behaviour earlier (but they seem not to realize it).
  • Bottom and Flute exaggerate their speech and actions because they think this is what good actors do. The young lovers do the same out of an excess of passion or infatuation.
  • Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia and Helena would have a tragic ending to their story if it were not for the intervention of Puck.
  • The play resembles Romeo and Juliet in its plot (young lovers kill themselves; the man mistakenly believes his beloved dead; she uses his dagger) but not in its verbal style or control of theatrical narrative.

You should finish your essay, by giving your opinion of how well Pyramus and Thisbe works at the end of the play in which it appears. Why should the fairies, and Puck in particular, have the last word?

Back to top

Stagecraft and language in Act 2, scene 1

This brief guide is written to support work on this play for GCSE. It is targeted at the criteria given by AQA/NEAB. For all grades (from G to A*) you are expected to write (or speak) about three things:

  • What the play is about - subject and theme (this appears as such things as "nature of the play, implications and relevance" [Grade C] or its "moral, philosophical or social significance" [A*]).
  • Technical aspects of drama - characters or characterisation, stagecraft, appeal to audience.
  • Language - especially for dramatic, poetic or figurative effect, and patterns and details of words and images [A*]

This task requires you to study one important scene from the play. It can accompany work on this play or others, when you submit your work on Shakespeare for assessment. Comments that follow are organised according to the three categories (kinds) of comment above.

Subject and theme

The short scene in which we meet the workmen has prepared us for the lovers not to be alone in the woods. In the play's second act, we see how Lysander and Hermia try to solve their problems by running away, while Demetrius and Helena pursue them. Puck's attempt to help leads to greater confusion, which will reach a climax in Act 3, scene 2.

The scene divides effectively into two parts: in the first the quarrel between Oberon and Titania is presented, in the second, Oberon sees Helena's rejection by Demetrius, and decides to help her. We can further divide the scene into episodes, as follows:

  • Puck's descriptions (of Oberon's and Titania's quarrel and of himself)
  • Oberon's confrontation with Titania, and his plan to take the Indian changeling from her
  • Demetrius' pursuit of the lovers, and his flight from Helena
  • Oberon's descriptions of Titania's bower and the magical flower juice

The young lovers' problems really only affect themselves. But Oberon's quarrel with Titania has disrupted the natural world, with potentially disastrous results for ordinary people, who rely on the weather for a good harvest. Comment on how the Elizabethan audience would view this.

Back to top


Use of props: What props (that is stage properties, which are objects used by the actors) do you see in this scene? This will vary with different performances, although one of the most important props makes its first appearance here. This is the flower called love-in-idleness (heartsease or pansy) which has such amazing magical properties. How is it used to make the audience believe in the sudden infatuation various characters fall into (Lysander and Demetrius for Helena; Titania for Bottom). Are any other props used by the fairies, especially the king and queen, or by the young lovers, Demetrius and Helena?

Action: Because the scene has several long speeches, it begins and ends with some more lively action. As Puck tells the fairy of his pranks, he should act them out - without this, the account might be boring, especially for a modern audience. In the later part of the scene, we see how Demetrius tries to frighten Helena off, but fails and runs from her. Finally we have Puck's rapid flight around the earth to fetch the magical flower. The central episode of the scene is Titania's and Oberon's quarrel. Although this relies heavily on speech there is scope for some action - comment on the gestures of the performers, where they stand, their body language and facial expressions. One of the most important features of the action is Oberon's being invisible to Helena and Demetrius. How is this presented to the audience?

Costume: Comment on the ways in which costume is a clue to status, identity and character in this scene. Comment on Puck, the other fairies, Oberon and Titania (how can we tell they are king and queen?), and on the young lovers, Demetrius and Helena. Note that Oberon explicitly refers to Demetrius's garments as being "Athenian". Are they in any way distinctive in the version you saw?

Back to top

Shakespeare's language:

There is too much to cover in this short guide, which will give a selection of interesting features of language, but expect to look at other things with your teacher.

Verse forms: This play has a greater range of verse forms than any other of Shakespeare's. Comment on the different forms which appear in this scene, and their dramatic effect. You should comment particularly on:

  • Rhyming couplets
  • Blank verse - especially for the more serious speeches
  • Other kinds of rhyme

Language use for dramatic effect: Look at how the language of this scene shows the strength of Titania's and Oberon's quarrel. Comment on the first words each speaks to the other. Comment on the language of the very different kind of quarrel between Helena and Demetrius. Note especially the use of insults. Note how Helena, instead of retaliating, becomes servile, calling herself a "spaniel" and inviting Demetrius to "strike" her? Do you think this should be kept in, or cut from, the scene in a modern production? Does Shakespeare really want young men to hit women?

But for the 16th century audience the most dramatic thing, because it is most threatening to them, is probably Titania's account of how her quarrel with Oberon has upset the rhythms of nature, leading to poor harvests and potential famine. Although the play is supposed to be set in ancient Athens, here Shakespeare seems to have forgotten this, as Titania's description is much more appropriate to English weather and farming.

Language use for poetic and figurative effect: This scene contains some of the very best poetic descriptions in Shakespeare's work. Do not try to explain everything, but comment on some features of these long set-piece speeches:

  • Puck's description of his tricks
  • Titania's account of the effects of the fairies' quarrel on the natural world
  • Titania's account of the conception of the changeling boy, and how she stole him away
  • Oberon's description of how the magic flower came to have its special powers
  • Oberon's description of the place where Titania sleeps

Back to top

Patterns and details of words and images: It is easy to find interesting examples of these in this scene. Any of the speeches above, as well as the exchanges between the fairy king and queen, and between Demetrius and Helena, will provide you with material on which to comment. Look at

  • Metaphors: as when Titania compares the Indian princess to a ship
  • Wordplay: as when Helena refers in succession to "adamant", "iron" and "steel"
  • Alliteration for sound effect: "nine men's morris is fill'd up with mud"
  • Stichomythia (verbal fencing): "For I am sick when I do look on thee"/ "And I am sick when I look not on you."

In explaining the effect of this scene on the audience, you are encouraged to refer to any versions of the play in performance that you have seen. How particular directors or actors interpret it may be helpful. Make sure you present this work in an appropriate written or spoken format.

Back to top

Studying A Midsummer Night's Dream - criteria for assessment

The headings below show how details of the play relate to the broad headings for the AQA board's criteria for assessment of work on Shakespeare at GCSE.

Nature of play/implications/moral or philosophical significance

This refers to the ideas or themes in the play - what it is about but not its story. In A Midsummer Night's Dream this means at least the following:

  • Love - how its course "never did run smooth"; · how love is irrational and/or blind; · sexual love and fertility.
  • Authority - of parents and of the law; · of rulers (Theseus and Oberon).
  • Comedy - the happy ending to a potential tragedy.

Back to top

Stagecraft/appeal to audience

  • Characterization - this is not description of characters but how they are presented.
  • The structure of the play.
  • How not to present a play in Pyramus and Thisbe - how to do it properly elsewhere.
  • Important props (the magic flower juice, the ass's head).
  • Contrast - reason and folly, Athens and the wood, day (light) and night (darkness).
  • Puck's special relationship (complicity) with the audience.

Back to top


  • Important figures of speech (metaphor/simile).
  • Descriptive language for things we can't see (Titania's bower, Cupid firing his arrow, the Indian princess).
  • Forms of verse and prose for dialogue: blank verse; the fairies' special rhyme (tetrameter); occasional rhymed verse (see end of Act 3); songs (fairies' lullaby; Puck's All Shall Be Well) prose; comic rhyme in Pyramus and Thisbe.
  • Stichomythia (alternating one-liners) and other patterned language in the young lovers' speeches.

Back to top

© Andrew Moore, 2001; Contact me

Search Now:
In Association with
  • Use the search box on the left or the link below to go to for books, video tapes, DVDs and much more.
  • Go to Home Page
Search Now:
In Association with
  • Purchase in the UK: use the search box on the left or the link below to go to for books, video tapes, DVDs and much more.
  • Go to Home Page