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PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS
In A Midsummer Night's Dream, Shakespeare has strung together three different stories, each one complete in itself, yet complemented by the other. First is the story of the Athenian nobility, which at first focuses on the forthcoming marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta who have fallen deeply in love after fighting each other in war. Next comes the story of Hermia and Lysander, who are determined to marry in spite of the protests of Egeus, Hermia's father. He is determined that his daughter will marry Demetrius. Demetrius, however, is a fickle man who has recently been in love with Helena, Hermia's good friend; therefore, the Helena/Demetrius story gets involved with the Hermia/Lysander story. Theseus is made aware of both of the love stories, because Egeus goes to him to request that the Duke enforce an ancient Athenian law that will put Hermia to death for refusing to obey her father.
The craftsmen's story, the second one in the plot, is introduced to the play and related back to the gentry because these men have been asked to put on a play as an entertainment during the marriage festivities. When Bottom "disappears", there is a great fear that the interlude cannot go one. Fortunately for the group, he reappears just in time to put on the play.
The third story in the plot centers on the world of the fairies. They wander in and out of the first two stories, interacting with both the humans of the gentry and the humans of the working class. They cast spells on Lysander and Demetrius, both noblemen, and manipulate whom the men will love. Additionally, Titania falls in love with Bottom, a craftsman actor, after she wakes from her magical spell. All three of the worlds come together in the woods, where the fairies dwell, when the gentry gathers, and where the craftsmen rehearse. This sameness of setting for all the groups helps to unify the plot.
Like all other romantic comedies by Shakespeare, the world of A Midsummer Night's Dream is a fantasy world of romance, love, humor, music, dance, song, and poetry. It exudes a dream-like quality and almost all the characters speak about having had a "strange or rare vision;" the dream becomes the unifying image of the entire plot and is even carried through to the title. As a stage production, the play has all the characteristics of a pageant; in fact, some critics have concluded that it may have been intended to be a masque presented at the wedding of an English noble.