A Midsummer Night’s Dream begins in the afternoon and continues through the night and into the next day. There are three main groups of characters in the play. Understanding who is who, and the purpose of each character group, makes it easy to understand and enjoy this amusing and entertaining play.
The Royals are the royalty, the upper class in the play. Theseus’ wedding plans begin the play and set the entire play in motion.
- THESEUS: King Theseus has won Queen Hippolyta and will marry her tomorrow. He tells her that he woo’ed her with his sword, but will treat her in another vein. This is extremely important; it says that men and women are able to treat each other in a loving fashion.
- HIPPOLYTA: Queen Hippolyta, warrior and betrothed to Theseus.
- LYSANDER: Young man in love with Hermia.
- DEMETRIUS: Currently engaged to Hermia, but against her will. Egeus, Hermia’s father, favors Demetrius. Before the play begins, Demetrius “deflowered” Helena. Helena is still in love with Demetrius, but Demetrius has dumped Helena.
- HERMIA: Young woman in love with Lysander. Daughter to Egeus. Betrothed against her will to Demetrius. Hermia is small and considered very pretty. HELENA: Young woman in love with Demetrius. Helena is tall and considered not so pretty.
- EGEUS: Father to Hermia. In the beginning of the play, Egeus wants Hermia to marry Demetrius, which is why Hermia and Lysander run away.
- PHILOSTRATE: Theseus’ “Master of the Revels.” Philostrate is a court employee who is planning the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta, to take place tomorrow.
The Faeries exist in a magical realm, apart from mortals.
- OBERON: King of the Faeries. Angry at his wife, Titania. He is jealous of the Changeling Boy. Oberon wants the little boy for himself (to serve him.) Oberon seeks revenge on Titania for her ignoring him and refusing to give him the boy.
- TITANIA: Queen of the Faeries. Titania’s human friend has died, and Titania now cares for her son. She dotes on the little boy, and ignores Oberon.
- CHANGELING BOY: Orphan cared for by Titania.
- PUCK: Also known as Robin Goodfellow, Oberon’s jester and lieutenant. Oberon sends Puck to find a magic flower. The juice of the flower, when put on someone’s eyes, enchants this person. Note: a puck is what he is; Robin Goodfellow is his name. A puck is a mischievous sprite. The character is referred to as Puck.
- PEASBLOSSOM, COBWEB, MOTH, MUSTARDSEED: Titania’s faery servants.
The Mechanicals are working class humans. They come together to rehearse a play to be performed at Theseus’ wedding celebration. They are clownish, and this group speaks in prose instead of verse.
The play they perform is known as “The Play Within the Play.”
- PETER QUINCE: The leader of the group of Mechanicals. Quince has written the play to be performed by his friends at the wedding celebration.
- NICK BOTTOM: Nick plays the character of Pyramus in The Play Within the Play. Bottom is the star of the Mechanicals. During the evening rehearsal, Puck turns Bottom’s head into the head of a donkey. Notice the pun: Bottom = ass = donkey. Titania wakes with the flower juice on her eyes, and sees Nick Bottom with the donkey’s head. She immediately falls in love with him, and is a laughing-stock for Oberon.
- FRANCIS FLUTE: Flute plays Thisbe in The Play Within the Play. Thisbe and Pyramus are in love. Flute is a man but Thisbe is a woman. There are many puns and jokes surrounding this.
- TOM SNOUT: Plays a wall. Snout portrays a stone wall between Pyramus and Thisbe, and they must speak through a chink in the wall.
- SNUG: Snug plays Lion who scares Thisbe away while she is speaking with Pyramus. Pyramus believes that Lion has killed his precious Thisbe.
- ROBIN STARVELING: Plays Moonshine. He comes on with a lamp. He is laughed at, and does not take it well.
This post is part of the series: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Help for students reading Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream.