Study Help Essay Questions


1. What is the significance of the settings of the play? What are the major characteristics of each setting (the Duke's palace, Quince's cottage, and the fairy-enchanted woods)? What significance do forests have in other literary works you're familiar with? What about urban settings? What rules and values apply in the different settings? Why is the story set in ancient Greece — would it have been as effective in contemporary England?

2. Discuss the meanings of the play's title, A Midsummer Night's Dream. In addition to the title, what other references do you find to dreaming in the play? What relationship is created between dreaming and theater (look, for example, at Puck's final speech)? Why is Midsummer important to the themes of the play?

3. The play presents several different couples: Theseus and Hippolyta,; Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, Titania and Bottom, and Titania and Oberon. What aspects of love are explored in each of these relationships?

4. Gender issues are significant in this drama. What differences are there in the roles and behaviors appropriate to men and women? Do these gender differences still exist today, or are they examples of outdated stereotypes?

5. Many contemporary productions of the play cast the same actor in the role of Theseus and Oberon, and also of Hippolyta and Titania. What does this suggest about the functions of these characters in the play? How are the Hippolyta and Titania similar and/or different? Theseus and Oberon?

6. The adventures of the four young lovers — Demetrius, Lysander, Helena and Hermia — are a necessary aspect of the play, yet many critics have suggested that these four characters are "indistinguishable." Do you agree? What similarities and differences do you find among their personalities? Do you have a favorite among this group?

7. Much has been written about the darker side of this play, its savage, erotic aspects and its violence. For example, the critic Jan Kott finds the eroticism of the play "brutal." On the other hand, the critic Hartley Coleridge says this drama is "all poetry, and sweeter poetry was never written." Which of these critics do you agree with — if either? Overall, is this a sinister, violent, erotic play or a lighthearted, romantic comedy? Support your answer with references from the text.