A Midsummer Night's Dream Act 1 Summary

     In act 1 scene 1, Theseus, who is a Duke of Athens, is excited to be marrying Hippolyta in just four days. Egeus approaches Theseus with his daughter Hermia to ask for the duke's advice. Egeus has agreed to let Demetrius marry Hermia; however, Hermia is in love with Lysander, who is also interested in marrying her. The law states that she must follow her father's wishes, or he can have her killed. Theseus agrees that daughters should follow their fathers' wishes. Hermia begs Theseus to be reasonable; he agrees to give her until the day of his wedding to decide whether she will marry Demetrius or choose death. Lysander tries to beg Demetrius to back down. Lysander points out to Theseus and Egeus that Helena is in love with Demetrius and wants to marry him. Theseus agrees to talk privately to Egeus and Demetrius about this situation, and the three of them leave.

     Once they are alone, Lysander and Hermia discuss their options. Lysander mentions that he has a widowed aunt who lives outside of Athens and would let them stay with her. Then they could get married because they would be outside the confines of Athenian law. They agree to meet in the woods tomorrow night and from there they will run away and get married.

     Helena then bumps into Hermia and Lysander. Helena is jealous because Demetrius, whom she adores, wants to marry Hermia. Hermia is annoyed by Helena's complaining when she has no interest in marrying Demetrius, so she decides to tell Helena about their secret plan. She confesses that she is planning to meet Lysander in the woods tomorrow night to run away with him and get married. Therefore, once she is gone, Helena will be free to marry Demetrius. They ask that Helena not reveal their plan to anyone, and the couple leaves. Helena decides that she will not keep their plan a secret. She will tell Demetrius of their plan, and then he will be grateful to her and maybe turn his love to her once he sees for himself that Hermia has chosen Lysander.

     Scene 2 focuses on a completely different group of characters. Quince is going to direct a play involving a small company of men: Bottom, Flute, Snout, Snug, and Starveling. They are to perform the play before the duke and duchess on their wedding day. The play is The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisby, which is based on Romeo and Juliet. Quince tells Nick Bottom that he will be playing the part of Pyramus, the lead of the play and the love interest of Thisby. Bottom, a histrionic person, shows off his skills by performing a short monologue for the group. Quince then tells Francis Flute that he will be playing Thisby, and Flute complains that he was just starting to grow a beard, so he's disappointed that he'll be playing the part of a woman. Bottom then jumps in and offers to play the part of Thisby too, but Quince says no. Quince gives Robin Starveling the role of Thisby's mother and Tom Snout the role of Pyramus's father. Quince himself will play Thisby's father. Finally, he gives Snug the part of the lion. Snug is concerned that he won't be able to memorize his lines, but Quince informs him that it's just roaring, so he can make it up as he goes along. Bottom offers to play the part of the lion too, but once again Quince tells him no. Quince instructs the group to meet tomorrow night in the forest in order to rehearse in private.

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