Scene 1 - Athens. The palace of THESEUS.
During the public celebrations of Duke Theseus upcoming marriage to the Amazonian warrior, Hippolyta, a rich merchant named Egeus interrupts the ceremony to make a formal complaint against his daughter, Hermia, and her two young suitors, Demetrius and Lysander. The furious Egeus demands Hermia give up her love with Lysander and marry his preferred choice, Demetrius. Under threat of death, Hermia agrees to elope with Lysander. They plan to flee through the woods the following night. In a spiral of events, Hermia’s best friend Helena, in an effort to win the heart of Demetrius, decides to tell Demetrius of their elopement and all four lovers end up fleeing into the woods.
Scene 2 - Athens. A room in QUINCE’S house.
The Mechanicals amateur dramatic group, led by Peter Quince, with Snug, Flute, Snout, Starveling and the indomitable Bottom, meet at Quince’s house to plan a special performance for Theseus’ wedding day. In order to guarantee their privacy the group decides to rehearse in the wood the following night.
Scene 1 - A wood near Athens.
In the forest, two fairies, Puck (Oberon’s servant) and Peasblossom (Titania’s servant), meet by chance in a glade. Puck warns Peasblossom to keep Titania out of Oberon’s sight, for the King and Queen of Faerie are locked in a mighty battle of wills. The King and Queen are at war over who has the right to bring up a changeling boy stolen from a human King. When King Oberon and Queen Titania enter, they explode into an argument over the boy. Having warned Oberon that their continued battle is destroying the natural world, Titania storms off at his intransigence. Oberon vows to take revenge on her before the night is out. He sends Puck to seek a white-and-purple flower called love-in-idleness, which was once hit with one of Cupid’s wayward arrows. He says that the flower’s juice, if rubbed on a sleeper’s eyelids, will cause the sleeper to fall in love with the first living thing that, upon waking, he or she sees.
Oberon is interrupted by the arrival of Helena and Demetrius in the wood. Though he protests he no longer loves her, Demetrius cannot persuade Helena to give up her impassioned pursuit of him. Puck returns with the flower and Oberon gives Puck a small sprig with the instructions that he find Demetrius and drop the juice of the flower in Demetrius’ eyes so that he will fall in love with Helena. As Puck goes in search of Demetrius, Oberon goes off to find Titania.
At Titania’s bower, the fairies sing her to sleep and invocate a spell of protection around her. But Oberon breaks through her guard and drops the love potion in Titania’s sleeping eyes.
Scene 4 - Another part of the wood.
Halfway through the journey in the forest, Lysander and Hermia lose their way and decide to sleep and wait for the coming day. Puck arrives on his search for ‘an Athenian youth’ and mistakes Lysander for Demetrius. He places the love juice in Lysander’s eyes. As Puck leaves, Helena and Demetrius run in. Demetrius escapes Helena and leaves her in the wood, where she discovers the sleeping Lysander. When she wakes him, Lysander, under the influence of the ‘love-in-idleness’ flower, immediately falls desperately in love with her and pursues her into the woods. Hermia wakes from a nightmare to discover Lysander has disappeared. She wanders off into the forest alone.
Scene 1 - The wood. TITANIA lying asleep.
The Mechanicals, led by Peter Quince, set up their rehearsal just near to where Titania lies asleep. After fixing up some problems with their play, Bottom goes into the bushes to await his next cue. Puck arrives and decides to play a trick on the humans. He transforms Bottom into an ass (a sexual monster), and when Bottom reappears his frightened friends flee. Bottom is left alone in the forest, unaware that he has been transformed, he begins to sing a song to cheer himself up. The song awakens Titania and she immediately falls in love with him. Titania summons her fairies and they capture Bottom and take him to Titania’s bower.
Scene 2 - Another part of the wood.
Oberon discovers Puck’s mistake with the lovers and sends him to remedy it. To fix Puck’s mistake, Oberon streaks Demetrius’ eyes with the ‘love-in-idleness’ flower. In moments, Helena and Lysander arrive, and when Demetrius is woken by the noise, he soon joins Lysander in declaring his love for Helena. Helena believes that they are both mocking her and refuses to believe that either one loves her. Hermia appears and in the confusion, Helena now believes all three are in a plot to mock her. As the men run off to duel for Helena, Hermia turns on Helena and their friendship is broken.
Scene 3 - A wood near Athens.
Oberon instructs Puck to bring a storm to the forest and to gather the four lovers together. He then has Puck put an antidote potion in Lysander’s eyes so that he will return to his love for Hermia.
Scene 1 - The wood. Lovers lying asleep.
Having won the human boy from Titania’s care, Oberon removes the potion from Titania’s eyes. Though Titania suspects what Oberon has done, the Faerie King and Queen are reunited, and they fly off together into the forest. As dawn breaks, Theseus and Egeus are startled to find the Athenian youths sleeping in the glade. They wake them and demand their story, which the youths are only partly able to recall—to them, the previous night seems as insubstantial as a dream. All that is clear to them is that Demetrius and Helena love each other, as do Lysander and Hermia. Theseus announces the two couples will be wed at the same ceremony as he and Hippolyta. As they depart the forest Bottom emerges, believing he has fallen asleep and that his friends have abandoned him in the forest. He sets off for Quince’s house.
Scene 2 - Athens. A room in QUINCE’S house.
Back at Quince’s house, the craftsmen lament the loss of Bottom and with him, their chance at performing at Theseus’ wedding. Suddenly, Bottom arrives and brings with him news that their play has been short-listed for performance at the wedding. Overjoyed, they all rush off to the Palace.
Scene 1 - Athens. An apartment in the palace of THESEUS.
Theseus and Hippolyta and the four newlywed young lovers are at their reception. A list of plays are presented for their entertainment and Theseus chooses the Mechanicals production of ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’. The Mechanicals perform their play. Once all have retreated to their bedchambers for the night, Oberon, Titania and Puck return to the palace. Oberon and Titania enter and bless the palace and its occupants, so that the lovers will always be true to one another, their children will be healthy, and no harm will ever visit Theseus and Hippolyta. Oberon and Titania take their leave, and Puck makes a final address to the audience.