As the wedding of Theseus, Duke of Athens, and Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, approaches, the arrival of the fairy monarchs Oberon and Titania to the nearby woods sets in motion a strange and comic series of events. Estranged from his queen due to a spat over a changeling child, Oberon enlists the help of the mischievous Puck in order to get what he wants - and to teach Titania a lesson. Unfortunately Puck gets a little out of hand with his love potion...
Hermia and Lysander, one of the story's two Athenian couples, are devoted to one another and intent on marrying; when Hermia's father refuses his blessing and demands that she marry Demetrius instead, she and Lysander elope.
Demetrius is something of a cad. Though at one time he pursued the lady Helena, he has since fallen in love with Hermia and shuns the woman he wronged. For her part, Helena is willing to betray a lifelong friend in the hopes of gaining Demetrius' love.
Oberon and Titania are both selfish, and the former is downright conniving. Robin Goodfellow, or Puck, is a creature of tricks and mockery - "knavish," a fairy calls him. He is constantly troubling folk for either his own entertainment or for Oberon's.
Some mentions of Greek gods, since the setting is ancient Athens; Hermia must choose between a life dedicated to the goddess Diana and marriage to Demetrius. The fairy realm features often. The juice of a flower is used as a love potion.
Hermia is threatened with execution for defying her father. Demetrius intends to kill Lysander in order to gain Hermia. Two characters challenge each other to a duel, but it does not go forward. A play written and put on by six laborers for the Duke's wedding involves a "tragic" romance (ending, of course, in the suicides of both parties), but their terrible acting makes it much more comic than tragic.
Drug and Alcohol Content
Ale is mentioned. A potion is used to make the sleeping victim fall in love with the first thing he or she sees upon awakening.
Both Oberon and Titania are inconstant; under the effects of the potion, Titania falls in love with a donkey-headed man and dotes upon him. There is some talk of the fairies blessing newly married couples, particularly Theseus and Hippolyta.
Hermia's father insists that if she does not consent to marry Demetrius, she must either die or devote herself to a life of celibacy. Hermia herself makes a point of remaining chaste during her elopement with Lysander. When Demetrius pursues the couple and Helena follows him, he tells her harshly that she ought not trust herself with him; in this scene, he rebuffs Helena and abuses her verbally.
Crude or Profane Language or Content
A few exclamations such as "Marry." One character's being given an ass's head is a play on his name, and on his personality.
Lighthearted and often whimsical, "A Midsummer Night's Dream" is perhaps Shakespeare's best-loved comedy - full of love potions, lovers' quarrels, a failed play and, of course, Puck. It is briefer than most of Shakespeare's plays, and presents three unique, loosely connected storylines: that of the four lovers, that of Oberon and Titania, and that of the Athenian laborers attempting to cobble together a play for the upcoming wedding. This play-within-a-play (which seems to be Shakespeare's way of mocking contemporary playwrights) winds up the tale in tragicomic style, furnishing the reader with a last good laugh before Puck prances in to have his final say.