What was life like when
Shakespeare was writing his
Queen Elizabeth 1 was on the throne of England.
Many citizens were moving to London
from the country during her reign. The
population of London doubled during
Shakespeare’s lifetime (from about
100,000 to approximately 200,000), despite
the fact that plague killed more people
than were born in the city.
The theater was a new and exciting
business that attracted many intelligent
and educated young men, particularly
those who were intellectually ambitious
but not well enough connected to join the
elite world of the court. Many of these
men eventually died in horrible poverty
since there were no royalties or copyright
and writers were paid a pittance for
Scholars estimate that until about 1603 the average payment
for a play was £6 (six pounds); by 1613 the price had risen to
£10 or £12.
In addition to his fee, the playwright was given all the receipts
(minus company expenses) at the second performance (but
remember, if the show was bad, there may not be a second
was one of these playwrights, but he
went on to become one of the most
famous writers of all time!
Little is known about Shakespeare’s
early years, but a few details have been
gathered from town and church
William Shakespeare was born in 1564
to a successful middle-class glove-
maker in Stratford-upon-Avon,
England. His baptism took place on
Wednesday, April the 26th, 1564.
Since we know Stratford's famous Bard
lived with his father, John
Shakespeare, we can presume that he
grew up in Henley Street, some one
hundred miles northwest of London.
Shakespeare attended grammar school, but his formal
education proceeded no further. In 1582 he married an
older woman, Anne Hathaway.
They had three children:
Susanna, Hamnet (who died at
the age of eleven) and Judith.
Anne Hathaway’s Cottage
Around 1590, he left his family behind and traveled to
London to work as an actor and playwright. Public and
critical success quickly followed, and Shakespeare
eventually became the most popular playwright in England
Shakespeare became a joint
shareholder in one of the London
theater companies (the Lord
Chamberlain’s Men, which later
became the King’s Men), and so
received a percentage of the gate
(cover charge) and made a fine
living, enough to restore his family’s
for most of his career at
the Globe Theatre (his
own playhouse) in
•The Globe theatre was
destroyed by a fire in
1613 during a production
of Henry V but was rebuilt
the following year
Shakespeare’s career bridged the reigns of Elizabeth I
(ruled 1558–1603) and James I (ruled 1603–1625), and
he was a favorite of both monarchs. Indeed, James granted
Shakespeare’s company the greatest possible compliment by
bestowing upon its members the title of King’s Men.
Wealthy and renowned, Shakespeare retired to Stratford and died in 1616
at the age of fifty-two.
Literature's famous Bard is buried at the Holy Trinity Church in Stratford.
Written upon William Shakespeare’s tombstone is an appeal that he be
left to rest in peace with a curse on those who would move his bones...
Good friend, for Jesus´ sake forbeare
To digg the dust enclosed here!
Blest be ye man that spares thes stones
And curst be he that moues my bones
A Midsummer Night’s Dream was written by
William Shakespeare in approximately 1595.
A Midsummer Night's Dream is a romantic comedy which portrays the
adventures of four young Athenian lovers and a group of amateur actors in a
moonlit forest, and their interactions with the fairies who inhabit it.
Comedy - in simple terms means that the play
will end happily
Romantic comedy is usually based on a mix-up
in events or identities. Shakespeare’s
comedies often move towards tragedies (a
death or lack of of resolution) but are resolved
in the nick of time.
Comedy – despair to happiness
Tragedy – happiness to despair
Shakespeare’s comedies often end with a
A Midsummer Night's Dream is unusual among
Shakespeare's plays in lacking a specific written
source for its plot.
Shakespeare, however may have used other
sources for inspiration.
The wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta was
described in Chaucer's "Knight's Tale" and
The theme of a daughter who wants to marry
against her father's desires was a common theme in
Roman comedy and shares similarities with
Shakespeare’s tragic play Romeo and Juliet.
Bottom and his friends are caricatures of the
amateur players of the time and they satirize many
of the theatrical conventions of the time; for
example, using young men to play the roles of
History indicates the prior to
Elizabethan times, fairies were
considered evil spirits who stole
children and sacrificed them to the
devil. Shakespeare, along with other
writers, redefined fairies during this
time period, turning them into
gentle, albeit mischievous, spirits.
Puck, for example, brags about his
ability to perform harmless pranks.
The title draws on the summer solstice,
Midsummer Eve, occurring June 23 and marked by
holiday partying and tales of fairies and temporary
There are several theories at to the
origins of A Midsummer Night’s
1) Some have theorized that the play might have
been written for an aristocratic wedding;
numerous such weddings took place in 1596.
2) Others suggest it was written for the Queen to
celebrate the feast day of St. John. The feast of
John the Baptist was celebrated as an English
festival on June 24 (Midsummer Day) It was
believed that on Midsummer Night that the fairies
and witches held their festival. To dream about
Midsummer Night was to conjure up images of
fairies and witches and other similar creatures
and supernatural events.
In either case, it would also have been performed
at The Theatre, and, later, The Globe in London.
Obvious plot links exist between A Midsummer Night’s Dream and
Romeo and Juliet, and critics disagree about which play was
Not only do both dramas emphasize the conflict between love and
social convention, but the plot of “Pyramus and Thisbe,” the play-
within-the-play of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, parallels that of
Romeo and Juliet.
Critics have wondered if Romeo and Juliet is a serious
reinterpretation of the other play, or just the opposite: Perhaps
Shakespeare is mocking his tragic love story through the
burlesque of “Pyramus and Thisbe” performed by the craftsmen in
A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
THE THREE WORLDS of
1. THE ATHENIANS:
• Theseus and his bride, Hippolyta
(Theseus represents law and order.)
• The four lovers: Hermia, Helena, Demetrius,
(They represent adolescent rebellion.)
• Egeus (Hermia’s father)
Helena and Demetrius
Left to right: Helena,
Theseus and Hippolyta
2. THE ACTORS:
• Bottom (the rather vain “leader” of the group
who wishes to play all the parts
• Other members of the cast: Quince, Flute,
Starveling, Snout, Snug, Philostrate
3. THE FAIRIES:
Their realm is the woods where they
interact with the humans who wander
there. This setting is outside the walls of
Athens and so disorder prevails.
• Titania (Queen)
• Oberon (King)
• Puck (a.k.a. Robin Goodfellow) – Oberon’s
Bottom and Titania Puck and Oberon
The three worlds come together in the woods at night: a place of
magic and mystery where illusion reigns!
Shakespeare cleverly weaves together not only fairies and lovers, but
also social hierarchies with the aristocratic Theseus and the "rude
mechanicals," or the artisans and working men. This allows the play to
become more lyrical, since it is able to draw on the rougher language of
the lower classes as well as the poetry of the noblemen.
In act One, Lysander laments: “The course of true love never
did run smooth” (1.1.134).
The play deals with the trials of those “in love” both in the
world of the Athenians and the world of the fairies.
Because the play is a romantic comedy, the audience can
enjoy the conflicts, mix ups, and misunderstandings without
ever doubting that all will turn out well.
Other topics (besides “love”):
Reality versus illusion
The play is a study in
The contrasts add balance to the play.
Some of the contrasts in the play:
Reality vs. Illusion (Dreams)
Athens vs. the forest
Day vs. Night
Order vs. Confusion
Aristocrats vs. Workmen
Tall vs. Short
True love vs. False love
Lyrical language vs. Rough prose
•Shakespeare writes in both VERSE and PROSE
• VERSE – elevated passages, significant ideas, speeches by high
• PROSE – comic scenes, dialect or broken English (slang/not
proper) and speeches by commoners are in prose (written or
• POETRY is usually blank verse – iambic pentameter lines without
• IAMBIC PENTAMETRE – five beats (feet) per line with a light/ heavy
stress pattern (ten syllables).
• RHYME is used (couplet or sonnet) to illustrate the close of scenes
or important passages (soliloquy – the act of speaking when alone
or regardless of any listeners, often a character’s inner thoughts)