A Midsummer Night's Dream: structure

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: structure

Overall Structure of the Play

  • “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is structured into five acts, a common structure for Shakespeare’s plays.
  • The play has three interweaving storylines: the Athenian Lovers, the Fairies, and the Mechanicals.
  • The scenes alternate between the Athenian court, the enchanted forest and the humble abode of the Mechanicals. The different settings help to separate and differentiate the plotlines and themes.

Act Breakdown

  • Act I introduces the main characters, their conflicts and the central themes of love, mixed identities, and supernatural influence.
  • Act II and III, considered the heart of the play, exhibit the main plot of love, magic and confusion. Act II showcases the fairy world and their magical spells and Act III displays a web of humorous and chaotic mishaps caused by these spells.
  • Act IV resolves conflicts and misidentifications, where characters wake up, their misunderstandings are cleared and romantic relationships are reestablished.
  • Act V is the resolution, presented as a play within a play. It wraps up all the loose ends and concludes with all the lovers happily married.

Key Themes and Structural Elements

  • The use of “play within a play” structure (The Mechanicals’ play in Act V) adds a comic relief, offers a critique on theatre, and echoes the larger themes of illusion and reality.
  • The dream structure of the play is pivotal to its meaning. The boundaries between dream and reality are blurred, with characters unsure of whether events have really happened or they have been dreaming.
  • The structure of the play allows for the parallel plotlines to influence and resonate with each other, building tension and comedy throughout the play before it is eventually resolved.