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'A Midsummer Night's Dream' Act 1, Scene 1 Summary

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Act 1 Scene 1

Theseus, the Duke of Athens enters with Hippolyta who he is betrothed to and Philostrate the Master of the Revels among others.

Theseus is impatient for his nuptials, he promises Hippolyta that their wedding will be a triumph and that everyone will enjoy it.

Egeus enters with his daughter Hermia and Lysander and Demetrius. Egeus is angry with Hermia because she does not want to marry his chosen suitor Demetrius. Hermia wants to marry Lysander, Lysander and Demetrius are both in love with Hermia. Egeus asks Theseus if he can dispose of his daughter if she does not do as he says.

Theseus advises Hermia that her father’s word is final and that Demetrius is a good choice of suitor. Hermia argues that Lysander is just as good. She asks Theseus what her fate would be if she refuses to wed Demetrius. Theseus explains that she may be killed or she may have to live like a nun and have no contact with men whatsoever.

Theseus tells Hermia to take her time to think about her options and on his wedding day she must decide whether she must die or marry Demetrius or swear to live a single austere life.

Lysander tries to appeal to Demetrius to give Hermia up but Egeus interjects and tells him that he has chosen Demetrius. Lysander beseeches Egeus to change his mind professing his love for Hermia and his equal status and fortune to Demetrius. He then explains that Helena is deeply in love with Demetrius.

Theseus says that he has heard about Helena’s love for Demetrius. He asks Egeus and Demetrius to go with him to discuss some urgent business. He reminds Hermia about her options; marriage, death or a vow to live a single life. All leave the stage but Lysander and Hermia.

Hermia tells Lysander how upset she is about the situation. Lysander comes up with a plan; he tells Hermia that he has a widow aunt who treats him as if he were her own. She lives far away from Athens and they could go there and be married no one would ever find them. He says to meet him in the wood where they once celebrated May morning.

Hermia promises to meet with Lysander as Helena enters. Helena is upset about Demetrius being in love with Hermia. She longs to be like Hermia in order for Demetrius to take notice of her. Hermia tells Helena that the more she disparages Demetrius the more he likes her, Helena says the more she loves him the more he hates her. Hermia tells Helena that she and Lysander plan to elope and when that happens she will have Demetrius to herself.

Hermia explains that she once loved Athens but now it is like hell. Hermia tells Helena that she will meet Lysander in the wood where she and Helena would go and tell each other their secrets and from there they will seek new friends and ‘stranger companies.’ Hermia wishes Helena luck with Demetrius and they leave.

Helena explains that she is as good as Hermia and before he was in love with her, Demetrius loved Helena. Helena resolves to tell Demetrius of Hermia’s plan to elope. Knowing that Demetrius will go into the woods to find Hermia, Helena plans to follow him and hopes that Demetrius will thank her for telling him about Hermia’s plan and will fall in love with her again.

Looking for the next scene? Please visit our contents page, where you can find a full list of all scene by scene guides to Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This scene by scene guide is designed to read alongside the play and act as a companion to the original text.

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