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TOPIC: ACT 1 Plot Summary

ACT 1 Plot Summary 11 years 1 month ago #187

  • akfarrar
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I am writing a plot summary and need to know what people think. I am trying to give a sense of performance and not just plot plodding:


The play opens with a procession through the streets of Ancient Athens.
Theseus, the Duke, is leading his soon-to-be wife, Hippolyta, through the city to show her to the crowds.

He stops and makes a public announcement - describing how he really is in love with her and how he can't wait to get married. She tells him that there are only a few days to wait before the 'next new moon', and the day they can get married.
He mentions the fact that they met in battle - and that they fell in love fighting each other - but that the wedding will be very different - parties, celebrations, "revelling".

The happy mood is suddenly interrupted when an elderly man (Egeus) drags in his daughter, throws her at the feet of the Duke and demands 'Justice'.

Egeus wants his daughter to marry Demetrius - a noble young man - and it is his right, under the laws of Athens, to make his daughter marry anyone he wants.

And Demetrius wants to marry Hermia, the daughter of Egeus.

But, Hermia is in love with Lysander - another noble young man - and Lysander is in love with her. She is refusing to marry Demetrius.

Egeus, who is very angry, demands his rights - either to make Hermia marry Demetrius, or to have her killed for disobeying her father.

Egeus claims that Lysander has used magic on Hermia to make her love him and disobey her father.

Hermia, who apologises to the Duke for being so bold, asks what the law says will happen to her if she keeps on refusing - and Theseus tells her she has two choices: Die or become a nun, never seeing a man ever again. Theseus also tells Hermia to think about it and give him a final answer on the day he marries Hippolyta.

She says she will become a nun before she will marry Demetrius.

Demetrius now speaks out and asks Hermia and Lysander to change their minds. But Lysander jumps in to the argument, claims to be as ‘worthy’ as Demetrius and reminds him that he was in love with Helena – who now ‘dotes’ on him.

Theseus stops the argument and, because this is a public place, asks Demetrius and Egeus to go with him so he can talk to them privately – he claims to talk about something to do with his wedding – and something about themselves.

The stage empties leaving Lysander and Hermia alone.

They talk of love never being easy, never ‘running smooth’, then Lysander tells Hermia of a plan he has hatched: They will run away through the woods outside Athens to an aunt he has – and there they can get married.

Just as Hermia is agreeing to Lysander’s plan, her best friend, Helena, who is deeply in love with Demetrius, comes in.

Helena complains about Demetrius and his love for Hermia.

To prove that Hermia doesn’t care for Demetrius, Lysander tells Helena of their plan to run away.

Hermia and Lysander part, going their separate ways leaving Helena alone on the stage.

She speaks to the audience saying that she will go to Demetrius and tell him of Lysander’s plan – she hopes Demetrius will love her a little more for telling of the planned escape – for Helena, even a little love is better than none.

She runs off to find her once-upon-a-time lover.

A group of craftsmen now enter. These are respectable working men – most of them qualified masters of their craft although they do have an apprentice with them. They are just the sort of people who would stand and watch the plays in Shakespeare’s Globe theatre – the groundlings.

They are meeting to plan an entertainment for the Duke – to be performed on the evening of the wedding. They have decided to put on a play, ‘The tragedy of Pyramus and Thisby’.

Quince, the leader, tries to organise things but ‘Bottom’, a weaver, keeps interrupting – not only that, he wants to play all the parts of in the play. Finally he is persuaded to play Pyramus, the lover and leading man.

It soon becomes clear they have never performed a play before and that they do not really know what they are doing.

Eventually they all know which parts they are to play and agree to meet tomorrow night, in the woods outside Athens, to rehearse. (They want to keep secret what they are doing so no one can copy or spoil the surprise - very much the way professional theatre groups kept their new productions to themselves in Elizabethan England).

Thank You (in anticipation of comments).
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ACT 1 Plot Summary 11 years 1 month ago #188

  • William Shakespeare
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Thank YOU, akfarrar!

I think this is a great and interesting way to summarize what happens in any play. I've read so many synopses of Shakespeare's plays and I have yet to read something which describes the ACTION of the play instead of just basic highlights from the text. Good job!
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