A clearing in the woods outside of Athens: The sun has set and night has covered the trees in darkness. There is an old moon rising between the sparkling stars.
A busy young fairy bustles in, sprinkling dew drops on the flowers, making the place sparkle like the sky – it is getting the glade ready for the entrance of its Queen - Titania is coming here to dance and party the night away.
But something is watching the fairy.
Something not quite nice.
Hobgoblin some call him – but not when he is listening; Puck, the practical joker; Puck, the King of the Fairies’ chief servant. He is here because his master, Oberon, is also coming this way.
Puck asks the fairy why it is here – and smiles when he hears the Queen is coming – Oberon and Titania are in the middle of a long argument and Puck thinks this could be fun to watch.
Suddenly music and rushing winds as both Titania and Oberon enter the clearing at the same time.
There is a moment of silence only broken when Oberon looks at his Queen and says what a bad choice of meeting place they have made – and he accuses Titania of being proud.
She flashes anger back; calls him jealous and orders her fairy servants to leave.
Oberon rises to his full height and orders Titania to stay. He is her Lord!
Titania turns back to look at him – scorn in her eyes.
In a flood of words she accuses him of destroying the harmony in nature that they are responsible for – of destroying it by his arguments and anger. There are frosts in midsummer, corn is rotting because it is too wet to harvest, people are starving, cold and miserable – all because they are arguing.
He asks her what she is going to do about it – after all, it is her fault – She has a changeling child, a boy, who has grown old enough to leave the women of Titania’s court and join his.
She will never give him up – and Oberon can’t come to her bed ‘til he stops asking for the boy.
She storms out and Oberon, in a quiet rage, orders Puck to fetch the flower of a magic plant he knows –he is going to use it to punish Titania and to get the boy from her.
Puck zooms off and Oberon tells us he is going to make Titania fall in love with a wild animal – a monkey or a leopard or a bear.
Oberon’s thoughts of revenge are interrupted as Demetrius runs into the forest clearing – quickly followed by Helena who grabs him and won’t let him go.
Demetrius has run after Hermia, and Helena has run after Demetrius.
She says she loves him: He says he hates her.
He threatens to beat her: She begs him to beat her as long as she can stay with him.
He threatens to do worse things: She says he can’t do anything worse than not love her.
Demetrius escapes and Helena runs after him.
Oberon, who remained unseen throughout this, makes a promise to reverse the chase – Demetrius will chase Helena and she will run from him!
Puck returns and gives the magic flower to Oberon. He brakes some of it off and tells Puck to find an Athenian youth who is with an Athenian girl and to put the juice of the flower on his eyes when he is asleep – but to make sure the first thing he sees when he wakes is the girl. He won’t have any difficulty recognising the boy – he’ll be wearing Athenian clothes.
Oberon goes off to find the sleeping Titania and Puck the sleeping Demetrius.
Deep in the wood, near a magnificent old oak tree, is a bank of wild flowers where Titania likes to sleep part of the night amongst the wonderful scents.
She arrives and after her servants have danced and sung her to sleep, they leave her to rest with only one guard.
Oberon knows exactly where she will be and follows her – soon frightening off her fairy guard.
He squeezes the juice of the magic flower into her sleeping eyes and charms her – to love whatever living creature she first sees when she wakes. Then he leaves too.
Lysander and Hermia now enter but do not see the Fairy Queen.
They are lost and tired and there is nothing for it but to spend the night in the wood.
Lysander tries to settle down next to Hermia, but she isn’t very pleased with him for getting them lost and forces him to sleep away from her.
Both are quickly asleep after all the wandering about.
Puck, searching for Demetrius and Helena, stumbles over the sleeping Lysander – and just as Oberon had said, he is wearing Athenian clothes.
Not only that, there is an Athenian girl - too afraid to sleep near the boy (or so Puck thinks).
This must be the pair he is searching for!
So, Puck squeezes the juice into Lysander’s eyes, thinking it is Demetrius, says a charm over him, and rushes off to tell Oberon.
Demetrius runs into the grove still being chased by Helena. He doesn’t see Lysander or Hermia and quickly runs off, more interested in getting away from Helena than of finding the runaway lovers.
Helena is too tired to follow straight away and takes a look around.
She sees Lysander on the floor, but isn’t sure if he is alive or dead.
Helena prods Lysander a little with her foot to make sure and he wakes up – and is instantly, passionately, magically in love with her: The flower’s juice has a very powerful effect.
Lysander tries to grab Helena’s hand, tries to hold her in his arms, tries to kiss her: She fights him off, and tells him he is making fun of her – and that it isn’t nice, or funny. She knows he loves Hermia and tells him so.
She rushes off, in the same direction Demetrius ran, chasing one young man and running away from another.
Lysander, under the influence of the magic, looks at the sleeping Hermia and says she now makes him want to vomit! He runs off, after Helena.
At that moment Hermia wakes from a bad dream – she dreamt of snakes biting her, just like Cleopatra.
At first, not seeing Lysander near her, she plays the helpless woman and shouts out she is afraid, come and help her: As soon as she realises he isn’t there, she hitches up her skirts and marches off to find him.
Titania all this while has been sleeping soundly amongst the glorious scent and fireworks display of magnificent flowers.
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