In another part of the wood, Oberon wonders if Titania has awoken from her slumber. He's hoping that she laid her eyes on a vile beast.
Enter Puck with the answer.
He tells Oberon that a crew of craftsmen entered the grove where Titania was sleeping to practice their play for Theseus's wedding. Puck found Bottom to be the dullest, so he transformed his head into that of a donkey. Titania woke up and fell in love with the donkey-Bottom hybrid.
Oberon thinks this is hilarious—everything has worked out better than he could've imagined.
The Fairy King asks Puck if put the love juice in the Athenian man's eyes and Puck says, yep, he sure did.
Demetrius and Hermia enter and Oberon realizes that Puck put the love juice in the wrong Athenian man's eyes.
Hermia is livid that Lysander abandoned her while she was sleeping. Then she accuses Demetrius of killing her fiancé, which he doesn't exactly deny, even though we know he hasn't killed anyone.
Hermia flips out and curses Demetrius.
Demetrius says she's getting her bloomers in a knot for no reason—he hasn't killed Lysander, nor does he have any reason to believe Lysander is dead.
Hermia wants Demetrius's assurance that Lysander is okay. Demetrius is all, "What will you give me in exchange?"
Sassy Hermia says that in exchange she'll promise to never see him again. This doesn't sound like much of a bargain and Demetrius admits that he's getting nowhere fast.
All this pursuing has made Demetrius sad and sleepy, so he lies down for a nap.
Meanwhile, Oberon is busy pointing out that Puck got the wrong guy. Oberon tells Puck to go find Helena in the woods, and use some magic to bring her to Demetrius's sight.
Oberon says a little verse over the sleeping Demetrius, intending to make the young man fall in love with Helena (with the help of some love juice) once Demetrius awakens.
Puck leads Helena to Demetrius, with Lysander begging at her heels. Oberon and Puck are going to watch what happens for a while, and they hope the ruckus will wake up Demetrius.
Meanwhile, Lysander tries to convince Helena that he loves her.
Helena is ticked off because Lysander is supposed to be in love with her friend Hermia.
Lysander points out that Hermia's dad wants her to marry Demetrius, anyway.
Just then, Demetrius wakes up, sees Helena, and declares that she's a goddess.
Now Helena really loses it, thinking that both men are mocking her for their amusement.
Lysander and Demetrius bicker over who should get Helena.
Demetrius announces that Hermia is approaching.
Hermia can't see anything in the dark woods, but she follows Lysander's voice.
Once she arrives, she asks Lysander why he left her alone in the woods while she was sleeping.
Lysander declares that he no longer loves Hermia and that his heart belongs to Helena.
Lysander says he thought leaving Hermia sleeping alone in the woods in the middle of the night was a clear enough message that he hates her.
Helena thinks that Hermia is in on some big, elaborate joke designed to make her look silly. She accuses Hermia of betraying the girls' long friendship. They even used to embroider together! The nerve!
Hermia is shocked to hear that Helena thinks she's been betrayed—Hermia actually thinks Helena must be the one doing the teasing and betraying.
The ex-friends continue to argue.
Helena throws up her hands and tells them they can go ahead and keep up the act. Helena assumes they mean to "chronicle" it, the Elizabethan equivalent of putting it up on Facebook, so that they can all laugh about it later.
Helena doesn't want to stick around just to be teased—she'd rather die.
Hearing Helena's plan to take off, Lysander interjects, calling Helena "my love, my life, my soul."
Demetrius threatens Lysander, who again swears his love to Helena. The boys then get into a discussion about who loves Helena. Hermia asks Lysander what this is all about.
Lysander makes his feelings for Hermia clear by using a racial slur: "Away, you Ethiop!"
Hermia hangs onto Lysander, all confused, as he calls her a string of nasty things, including a "Tartar" (which is a reference to the Mongolian people of Central Asia, not the gross stuff that builds up on your teeth). All the while Demetrius accuses Lysander of being a coward, pretending to be held back by Hermia instead of fighting.
Lysander goes back to his challenge against Demetrius, saying that he'll keep his word and fight him.
We interrupt this soap opera to bring you a brain snack and some words of encouragement: If you're feeling like your head is going to explode and you're having a hard time keeping track of who's who, you're not alone. The scene is confusing and the four young lovers seem indistinguishable for a reason—Shakespeare is basically telling us that all lovers are alike. Now, back to our program.
Lysander asks if he should "hurt [Hermia], strike her, kill her dead?" to prove he no longer loves her, but concedes that, even though he hates Hermia, he won't kill her.
Hermia finally gets it.
Instead of turning on the man who scorns her, Hermia turns on the woman he's chosen over her, the woman who has been her closest friend since childhood. Hermia accuses Helena of stealing Lysander.
Helena is also upset and thinking Hermia must still be joking. She calls Hermia a counterfeit and a puppet.
Hermia takes great offense. Though it seems Helena meant to call her a puppet (as in a doll with no feelings), Hermia interprets the puppet comment as a jab at how short she is.
Hermia irrationally reasons that Helena has won the love of both men by flaunting her superior height and making Hermia look like a dwarf in comparison. (Seriously.)
Hermia points out that she may be short, but she is still tall enough to scratch out Helena's eyes.
Scandalized, Helena pleads with the men to protect her from Hermia.
Helena tries to soothe Hermia by saying she still loves her and never did her wrong. Well...except that one time when she told Demetrius about Hermia's secret plan to elope with Lysander.
Helena now accepts the wrong that she's done. She'd like to just get back to Athens and forget the whole thing.
Hermia, still angry, says nothing is stopping Helena from going. It's clear, though, that Helena's heart is still with Demetrius.
Lysander says he'll protect Helena from Hermia, which starts the whole mess up again.
Now Helena says that Hermia was always feisty when they were younger and, though she's little, she's fierce.
Hermia flares up again at being called "little" and tries to get at Helena. Again. Lysander calls Hermia a dwarf and tells her to get lost. Demetrius thinks Lysander should lay off trying to protect Helena because she doesn't like him.
Lysander points out that Hermia isn't holding him back now. He suggests to Demetrius that they "step outside" and settle this thing once and for all. They exit to fight.
Now Helena and Hermia can catfight alone. Helena decides she's a faster runner than Hermia and flees rather than face Hermia's fists (and eye-scratching fingernails).
Hermia chases after her. The two women exit.
Finally, we're back to Oberon and Puck.
Oberon yells at Puck for screwing things up so badly.
Oberon asks if Puck sprinkled the love juice on the wrong guy's eyes on purpose.
Puck assures Oberon that he's not at fault—all Oberon told him to do was find a guy dressed like an Athenian, which he did. Anyway, he's glad for his mistake because it's much funnier this way—full of betrayal, mayhem, general human foolishness, and murder threats.
Oberon, knowing the competitive males are looking for some place to fight, tells Puck to make the night overcast, so the angry men can't see each other. He instructs Puck to lure each man in a different direction by imitating his enemy's voice.
Oberon then gives Puck another herb, an antidote to the love juice, and tells him that the boys will tire eventually and go to sleep.
He tells Puck to drop the remedy herb onto Lysander's eyes, so he'll be cured of his love for Helena. When everybody wakes up, these quarrels will seem like a silly dream. Lysander will love Hermia again, and Demetrius will still love Helena.
After this, the lovers can go home to Athens and live happily ever after.
While Puck is busy preventing fights and un-enchanting Lysander, Oberon will go beg the still-bewitched Titania for the Indian boy.
Once she's given up the boy, Oberon will release Titania from her enchanted love of Bottom. Thus, the entire mess will be fixed.
Puck agrees this plan must be accomplished quickly, because night will be over soon. Ghosts are returning to their graves, and all the wicked things that night allows are coming to a close.
Oberon points out that, although some spirits and ghosts can only come out at night, he and Puck can go about their business during day or night. Still, Oberon wants the job done already—no delays.
The Fairy King leaves and Puck is left alone to tend to his business, promising to lead the young men up and down and every which way.
Lysander then enters. Puck, in Demetrius's voice, challenges Lysander to find more steady ground on which to fight. Lysander exits, following the voice he thinks belongs to Demetrius.
Now Demetrius enters, asking where Lysander is hiding. Puck, putting on Lysander's voice, eggs on Demetrius, promising to whip him. Thus he leads Demetrius off with his false voice.
Lysander, back on stage, wonders where on earth Demetrius has gone. Still, Lysander is now exhausted and lies on the ground to get some rest. As he's falling asleep, he promises to hunt Demetrius down in the light of day.
Demetrius and Puck come back onto the stage, with Puck leading Demetrius around using Lysander's voice. Demetrius still seeks Lysander, but can't see him. Demetrius is tired too, so he tells Lysander (Puck's voice) to get lost, with the promise that they'll fight in the daylight.
Demetrius also sleeps.
Helena then enters, pleading with night to end quickly. In daylight, she'll go back to Athens and escape the other three Athenians who hate her so much.
Finally, Hermia comes back on stage, claiming she has never been so tired or so sad. She can't go on, and will rest here, though she prays the heavens will protect Lysander if Demetrius means to fight him. She too goes to sleep.
Puck, with all four youngsters asleep, can now begin his work.
He says a little rhyme, and squeezes the remedy onto Lysander's eyes. Now Lysander will love Hermia again when he wakes, and each man will take the woman that is right for him.