Study Guide

A Midsummer Night's Dream Act 4, Scene 1

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Act 4, Scene 1

  • Now we're back to Titania and Bottom, who are lounging around on a bed of flowers while Titania's fairies wait on them.
  • Titania lavishes Bottom with her affection, twiddling his cheeks and kissing his large donkey ears.
  • Bottom still doesn't know his head has been transformed into that of an ass.
  • He calls for Peaseblossom to scratch his head and for Cobweb to go kill him a bee and bring back its honey.
  • Bottom announces he should go to the barber because he's feeling kind of hairy, and when he's hairy, he feels itchy all over.
  • Titania distracts Bottom from these worldly concerns, and asks him if he'd like to hear some music. Bottom says he has a good ear for music, and calls for "tongs and bones." (These are old rural musical instruments—the tongs were struck like a triangle, and the bones rattled in the hands, like clappers.)
  • Titania asks Bottom if he'd like something to eat.
  • He asks for oats and hay.
  • Titania says she can have a fairy steal some nuts from a squirrel, but he admits he'd rather have dried peas.
  • None of it matters, though, because Bottom is feeling very sleepy. Titania tells him to go to sleep and she'll snuggle with him.
  • Titania sends all of the fairies away and compares her strange pairing with Bottom to the relationship between the gentle ivy that twists around the ugly, barky elm. (She doesn't say it, but we can assume she's the pretty and delicate half of that metaphor.)
  • Titania declares her love for Bottom again and they take a nap together.
  • Puck shows up to join Oberon, who's been hanging out, invisible style. Oberon says that earlier, when he found lovesick Titania snuggling with Bottom, he took the opportunity to ask her for the "changeling child."
  • Titania, who was busy decorating Bottom's head with flowers, agreed to give him up.
  • Since Oberon's now got what he wanted all along (the "lovely Indian boy"), he decides to release Titania from her spell and orders Puck to remove the ass head from Bottom and make it so that Bottom wakes up and thinks the whole experience has been nothing but a "dream."
  • Oberon releases Titania from the spell by touching her eyes with a thing he calls "Dian's bud" (probably the same remedy that cured Lysander), which he says is more potent than even Cupid's power.
  • Oberon bids Titania to see things as she should, and tells her to awaken, calling her his "sweet queen."
  • Titania wakes up immediately and tells him she has had an insane dream that she was in love with a donkey. Oberon points her in the direction of Bottom. She asks how on earth this happened, especially being that she hates the sight of Bottom now.
  • Oberon tells Titania to relax; Puck will change Bottom's head back, and he instructs Titania to call up music that will make the five Athenians sleep more soundly than normal.
  • Puck fixes Bottom's head.
  • Oberon takes Titania's hands. They'll rock the young Athenian lovers to sleep on the ground and celebrate their regained friendship tomorrow night, when they'll dance at Duke Theseus's house and bless all the pairs of lovers that will be happily wedded at that time.
  • Puck announces that he hears a lark—a.k.a. a bird—announcing the morning.
  • Oberon and Titania will follow the night as it crosses around the world. During that trip, Titania wants Oberon to explain the whole thing, especially why she was caught sleeping with a donkey-faced man.
  • Theseus, Duke of Athens, shows up in the wood with his bride-to-be (Hippolyta), Egeus (Hermia's dad), and group of assembled people.
  • Theseus sends someone out to find the Forester.
  • The Duke announces that it's time for the big hunt (a popular hobby for royals and nobles).
  • Theseus tells Hippolyta they'll go up to the mountaintop to listen to the musical confusion of the baying hunting hounds echoing all around.
  • Hippolyta recalls a time she heard a similar thing when she was in Crete with Hercules and Cadmus, and yes, the sound was pretty amazing.
  • Theseus brags about his awesome hunting hounds.
  • In the midst of praising his dogs, he spots the sleeping youths, and asks, "What nymphs are these?"
  • Egeus identifies the four youths as Hermia, Helena, Lysander, and Demetrius. Theseus guesses they woke up early to observe the Rites of May.
  • Brain Snack: The Rites of May (a.k.a. "Maying") involved going into the woods at dawn and gathering up branches and flowers to decorate villages and homes. For more about May Day, head over to "What's Up With the Title?"
  • Theseus remembers this is the day Hermia should give her answer about marrying Demetrius or becoming a nun.
  • Some huntsmen blow their horns to wake up the youngsters.
  • The young lovers all awaken and kneel to Theseus. He teases them a little, saying that St. Valentine's day has passed (a day when the birds were supposed to choose their mates), so he wonders why these birds (the youths) are only choosing their mates now.
  • Also, Theseus wants to know how the heck these kids ended up asleep together in the wood.
  • Lysander begins to reply. He says he doesn't quite know how he got to this spot, but he can explain why they're in the wood. Lysander admits that he and Hermia fled to the wood in an attempt to get out of Athens, where they could escape Athenian law and get married.
  • Egeus cuts him off, demanding that Theseus bring the law down on Lysander's head for trying to run off with his daughter.
  • Demetrius pipes up and admits that Helena told him of the other pair's plan to steal away to the woods. Demetrius says he followed them into the forest in a fury, and Helena followed him in fancy. However, it seems that Demetrius's love for Hermia has melted. Instead, Helena has become the apple of his eye.
  • Also, Demetrius brings up that he was engaged to Helena before he left her for Hermia.
  • Theseus thinks everything is turning out for the best. He tells Egeus he's overriding his choice, and the couples (paired off according to their wishes) will be married in the temple at the same time as he and Hippolyta.
  • Everybody returns to Athens for the weddings.
  • As all the grownups leave, Demetrius, Lysander, Helena, and Hermia are left to sort out the night. Demetrius thinks everything is dreamlike and Hermia seems to be seeing double. Helena is just happy to have woken up to find that Demetrius loves her.
  • Demetrius, still groggy, asks everyone if they're sure they're all awake. He wonders if the Duke was really just there, and if they were supposed to follow him.
  • Demetrius (still charmed) concedes that they must be awake and says they should all recount their dreams on their way back to Athens.
  • As the four youths leave, Bottom awakens suddenly, crying out that, when his cue comes, he'll come on stage with his next line. He calls out for his friends, thinking he's still in the play, and realizes that he's been left alone in the wood.
  • Bottom tells us he's had a rare vision. He knows he's had a dream, but humans don't have a mind capable of describing how crazy the dream was. Bottom attempts it anyway.
  • Bottom decides that, since he can't properly tell the dream, he'll go to Quince and have him write the dream as a ballad. It will be called "Bottom's Dream," as it has no bottom (meaning it's all tangled up and has no narrative grounding or sense) and it's also his name.
  • Bottom concludes that he'll sing the ballad during the play they're putting on for the Duke's wedding. He also decides that the song should be sung during Thisbe's death scene.

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