A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
(19 February 1596 often urged)
a synoptic, alphabetical character list
A "ghost character." The Athenian eunuch is one of those petitioning to perform at the wedding of Duke Theseus and Hippolyta. His given name is not mentioned and he does not appear in the play; we never hear him auditioning with a harp-accompanied poem about "The Battle with the Centaurs".
The Changeling Boy presumably appears on stage, though he is given no lines in the play. He is the source of contention between Titania and Oberon, the fairy Queen and King. The son of one of Titania's deceased devotees-a "votaress of her order"-the Changeling Boy is the ransom demanded by Oberon before he removes the love spell from Titania. Because his mother died in childbirth and the fairy dissention started in "the middle summer's spring" when Titania took the child, it is reasonable to suppose that the Changeling Boy is an infant in swaddling rather than a youth.
Cobweb is one of the fairies in service to Titania the fairy queen. Titania encourages Cobweb to "be good" to Bottom, and Bottom plans to make good use of Cobweb in the event of a cut finger because cobwebs were often used at the time to stop minor bleeding.
Demetrius is the Athenian youth who, though in the past he "made love" to Helena, begins the play in love with Hermia. He has received her father's blessing to marry Hermia. Hermia rejects Demetrius, for she is in love with Lysander, another Athenian youth. Helena tells Demetrius that Lysander and Hermia are eloping into the woods. Demetrius, following them, is made to fall in love with Helena as the result of fairy intervention and the application of potent love-flower essence. Of the three characters placed under the influence of this flower essence, Demetrius is the only one left under the spell at play's end. He weds Helena in a triple wedding with the Duke and Hippolyta, Lysander and Hermia. The wedding party then watches the performance of Pyramus and Thisbe.
Egeus is the father of Hermia. He has chosen Demetrius for his daughter and petitions Theseus for help when Hermia instead prefers Lysander. A stubborn man who can offer no logical reason for preferring Demetrius to Lysander, he ignores his daughter's plain preference and would rather see his daughter die under Athenian law-or join a nunnery-than wed a man he himself has not selected. His will is overborne in act four when Demetrius returns to Helena and the Duke, Theseus, allows Hermia to marry Lysander.
This unnamed Fairy, in service to Titania, discovers and speaks with Puck in the forest, giving us Puck's alternate name of Robin Goodfellow. Their conversation reveals that the King and Queen of the fairies are feuding over a Changeling Child.
With no other given name, the First Fairy is the leader of the primary verses in the fairies' song meant to lull Titania to sleep.
One of the rude mechanicals or clown figures in the play, Francis Flute is a bellows mender by occupation. He is assigned the part of Thisbe in the clowns' theatrical production of Pyramus and Thisbe and performs the female role with flair despite his initial misgivings about playing the part of a woman.
Helena is the Athenian daughter of old Nedar. In an attempt to win back Demetrius, she reveals to him the secret that Hermia plans to elope with Lysander through the woods. She is ridiculously in love with Demetrius, offering even to be his "spaniel" despite his scorn of her. At one point Helena is pursued by both Demetrius and Lysander as the Athenian youths labor under the influence of love-flower essence applied by differing members of the fairy kingdom. Helena exhibits some fine moments in the wood with Hermia, her childhood friend, as the two clash over one another's size, the current state of their affection for one another, and the actions of Demetrius and Lysander in both seemingly preferring Helena and despising Hermia. She is alternately referred to as a dove and a maypole, suggesting that she is both taller and fairer than Hermia. At play's end, she wins Demetrius (who is still under the spell of the love-flower essence). They marry in the same ceremony with Lysander and Hermia and Theseus and Hippolyta, and the wedding party watches the play Pyramus and Thisbe.
Hermia is the daughter of Egeus and childhood friend of Helena. Deeply in love with Lysander, she cannot bring herself to wed the man her father has chosen-Demetrius. She flees at night into the woods with her chosen lover, only to be separated from his love when Puck mistakenly applies love-flower essence to Lysander's eyes instead of to those of Demetrius. As the two men both struggle to win Helena, Hermia becomes the victim of everyone's spite: Lysander and Demetruius' because they are both under a spell and love Helena, and Helena's because Helena believes that Hermia is ring leader of a cruel plot to mock and jeer Helena's devotion to Demetrius. Hermia is referred to as a raven, an Ethiope and a Tawny Tartar, indicating that she is dark haired and possibly dark complexioned. She is also called a dwarf and a minimus, a bead and an acorn, and takes exception herself to Helena's "tall personage," by which we learn that she is a shorter woman. By the end of the play, Lysander has returned to Hermia, and the two wed in a triple ceremony with the Duke and Hiployta, Demetrius and Helena. The wedding party watches the play Pyramus and Thisbe.
Hippolyta is the conquered Amazon queen whose nuptials with conqueror Theseus close the play. In her first scene she is obviously uncomfortable with the wedding preparations and apparently hostile towards Theseus' advances. However, by act four she shows herself remarkably pleasant and amorous toward Theseus despite his position as conqueror. She marries him in the triple ceremony that also includes Hermia and Lysander as well as Helena and Demetrius. The wedding party watches the foolish performance of Pyramus and Thisbe, and Hippolyta despite herself feels sympathy for the bereft lovers of the play.
Hobgoblin is another name for the fairy sprite Puck, or Robin Goodfellow.
Lion is the role assigned to the rude mechanical Snug the joiner in the Pyramus and Thisbe theatrical performance planned to honor the Duke's wedding. His task includes the supposed killing of Thisbe (he actually only mauls her shawl) as well as explaining to the delicate females in his Athenian audience that he is not truly a lion but rather is a common joiner only playing a role.
Lysander is the Athenian youth who loves Hermia but whose suit is refused by her father Egeus. He attempts to elope with Hermia to his widow aunt's beyond the Athenian woods, but on the way he succumbs to a love-flower essence that causes him to love and pursue Helena and despise Hermia. He and Demetrius alternately praise their beloved Helena, chide Hermia, and taunt one another as they labor under fairy influences. Released at last from the love spell, Lysander recalls his true love for Hermia and weds her in a triple ceremony with the Duke and Hippolyta, Demetrius and Helena. The wedding party watches the production of Pyramus and Thisbe.
Although originally set down to play Thisbe's mother, Robin Starveling (one of the rude mechanicals) ultimately plays Moonshine in the production of Pyramus and Thisbe planned for the Duke's wedding. Moonshine carries a lanthorn and bush; he is also accompanied by a dog.
MOTE OR MOTH
Mote, often rendered as "Moth" in modern-spelling texts, is one of the fairies in service to the fairy queen Titania. Mote is encouraged by Titania to "be good" to Bottom.
Mustardseed is one of the fairies in service to the fairy queen Titania. The fairy apparently takes no offense at Bottom's remark that Mustardseed's kindred must surely make the eyes water.
A "ghost character." Nedar never appears in the play, but Lysander names him in act one as Helena's father. In act four Egeus refers again to "old Nedar's Helen".
Nick Bottom, a weaver by profession, is one of the rude mechanicals of the play. Misusing words in a typical Shakespearean clown fashion (saying 'odious' when he means 'odorous' flowers, et cetera), Bottom has an inflated sense of his own dramatic capabilities. He takes the role of Pyramus in the clowns' theatrical production of Pyramus and Thisbe and spends an eventful night with Titania, his head transformed by Puck into that of an ass and Titania's view of him transformed by Oberon's love essence into one of passionate dotage. His performance as Pyramus at the play's end is one of the most amusingly overacted in all of Shakespeare: he has seven lines of dialogue after stabbing himself and repeats the word 'die' not fewer than five times in his final moment.
A "ghost character", Ninus does not appear in the play but supposedly lies in a tomb that forms part of a scene in the rude mechanicals' theatrical performance. "Old Ninus' tomb" is the rendezvous point for the lovers. Historically, Ninus is credited with founding the city of Nineveh.
Oberon is the fairy king and husband of Titania. His persistent demands for Titania's Changeling Boy have caused division between himself and Titania and ultimately a rift in the fairy realm that has adverse effects upon nature and human life. Oberon's application of love-flower essence to Titania's eyes causes Titania to fall in love with ass-headed Bottom and give up her Changeling Boy. Oberon and his fairy troupe-newly reunited-bless the marriage beds of the newlyweds at the play's end. Shakespeare does not follow the folkloric tradition that Oberon was cursed forever to have the appearance of a three-years-old child.
A "ghost character." According to Bottom, Master Peascod is the father of the fairy Peaseblossom. Peascod does not appear in the play.
Peaseblossom is one of the fairies in service to Titania, the fairy queen. According to Bottom, Peaseblossom is the offspring of Master Peascod and Mistress Squash.
Peter Quince, a carpenter by profession, is script master and director for the group of rude mechanicals planning a theatrical performance in honor of Duke Theseus' wedding. Originally casting himself in the part of Thisbe's father, Peter Quince ultimately assumes the newly written Prologue part. The poorly phrased, punctuated, and delivered Prologue proves a comedic introduction to what was intended as a tragedy.
Philostrate holds the position of Master of Revels at Theseus' Athenian court. His job is to assemble, audition, and announce the selection of entertainments available following the wedding ceremonies at the play's close. He tries unsuccessfully to dissuade Theseus from selecting the play Pyramus and Thisbe that the rude mechanicals offer for the wedding entertainment.
Prologue is a role written specifically as an addition to the rude mechanicals' Pyramus and Thisbe production. Peter Quince takes on the unintentionally comic Prologue role.
Also known as Robin Goodfellow, Puck is an adventurous trickster sprite,a shape-shifter devoted to the fairy king Oberon. It is Puck who mistakenly drops the love-flower essence into Lysander's eyes, causing the Athenian to fall out of love with Hermia and in love with Helena. It is also Puck who transforms Bottom's head into that of an ass purely for the fun of it. He can "put a circle round about the earth in forty minutes" and fly "swifter than arrow from Tartar's bow," but Shakespeare does not follow the folkloric tradition that he is one-half mortal and the son of Oberon.
Pyramus is the male lover and knight in the play Pyramus and Thisbe. He is a lover like Romeo who kills himself when he believes his love is dead. Nick Bottom is assigned the Pyramus role.
Also known as Puck, Robin Goodfellow is a fairy sprite devoted to Oberon and given to joke-playing and general naughtiness, including transforming Bottom's head into that of an ass.
Robin Starveling, one of the play's rude mechanicals, is a tailor. He plays the theatrical part of Moonshine although he is early allotted the role of Thisbe's mother.
The Second Fairy serves Queen Titania. This fairy's job is to send the rest of the fairies away so the queen may sleep as a single fairy stands watch.
Snug, a joiner by trade, is the rude mechanical who takes the role of the Lion in the mechanicals' theatrical performance for the Duke's wedding. He informs Peter Quince that he is "slow of study."
Sweet Puck is another name for the adventurous sprite Robin Goodfellow, also known as Puck. He serves the fairy king Oberon and takes pleasure in creating and causing a great deal of mischief in the lives of the humans in this play.
Theseus is the Duke of Athens. His decision to uphold Athenian law with regard to Hermia's arranged marriage to Demetrius leads to the attempted elopement of Hermia and Lysander as well as the series of magical events that occur in the forest. He recants his harsh ruling and allows for the play's happy ending. Theseus weds Hippolyta at the play's close and the wedding party watches the rude mechanicals' performance of Pyramus and Thisbe. There is no explanation why this Greek king is rendered a Duke in the play. In Mythology, Theseus was a hero second only to Heracles, and it was he who slew the Minotaur and defeated Procrustus and dismantled the Procrustean Bed. His marriage to Hippolyta would produce a son, Hippolytus, who will be the cause of Theseus' tragic demise (making the fairy blessing of bride beds ironic in this larger context). None of Theseus' latter history, including his tragic second marriage to Phaedra, appears to have occurred to Shakespeare in crafting this comedy.
Thisbe is the female lead in Pyramus and Thisbe, the play performed by the rude mechanicals at Theseus' wedding. The part is played by Francis Flute the bellows mender.
Titania is the queen of the fairies and wife to Oberon. Because she refuses to give Oberon her Changeling Boy, Titania suffers enchantment from a love-flower, falling passionately in love with Nick Bottom, whose head has been transformed by Puck into that of an ass. After turning over the Chageling Boy to Oberon, the spell is released; Titania and Oberon reunite and together bless the marriage beds of the newlyweds at play's end.
Tom Snout the tinker is one of the rude mechanicals performing Pyramus and Thisbe for the Duke's wedding. Snout is originally cast as Pyramus' father but ultimately portrays Wall, a talking heap of limecast that wins the backhanded praise of being "the wittiest partition" that the audience has ever heard speak.
Wall is the part played by Tom Snout the tinker in the rude mechanicals' performance of Pyramus and Thisbe.
This unnamed aunt who does not appear in the play is the dowager relation of Lysander to whom he and Hermia plan to fly when they leave Athens under cover of darkness. Lysander informs Hermia that she is wealthy, "of great revenue."