Hermia and Lysander were lovers, but Hermia’s father wanted her to marry Demetrius instead.

Now, in Athens, where they resided, there existed a horrible law that allowed for the execution of any daughter who refused to marry according to her father’s desires. Hermia’s father was so enraged by her refusal to do as he asked that he took her before the Duke of Athens to request that she be executed if she continued to disobey him. The Duke offered her four days to reconsider, and if she still refused to marry Demetrius at the end of that period, she would be executed.

Lysander was practically insane with sorrow, and he believed the wisest course of action would be for Hermia to flee to his aunt’s house in a location beyond the reach of that terrible legislation, and Lysander would marry her there. Before she began, though, she informed her friend Helena of her plans.

Helena had been Demetrius’s love long before he considered marrying Hermia; yet, Helena, being a foolish jealous woman, could not comprehend that it was not Hermia’s fault that Demetrius desired to marry her instead of Helena. She knew that if she informed Demetrius that Hermia was heading to the same forest outside of Athens as she was, he would follow her. “I can follow him, and at least I will see him,” she thought. Therefore, she approached him and revealed her friend’s secret.

This wood, where Lysander was to meet Hermia, and where the other two had agreed to follow them, was full of fairies, as most woods are, if one has the sight to see them, and the King and Queen of the fairies, Oberon and Titania, were in this wood that night. Now, fairies are very clever, but sometimes they may be as ignorant as mortals. Oberon and Titania, who might have been as joyful as the days were long, had squandered their happiness in a silly argument. They never met without saying terrible things to one another, and they reprimanded each other so horribly that their tiny fairy followers, out of terror, hid themselves in acorn cups.

The King and his entourage roamed around one part of the forest, while the Queen and her attendants held court in another area. And the source of all these problems was a little Indian kid whom Titania took in as one of her devotees. Oberon wanted to take the boy with him and make him one of his fairy knights, but the Queen wouldn’t let him go.

This night, in a mossy, moonlight glade, the fairy king and queen met.

“Unfortunate encounter by night, proud Titania,” remarked the King.

Oberon, are you jealous?” The queen said, “Your quarreling destroys everything.” Come, fairies, let us leave him. “I am no longer friends with him.”

“It is up to you to resolve the dispute,” stated the King.
“Give me the Indian kid, and I shall be your humble servant and suitor once again.”

“Relax your thoughts,” said the Queen. “Your whole fairy kingdom cannot purchase that kid from me. Come, fairies.”

She and her merry band then set off along the moonbeams.

“Well, go your way,” answered Oberon. However, I will settle the score with you before you leave this wood.

Then Oberon summoned Puck, his favorite fairy. Puck was a mischievous spirit. He used to sneak into dairies and steal the cream, get into the butter churn and prevent the butter from coming out, turn the beer sour, lead people out of their way on dark nights and then laugh at them, knock people’s stools out from under them when they were about to sit, and spill their hot ale over their chins when they were about to drink.

“Now,” said Oberon to the elf, “bring me the flower known as love-in-idleness.” When the juice of that small purple flower is applied to the sleeping eyes, it causes them to fall in love with the first thing they see upon awakening. “I shall apply some of the flower’s juice to Titania’s eyes, and when she awakens, she will fall in love with the first creature she sees, whether it is a lion, a bear, a wolf, a bull, a monkey, or an ape.”

While Puck was off, Demetrius and Helena went through the glade. Helena continued to tell Demetrius how much she loved him and to remind him of his pledges, but he continued to tell her that he did not and could not love her, and that his promises were meaningless. When Puck returned with the flower, Oberon instructed him to follow Demetrius and apply some of the juice to his eyes, so that when Demetrius awoke and saw Helena, he would love her as much as she loved him. So Puck set out, and while wandering through the forest, he discovered not Demetrius, but Lysander, on whose eyes he placed the juice; but when Lysander awoke, he saw not his own Hermia, but Helena, who was walking through the forest in search of the cruel Demetrius; and as soon as he saw her, he fell in love with her and abandoned his own lady, under the influence of the purple flower.

When Hermia awoke, she saw that Lysander had left, and she searched the forest for him. Puck returned to tell Oberon what he had done, and Oberon quickly realized he had made a mistake, searching for Demetrius and applying the juice to his eyes upon his discovery. Helena was likewise the first thing Demetrius noticed when he awoke. Now that both Demetrius and Lysander were following her into the forest, it was Hermia’s turn to follow her beloved, just as Helena had done before. Helena and Hermia then started to dispute, and Demetrius and Lysander left to fight. Unfortunately, Oberon’s nice plan to assist these lovers failed miserably. Thus, he said to Puck:

“These two young guys will engage in a fight.” You must envelop the night in dense fog and lead them astray so that they can never find each other. When they are tired enough, they will fall asleep. Then, sprinkle this additional herb over Lysander’s eyes. This will restore his former vision and affection. Then, each guy will have the woman who loves him, and they will all believe that this has all been a dream. Then, after this is accomplished, they will be in good condition.”

So Puck went and did what he was ordered, and after the two had fallen asleep without seeing one another, Puck placed the juice over Lysander’s eyes and said:

Oberon saw Titania sleeping on a bank where wild thyme, oxlips, and violets bloomed, as well as woodbine, musk-roses, and eglantine. Titania always spent a portion of the night there, wrapped in the glittering skin of a snake. Oberon bent over her and placed the liquid on her eyes while saying:

“What do you see when you wake up?”
“Do everything for the sake of your real love.”

Now, when Titania awoke, the first thing she noticed was a clown, one of a group of actors who had gathered in the forest to prepare their show. This clown had a meeting with Puck, who placed an ape’s head on his shoulders so that it seemed to have grown there. As soon as Titania awoke and saw this terrifying monstrosity, she questioned, “What kind of angel is this?” “Are you as intelligent as you are lovely?”

“If I am intelligent enough to find my way out of this forest, that will suffice,” replied the idiot.

“I do not want you to leave the forest,” remarked Titania. She was under the influence of the love potion, and the clown seemed to her to be the most beautiful and charming creature on the planet. “I adore you,” she continued. “Come with me, and I will provide you with fairy attendants.”

The four fairies she summoned were named Peaseblossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustardseed.

“You must attend to this person,” the Queen ordered. “Feed him apricots and dewberries, as well as purple grapes, green figs, and mulberries; steal honey bags from bumblebees for him, and with the wings of colorful butterflies, brush moonlight away from his sleeping eyes.”

“I will,” answered one of the fairies, and the others echoed her sentiment.

“Now, sit down with me,” the Queen said to the clown, “and allow me to rub your sweet cheeks, place musk-roses in your smooth, sleek head, and kiss your beautiful, enormous ears, my gentle delight.”

Where is Peaseblossom? enquired the clown with the head of an ass. He did not care much about the Queen’s favor, but he was quite proud of the fairies that served him. “Ready,” replied Peaseblossom.

“Scratch my skull, Peaseblossom,” said the clown. “Where’s Cobweb?” “Ready,” said Cobweb.

“Kill me the red bumblebee on top of that thistle, and bring me the honey bag,” said the clown. Where’s Mustardseed?

“Ready,” said Mustardseed.

“Oh, I want nothing,” said the clown. Only assist Cobweb in scratching. “I must go to the barbershop, since I believe my face is quite hairy.”

“Would you like something to eat?” inquired the fairy queen.

“I’d like some fine, dry oats and some hay,” remarked the clown, whose donkey head made him want donkey food.

The Queen said, “Shall some of my fairies get fresh nuts from the squirrel’s home?”

The clown said, “I’d rather take a handful or two of fine dried peas.” “But please don’t allow any of your employees to bother me; I am going to sleep.”

The Queen then added, “And I shall wrap you in my arms.”

And so when Oberon came along, he discovered his lovely Queen lavishing caresses and endearments on a clown with a donkey’s head.

And before he freed her from the spell, he convinced her to give him the little Indian kid he so much wished to have. Then he took pity on her and put some juice from the disenchantment flower into her beautiful eyes. In an instant, she saw clearly the donkey-headed clown she had been infatuated with and realized how silly she had been.

Oberon removed the clown’s ass head, placed his own stupid head on it, and allowed him to sleep on the thyme and violets.

Thus, everything was once again made clear and lucid. Oberon and Titania adored each other more than ever. Demetrius thought of no one except Helena, and Helena had never thought of anybody but Demetrius.

As for Hermia and Lysander, they were as lovely a pair as you could meet in a day’s march, even through a fairy wood.

Thus, the four mortal lovers returned to Athens and were wed, and the fairy king and queen live happily to this day in the same forest.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s