The overlapping story of several couples and the inevitably complicated road to love encompasses a play within a play, dreams, fairies, and trickery to create this Shakespearean comedy.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
This text features an intro to the genre of Greek mythology and a story about how the city Athens got its name.
Have students read this text before reading the play, in order to introduce them to mythical Greek themes and motifs, and how these ideas connect with nature. The tale of Athena and Poseidon vying for the position of patron deity of Athens is presented in this text. The tale reveals both Athena and Poseidon’s connection to nature. In the play, King Theseus, an allusion to a mythic relative of Hercules, is about to marry a conquered Amazonian queen. Oberon is the king and Titania the queen of the fairies in the forest where the lovers dream. Have students use “Athena and Poseidon’s Contest for Athens” to help to identify the mystical aspects of Athens and how they connect with nature. As students read the play, have them continue to look for and discuss mythical and natural aspects.
This ancient text urges unmarried women to treat their parents with the utmost respect.
Have students read this text after Act I Scene i, in order to generate a discussion on the social and cultural context of Egeus and Hermia’s father-daughter relationship. Egeus has threatened Hermia that there will be consequences if she does not marry the suitor of his choice. Ban’s text describes a daughter’s responsibility to her parents and the personal sacrifices she should make for their comfort and happiness. Ask students to discuss the idea of an unmarried daughter’s duty to her parents. What are a daughter’s responsibilities to her parents? What are Egeus’ reasons why Hermia should listen to him?
Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834) was an English writer and poet. The piece was published in 1802 and is a simple poem that addresses the nature of love.
Have students read this poem after reading Act II Scene i, in order to compare how structure and rhyme can connect to themes such as love and nature in both texts. For example, Titania thinks there is a connection between the weather and her fighting with Oberon while Coleridge connects birds, seasons, and love. Have students analyze the rhyme scheme of both the poem and the fairies’ dialogue and discuss how rhyming in both texts contributes to tone. Students should continue to pay attention to Shakespeare’s rhyme scheme throughout the play.
Genesis 37 is an Old-Testament passage that contains the story of Joseph and his dreams. Joseph is an important figure in the Hebrew tradition. In this passage he is the favorite of his father Jacob, and dreams that he was chosen by God to rule over many people, including his brothers. His brothers sell him into slavery and he ends up in Egypt.
Have students read this text after reading Act III Scene i, to explore the theme of betrayal. Joseph’s brothers are jealous of their father’s favoritism and Oberon is jealous of the servant boy TItania has. Have students consider how jealousy can cause people to act in ways they normally would not. What is the motivation for betrayal for Joseph’s brothers and characters in the play (Oberon, Helena, etc.)? How are the betrayals effective but nonviolent?
In his article, "Adolescence and the Teenage Crush," Dr. Carl Pickhardt delineates between different types of teenage crushes. According to his analysis, having a crush on someone is a normal part of adolescence.
Have students read this informational text after reading Act III, Scene ii, in order to analyze the relationships between characters in the play. Titania acts much like a teenager under a spell with a crush on Bottom. Helena has an identity crush on Hermia and a romantic crush on Demetrius. According to the article, Hermia’s parents react the wrong way for adolescent support. Ask students to analyze the distinctions between crushes and love. What two types of crushes does Helena have on Hermia and Demetrius? How is Titania much like a teenager in her relationship with Bottom? What are examples of love in the play, as opposed to crushes?
In "A Dream Within a Dream," the poet Edgar Allan Poe ponders whether or not everything in life is simply an illusion.
Introduce students to this poem after they have finished reading the play and Puck’s last monologue, in order to generate a closing discussion. Ask students to consider the questions the poem and the play prompt the readers to ask — what if it is all a dream? Even if the play was all a dream, what could be a useful takeaway from such a dream? What are useful takeaways from our dreams? How sure can one be about anything the remember or know? Is love like the sand in Poe’s poem?