Hermia and Helena by Washington Allston, 1818
The play features three interlocking plots, connected by a celebration of the wedding of Duke Theseus of Athens and the Amazonian queen, Hippolyta, and set simultaneously in the woodland, and in the realm of Fairyland, under the light of the moon.
In the opening scene,Hermia refuses to follow her father Egeus's instructions for her to marry his chosen man, Demetrius. In response, Egeus quotes before Theseus an ancient Athenian law whereby a daughter must marry the suitor chosen by her father, or else face death. Theseus offers her another choice: lifelong chastity worshipping the goddess Diana as a nun.
Hermia and her lover Lysander decide to elope by escapingthrough the forest at night, intending to escape from Athens and marry in the house of Lysander's aunt, about seven leagues away. Hermia informs her friend Helena, but Helena has recently been rejected by Demetrius and decides to win back his favour by revealing the plan to him. Demetrius, followed doggedly by Helena, chases Hermia. Hermia and Lysander, believing themselves safely out of reach,sleep in the woods.
Meanwhile, Oberon, king of the fairies, and his queen, Titania, were in the forest outside Athens. Titania tells Oberon that she plans to stay there until after she has attended Theseus and Hippolyta's wedding. Oberon and Titania are estranged because Titania refuses to give her Indian changeling to Oberon for use as his "knight" or "henchman," since the child's mother was oneof Titania's worshippers. Oberon seeks to punish Titania's disobedience, so he calls for the mischievous Puck (also called Hobgoblin and Robin Goodfellow) to help him apply a magical juice from a flower called "love-in-idleness", which when applied to a person's eyelids while sleeping makes the victim fall in love with the first living thing seen upon awakening. He instructs Puck to retrieve theflower so that he can make Titania fall in love with the first thing she sees when waking from sleep, which he is sure will be an animal of the forest. Oberon's main intent is to distract her long enough to take the page-boy by force.
Having seen Demetrius act cruelly toward Helena, Oberon orders Puck to spread some of the elixir on the eyelids of the young Athenian man. Instead, Puck mistakesLysander for Demetrius, not having actually seen Lysander before. Helena, coming across him, wakes him while attempting to determine whether he is dead or asleep. Upon this happening, Lysander immediately falls in love with Helena since he is still under the influence of the flower. Oberon sees Demetrius still following Hermia and is enraged. When Demetrius decides to go to sleep, Oberon sends Puckto get Helena while he charms Demetrius' eyes. Upon waking up, he sees Helena. Now, both men are in pursuit of Helena. However, she is convinced that her two suitors are mocking her, as neither loved her originally. Hermia is at a loss to see why her lover has abandoned her, and accuses Helena of stealing Lysander away from her. The four quarrel with each other until Lysander and Demetrius becomeso enraged that they seek a place to duel each other to the death to prove whose love for Helena is the greatest. Oberon orders Puck to keep Lysander and Demetrius from catching up with one another and to remove the charm from Lysander, so that he goes back to being in love with Hermia.
Study for The Quarrel of Oberon and Titania by Joseph Noel Paton
Meanwhile, a band of six lower-class...