Explore Henry Purcell’s The Fairy Queen in our archive.
In accordance with the law, Theseus requires Demetrius to marry Hermia, as her father, Egeus, wishes. But Hermia is in love with Lysander, while Demetrius is the unwilling object of Helena’s love. To avoid Theseus’s edict, Hermia and Lysander flee the town, pursued by Demetrius and Helena. Meanwhile, some tradesmen are preparing a play to celebrate the expected wedding and arrange to meet for rehearsals in a nearby wood. Titania, the fairy queen, comes into the wood to hide a changeling boy from her jealous husband, Oberon. The lovers and the tradesmen blunder into the wood and are tormented by Titania’s attendants.
Oberon and Titania confront each other and, refusing to forfeit the changeling boy, Titania leaves Oberon, who plots with Puck to revenge himself on her by administering a love potion, which will make her fall in love with the first thing she sees on waking. Oberon overhears a quarrel between the lovers, and instructs Puck to use the potion on them as well.
The Masque of Sleep
Titania is prepared for sleep.
Allegorical figures of Night, Mystery, Secrecy and Sleep appear to her.
The tradesmen are rehearsing their play in the wood. Puck transforms Bottom into an ass, frightening off the other workmen. Titania wakes and becomes besotted with Bottom.
The Masque of Seduction
Titania entertains Bottom with a masque which presents the delights of sensual love, with images from pastoral life.
Oberon brings the rightful pairs of lovers back together and releases Titania from the spell.
The Masque of the New Day
The fairy monarch’s reconciliation is celebrated with a masque of renewal. Phoebus, the Sun, appears and presents the seasons.
Theseus discovers the lovers in the wood and, finding that Demetrius no longer loves Hermia, overrules Egeus’s demands and arranges a wedding for the lovers. The tradesmen present their play in celebration of the marriage.
The Masque of Marriage
The lovers are instructed by Juno in the delights and perils of matrimony. They are presented with images of hope, loss and innocence. Hymen eventually appears to officiate.