In Athens, preparations are underway for the wedding of Theseus and Hippolyta. A group of actors led by Peter Quince plan an Interlude in the hope that it will be selected for performance as part of the celebrations.
Egeus, father of Hermia, seeks an intervention from Duke Theseus. Hermia loves Lysander and refuses to marry her father’s choice of husband, Demetrius. Theseus warns Hermia that by the next full moon, she must either marry Demetrius, enter a convent, or face death. The lovers plan to elope and confide in Helena. Helena decides to tell Demetrius of their plan in the hope of winning his love.
In the forest, Oberon and Titania are fighting. Oberon is angry with Titania because she refuses to give up a changeling boy to be his page. As her fairies sing her lullabies, Oberon devises a trick to spite Titania. He sends Puck to fetch a magical flower, the juice of which, when dropped in the eye of someone sleeping, makes people fall in love with the first person they see when they wake. Oberon orders Puck to use the flower to resolve Helena’s desires for Demetrius, but Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius and a tangle of lovers ensues.
Peter Quince’s acting group meet to rehearse in the forest. Puck transforms Nick Bottom into half man, half donkey. The actors flee, Titania wakes and falls in love with Bottom. The fairies entertain him as a guest of honour.
The lovers sleep off a long night of confusion. As the night turns to day they return to Athens. Oberon reverses the magic which made Titania fall in love with Bottom, and Puck restores Bottom to his original self. Peter Quince’s group are invited to perform their interlude for the wedding celebrations: The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe.