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Turning a Shakespeare Play into a Fairy Tale

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Literature
Wordcount: 3006 words Published: 23rd Sep 2019

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 For my final project I wanted to re-imagine A Midsummer Nights Dream as a fairy tale/children’s story. Everyone is familiar with fairy tales and can relate to them in some way. This play already had many aspects of a fairy tale including taking place in a distant land, and it features imaginary characters such as kings, queens, princes, princesses, fairies, and even magic. “Shakespeare relied…on the well of inspiration…and made frequent use of folktale plotlines, motifs, and figures in his plays” (Rawnsley).  I thought it would be interesting to do just the opposite and create a fairy tale from one of his plays.

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 Another point is that fairy tales, such as “Cinderella, have been around since the sixth century BCE” (McKinney).  Considering that fairy tales are not usually very long, I decided to rewrite the entire story instead of just focusing on one Act or scene. I felt that it was very important to tell the entire story for it to be understood the way I wanted it to be. I decided to keep the names of the characters the same. This way there would be no confusion to anyone reading it who was familiar with the original play. I did make the two kings, Theseus and Oberon, brothers that were found in the woods and raised together. They then separated when they became adults. I also made the two young men brothers and the two young girls sisters. In other words, Demetrius and Lysander are the sons of Theseus and Hippolyta and Helena and Hermia are the daughters of Oberon and Titania. None of the young adults have magical powers. Only Oberon and Titania have magical powers. I did include the mischievous sprite Puck who also has magical powers and does cause some problems and confusion within the story.

 I began my fairy tale with “Once upon a time…” which is the classic way to start almost every fairy tale. In the beginning, I introduce the six main characters and explain who they are and state what the dilemma is in the story. It is similar to the actual play however, I have three of the four young adults being in love while the fourth does not love anyone.

 There are many different variations to fairy tales. I did follow the story line of the play. However, I did not go Act by Act or scene by scene. I followed my own train of thought and organized what happened in my own way with my own details. McKinney also says that, “more than 500 versions of the Cinderella story have been found just in Europe…and that Charles Perrault…introduced the glass slipper, the pumpkin, and the fairy godmother” (McKinney). My feeling was that a few changes would be fine to make. My outcome is relatively the same as the play, but my story does include some twists. The young adults all go to the forest and they meet up with Puck. Oberon and Titania are there and they decide to help the four lovers as well. Theseus and Hippolyta are very upset because they cannot find their daughters and, once they do, they find out that Helena cannot wake up.

 Just like in most fairy tales, everything works out and there is a happy ending. All four young adults get to marry who they wish and the four adults decide it is better to rule the two kingdoms together and no longer live lives apart from each other. I did leave out the part of the play with tradesmen who perfomed for Theseus and Hippolyta. I did not feel it was necessary to include it in my version.

The Fairy Tale of a Midsummer Night

Once upon a time, there were two boys who were found in the forest and raised by fairies. One was human, and he was named Theseus. Theseus was blessed by the gods and became strong and wise. When he grew up, he became king of Athens and married a beautiful girl named Hippolyta. The other child was a fairy. His name was Oberon and he gained magical powers and helped to keep a balance of good and evil in the land. He lived in Fairydom, which was actually a place in the wooded area that was part of Athens. He married a beautiful fairy named Titania.

 Theseus and Hippolyta had two beautiful daughters, Hermia and Helena. Oberon and Titania had two sons, Demetrius and Lysander. Upon their birth, Hermia and Demetrius, being the oldest had been promised to wed each other, but Demetrius loved Helena. Demetrius told his parents, “I wish only to marry Helena, the one I truly love.”

Her: “…I beseech your Grace…I refuse to marry Demetrius,” (Shakespeare, 257). But it didn’t matter. The promise had already been made.

 A big celebration was planned for Hermia and Demetrius on their 18th birthdays. The two kings planned to announce to the kingdom that they were to be married. Everyone was invited and very excited for the festivities to begin. While the celebration was ensuing, Demetrius and Helena decided to meet in the woods to discuss what they should do. They did not want to disobey their parents, but they wanted to marry who they loved. Lysander and Helena decided to follow them to the forest.  Eventually, the four youth came to a clearing in the woods. Hermia told Demetrius,

“If we run away, they cannot make us marry who we do not want.”

Demetrius answered her, “But, where shall we go? We have no money and no food. We don’t even have a place to go.”

Suddenly Helena was startled by a sound and said, “Someone is over there behind that tree.  Who is here with us in this wood?’ But the four did not hear a reply. Suddenly Lysander spoke up,

“Here now sneaky sprite. Show yourself or I will have your head.”

“It is only I, Puck, your grace. I did not mean to intrude, but, what pray tell are the four of you doing in the woods? It can be a dark and dangerous place, as you well know.”

Hermia spoke up and said, “Maybe Puck can help us with our dilemma. Puck would you be able to help us with our problem? Maybe you can put a spell on King Theseus and Queen Hippolyta so that the four of us may marry who we choose.”

“My powers would allow me to do that my lady. I will be off to the castle to cast my spell,” Puck exclaimed.

“We must return to the castle as well,” Lysander stated, “before we are missed.”

So, Puck set out to reach the castle and the four-youth journeyed back as well. Puck reached the castle first and found his way inside. He found the chambers of the King and Queen and decided to hide until they returned. Upon their return, he took out his pouch and sprinkled fairy dust while casting his spell.

“My King and Queen I do beseech

Please cross thy heart and do not speak

Of love of your children

I do bequeath

Let them marry who they desire and need.

“My job here is done. To the forest I shall return,” sang Puck.

Oberon and Titania also had seen the couples in the forest.

“O, Oberon my mighty King. Do you not remember when we were in love? Let us help these young ones who are so much in love.” They decided to intervene and called on their trusted fairy servant Puck.

Ober: “Fetch me that flower, the herb I showed thee once. The juice of it on sleeping eyelids laid Will make or man or woman madly dote Upon the next live creature that it sees” (Shakespeare, 262).  Puck went and grabbed the flower. Oberon asked Puck to go to the castle and put a spell on the four lovers and Puck did as he had been asked. In the meantime, Theseus and Hippolyta woke up and immediately went to speak with their daughters about their change of heart. They found the two girls fast asleep and the boys on the floor nearby. When they were unable to wake the girls, Theseus said,

“This is the doing of a fairy no doubt. We must travel to the forest and obtain the help of my brother, Oberon.” The two set out for the forest.

 When they reached the forest, Oberon had decided to wake the young people. He traveled to the castle and waved his fairy wand. Both boys awakened and immediately saw the girl of their dreams, but the girls laid there motionless. Oberon tried but nothing would work. Theseus and Hippolyta arrived back in the chamber and saw that the boys were awake, but the girls still lay motionless. Theseus being unhappy that their daughters could not be awakened said, 

“Oberon, my brother, what have you done!?” Suddenly, Titania came forward.

“Dear humans, it has come to our attention that Demetrius does not love Hermia but instead loves Helena and Helena loves him. Lysander loves Hermia, but she loves no one. My king has cast a spell so that the four fledglings can marry who they wish. The boys woke up on command, however, your daughters did not.”

Hippolyta yells, “Whatever are we to do. We are willing to let them marry whoever they want, just please get us back our daughters.” After much mumbling and discussion Titania says

“Let us see if a kiss from the ones who love them will wake them from their slumber.” Demetrius walked to Helena’s side and knelt to kiss her lips. Her eyes fluttered, and she took a deep breath. Next, Lysander walked to Hermia’s side and knelt down. He placed a kiss upon her lips, but nothing happened.

“What is this? A trick? Why can I not wake my love?” cried Lysander. “I did all that you said and I do love her so very much!”

 “It is my fault sir,” stated Puck very reluctantly. “Hermia does not love either boy. I wanted to be sure that Lysander still loved her. He must face three challenges and find the flower of Hyrdaniean and bring it back here. With that flower, I can wake the princess.”

 Lysander set out to find the flower. Oberon said, “Puck, go with him and guide him on his quest. Help him to succeed.”

“Yes sir, my lord, said Puck. Lysander set off. He used a staff that he received from Oberon, and he climbed the snowy mountains. He fought a fire-breathing dragon with a magical shield he received from Titania and with Puck’s help he outwitted an old hag that was guarding the field of Hyrdaniean. He chose the most beautiful bloom and immediately set out to return to his love.

 Once there, Titania said,

“I will make a paste from the petals. Spread the paste upon both eyes and kiss both eyes. Then kiss the princess on the lips and if you truly love her, she will awaken.” Lysander did as he was told. After several long moments, Hermia’s eyes began to flutter and she woke up.

“Where am I?” she asked.

Lysander told her, “You have been sleeping my love. Stand up and come with me if you love me.” Hermia’s eyes fluttered again and after several seconds, she began to sit up. She held out her hand to Lysander and slowly began to stand.

“I love you Lysander,” cried Hermia.

“And I love you Hermia,” Lysander said.

 Everyone was very happy and the two sets of parents planned a double wedding. Puck was instructed to sprinkle fairy dust on the guests, so everyone would get along and enjoy the celebration. The wedding brought the two kings together as well as the two families. They vowed to forever more rule the land together.

Ober: “Now until the break of day, through this house each fairy stray. To the best bride-bed will we, Which by us shall blessed be…So shall all the couples. Ever true in loving be; And the blots of Nature’s hand Shall not in their issue stand, (Shakespeare, 280).

 And everyone lived happily ever after.

Turning a Shakespeare Play into a Fairy Tale

 It has been said that all humans relate to two different worlds. Humans enjoy the everyday world, but they also like to think of a secondary world which can be created in the imagination. Everyone remembers hearing fairy tales while growing up. It is a common way to entertain, teach a lesson, or a way to understand something in the world that is going on. They have been around since the beginning of time. McLaughlin states, “You would be surprised to know that some classic fairy tales…are more than 2,600 years old” (McLaughlin). Fairy tales also have been found to exist all over the world. As people moved across countries and even continents and oceans, they brought the stories with them; each version being just a little bit different than the other. “Inhabitants of fairylands often live apart from human society but evil-doers also occupy the heart of the home,” (Warner). So fairy tales teach us not only good things, but they also teach us about evil, betrayal, and what it is like to be unwanted or unloved.

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 A fairy tale is a short narrative, sometimes less than a single page, sometimes running to many more” (Warner). Fairy tales are very easily recognized. Fairy tales usually include certain characteristics. They usually begin with “Once upon a time”. The stories take place in a distant land or a different time. Fairy tales feature “princes and queens, palaces and castles…they dominate the foreground of a fairy tale…but the depth of the scene is filled with vivid and familiar circumstances,” (Warner). Fairy tales provide us with a blueprint for understanding the feelings and emotions of growing up. Fairy tales have been said to be a very good starting point for young writers because of the fantastic story lines and the problems that are faced.

 According to an article by History of Emotions, “Shakespeare seems to have preferred reworking established tales to inventing his own” (Rawnsley). The emotional subtexts of stories and folkloric tales are often used and then embellished with the writer’s own ideas. “It was the changes to these stories that prompted two brothers, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm to write down the classic German versions of such tales” (McLaughlin). My goal was to make a fairy tale out of one of Shakespeare’s plays. I chose A Midsummer Night’s Dream.   

  I believe that fairy tales are a very important source of literature in today’s society. Not only can they teach us a lesson, or entertain us, but they are also a way for us to discover something new.  “Foreknowledge increases rather than decreases our sense of satisfaction at the happy outcome” and gives us a map to follow in real life, (Warner). We have to remember that not all fairy tales have happy endings, particularly those very early versions. Willard, a teacher of the history of fairy tales says, “I have come to believe that none of the transformations that happen in fairy tales are as astonishing as those that happen to the stories in the minds of those who re-read and re-invent them…Revisiting a fairy tale is like revisiting a house you knew as a child, only to discover there are rooms you never explored and floors you did not even know existed”,  (Willard). Novels and short stories, plays and poetry are wonderful ways for a writer to express what is in their mind. But a fairy tale can be imagined, related to, learned from and changed for each individual that reads it.

 Finally, I wrote a bibliography instead of a works cited page. There were several books and articles that I read to see how they were different from familiar pieces of the same work. I did not, however, quote from these books or articles. I mainly used them as a reference tool.


  • Grimm, Jacob and Wilhelm. Cinderella. Grimm’s Complete Fairy Tales, 2012 edition, Barnes and Noble, Inc. 2012, pp.74-81.
  • McLaughlin, Moria E. “Literature: Where Do Fairy Tales Come from?.” Post-gazette.com. The Washington Post, 25 Nov. 2010. Web. <www.liber.postgazette.com/ae/books/2010/11/25/Literature-Where-do-fairy-tales-come-from/stories/201011250298.print>.
  • McKinney, Kelsey. “Disney Didn’t Invent Cinderella. Her Story Is at Least 2,000 Years Old.” Vox. N.p., 15 Mar. 2015. Web. <www.vox.com/2015/3/15/8214405/cinderella-fairy-tale-history.
  • Oxenbury, Helen and Trivizas, Eugene. The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig, Aladdin Paperbacks, 1993.
  • Perl, Erica S. Goatilocks and the Three Bears, Scholastic, Inc. 2014.
  • Rawnsley, Ciara. “Happily Ever After? Shakespeare’s Use of Folk and Fairy Tales as Sources for His Plays.” History of Emotions. Journal of Early Modern Studies, 2013. Web. <www.historyofemotions.org.au/research-projects/happily-ever-after-shakespeare-use-of-folk-and-fairy-tales-as-sources-for-his-plays/>.
  • Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Riverside Shakespeare,2nd ed, edited by G. Blakemore Evans and J.J.M. Tobin, Houghton Mifflin, 1997, pp. 256-280.
  • Warner, Marina. Once Upon a Time: A short history of fairy tale, 1st ed, Oxford University Press, 2014.
  • Willard, Nancy. “A Tale Out of Time.” Horn Book Magazine 78.1 (2018): 13-24. Libproxy.siue.edu. Web. 8 Dec. 2018. <web.b.ebscohost.com.libproxy.siue.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=21&sid=4921219c-8f6e-41be-8da7-58bdeb9685f1%4Osessionmgr1038&bdata=Jn.>.



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