Act2 Sc2 : excerpt 5
Situate the passage within the play : It follows Act2 sc1 without a visible interruption of time, although we have moved to another part of the wood which Oberon has just described to Puck (act2 sc1) as the place where Titania dwells. This probably didn’t take too long, Helen seems out of breath (l. 94) Demetrius and herself might have run all the way through and Puck himself mentions his swift movement through the wood “through the forest have I gone” (l. 72).
However, when we see L and Herm enter the stage, we know that they have eloped together as decided in Act1 sc1 when they promise to go away together “tomorrow night”. We thus guess that this scene in the wood takes place one day after Act one scene one.
Summary of the passage : Titania tells her fairies to sing her to sleep. As soon as she is asleep, Oberon places some of the love juice on her eyelids hoping that she sees some vile creature on waking up. (when Shakespeare suggests here that Titania will be woken by some wild beast, we cannot yet foresee the adventure that will fall upon Bottom, yet when the mechanics arrive in act3 sc1 and start performing so near to Titania, we can immediately guess what Puck will do).
Lysander and Hermia enter the scene, tired and lost, and decide to rest and sleep a while, yet Hermia, wanting to preserve her precious virginity asks Lysander to sleep some distance apart. He then swears to her an eternal loyalty that is about to be belied.
Puck then turns up in his turn and, wanting to follow Oberon’s instruction, he mistakenly puts the juice in Lysander’s eye thinking he is Demetrius, the “disdainful youth … thou shalt know … by the Athenian garments he hath on” (Oberon act 2 sc1). Puck makes an honest mistake since Lysander and Hermia are sleeping so far away from one another that they don’t look like infatuated lovers at all, which appears to confirm what Oberon has said about Helena and Demetrius.
Helena also arrives, still in...