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PLOT, THE FABLE, AND CONSTRUCTION
WILD and fanciful as this play is, says Dr. Johnson, all the parts in their various modes are well written, and give the kind of pleasure the author designed. Fairies in his time were much in fashion; common tradition had made them familiar, and Spencer's poem had made them great.
Of The Midsummer-Night's Dream there are two editions in quarto; one printed for Thomas Fisher, the other for James Roberts, both in 1600. Neither of the editions approach to exactness. Fisher is sometimes preferable, but Roberts was followed, though not without some variations, by Hemings and Condel, and they by all the folios that succeeded them.
Mr. Steevens thinks that the hint for this play was taken from Chaucer: it is not improbable, for nobody has discovered that it was borrowed elsewhere. In the Knight's Tale the acts of Duke Theseus constitute but
very small part of the poem: Palamon and Arcite are the principal personages. So also in the drama before us, Oberon and his fairies, and Peter Quince and his
sottish companions are the very springs, the motion of the piece; Demetrius and Helena, Hermia and Lysander are but the hands by which they point out their progress. Had Shakspeare found any romance of Theseus and Hippolyta from which to have borrowed, most likely they would have had a more conspicuous share in the performance.