some of the most amusing incidents of this comedy are borrowed from the Diana of Montemayor, a Spanish writer of pastoral romance in the sixteenth century; and probably the Knightes Tale in Chaucer may have furnished hints to the author.
Midsummer Night's Dream.
Egeus of Athens went to Theseus, the reigning duke, to complain that his daughter Hermia, whom he had commanded to marry Demetrius, refused to obey him, because she loved Lysander. Egeus demanded that Hermia should be put to death for this disobedience, according to the law. Hermia pleaded that Demetrius loved Helena, and that his affection was reciprocated. Theseus had no power to alter the law, and gave Hermia four days' respite to consider the matter, and if then she refused the law was to take its course. Lysander proposed flight, to which Hermia agreed, and told Helena her intention; Helena told Demetrius, and Demetrius, of course, followed. The fugitives met ín a wood, the favourite haunt of the fairies. Now Oberon and Titania had had a quarrel about a changeling boy, and Oberon, by way of punishment, dropped on Titania's eyes during sleep some love-juice, the effect of which is to make the sleeper fall in love with the first thing seen when waking. The first thing seen by Titania was Bottom the weaver, wearing an ass's head. In the meantime King Oberon dispatched Puck to pour some of the juice on the eyes of Demetrius, that he might love Helena, who, Oberon thought refused to requite her love. Puck, by mistake, anointed the eyes of Lysander with the juice, and the first thing he saw on waking was not Hermia but Helena. Oberon, being told that Puck had done his bidding, to make all sure, dropped some of the love-juice on the eyes of Demetrius, and the first person he beheld on waking was Hermia looking for Lysander. In due time the eyes of all were disenchanted. Lysander married Hermia, Demetrius married Helena, and Titania gave the boy to her lord, King Oberon.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894