Lysander was in great affliction at hearing these evil tidings; but recollecting that he had an aunt who lived at some distance from Athens, and that at the place where she lived the cruel law could not be put in force against Hermia (this law not extending beyond the boundaries of the city), he proposed to Hermia that she should steal out of her father’s house that night, and go with him to his aunt’s house, where he would marry her. “I will meet you,” said Lysander, “in the wood a few miles without the city; in that delightful wood where we have so often walked with Helena in the pleasant month of May.”
To this proposal Hermia joyfully agreed; and she told no one of her intended flight but her friend Helena. Helena (as maidens will do foolish things for love) very ungenerously resolved to go and tell this to Demetrius, though she could hope no benefit from betraying her friend’s secret, but the poor pleasure of following her faithless lover to the wood: for she well knew that Demetrius would go thither in pursuit of Hermia.
The wood in which Lysander and Hermia proposed to meet, was the favorite haunt of those little beings known by the name of Fairies.
Oberon the king, and Titania the queen of the Fairies, with all their tiny train of followers, in this wood held their midnight revels.
Between this little king and queen of sprites there happened, at this time, a sad disagreement: they never met by moonlight in the shady walks of this pleasant wood, but they were quarreling, till all their fairy elves would creep into acorn-cups and hide themselves for fear.
The cause of this unhappy disagreement was Titania’s refusing to give Oberon a little changeling boy, whose mother had been Titania’s friend; and upon her death the fairy queen stole the child from its nurse, and brought him up in the woods.
The night on which the lovers were to meet in this wood, as Titania was walking with some of her maids of honor, she met Oberon attended by his train of fairy courtiers.
“Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania,” said the fairy king. The queen replied, “What, jealous Oberon, is it you? Fairies, skip hence; I have forsworn his company.” “Tarry, rash fairy,” said Oberon; “am not I thy lord? Why does Titania cross her Oberon? Give me your little changeling boy to be my page.”
“Set your heart at rest,” answered the queen; “your whole fairy kingdom buys not the boy of me.” She then left her lord in great anger. “Well, go your way,” said Oberon: “before the morning dawns I will torment you for this injury.”
Oberon then sent for Puck, his chief favorite and privy counselor.