Theseus, the Duke of Athens, is preparing for his marriage to Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, A courtier seeks the Duke's intervention because his daughter, Hermia, will not agree to his choice of Demetrius as a husband: she's in love with Lysander. The Duke tells Hermia to obey her father, or either die or accept a life as a nun in Diana's temple. Lysander and Hermia plan to elope, and they tell Helena, who is in love with Demetrius, but he hates her and loves Hermia. The lovers run away from Athens but get lost in the woods. They are followed by Demetrius, and then by Helena, who has told him of their intentions.
Oberon, king of the fairies, who lives in the woods, has quarreled with his queen, Titania, over an Indian boy she refuses to give him. Oberon overhears Helena and Demetrius arguing and sends his mischievous servant, Puck, to get a flower whose juice has the power to make people fall in love with the first creature they see when the juice is placed on their eyelids while asleep. He instructs Puck to put some drops on Demetrius' eyes. Mistaking the Athenian he seeks, Puck puts the flower juice on the eyes of the sleeping Lysander so that when he is woken by Helena he immediately falls in love with her and rejects Hermia.
Some artisans are rehearsing a play about the tragic love-story of Pyramus and Thisbe to present before Theseus on his wedding day. Bottom, the weaver, is to play the lover, Pyramus, while Flute, the bellows-mender, is to play Thisbe. The others play the parts of the Moon, the Wall and the Lion and they are directed by Quince, the carpenter. Puck overhears their rehearsals in the wood and he plays a trick on them by giving Bottom an ass's head which frightens the others away. Bottom is lured towards the sleeping Titania whom Oberon has treated with the flower juice. On waking, she falls in love with the ass and entertains him with her fairies, but when Bottom falls asleep beside her, Oberon restores Titania's sight and wakes her. She is appalled at the sight of what she has been in love with and is reunited with Oberon.
Puck removes the ass's head and Bottom returns to Athens and rejoins his friends as they prepare to perform their play. Meanwhile the lovers' arguments tire them out as they chase one another through the woods and when Demetrius rests, Oberon puts magic juice on his eyes so that both he and Lysander pursue Helena until the four lovers fall asleep, exhausted. Puck puts juice on Lysander's eyes before the lovers are woken by Theseus and Hippolyta and their dawn hunting party. Happily reunited to each other, Lysander with Hermia, Demetrius with Helena, they agree to share the Duke's wedding day. The rustics perform the play of Pyramus and Thisbe before the wedding guests. As the three couples retire Puck and the fairies return to bless the palace and its people.
King Duncan's generals, Macbeth and Banquo, encounter three strange women on a bleak Scottish moorland on their way home from quelling a rebellion. The women prophesy that Macbeth will be given the title of Thane of Cawdor and then become King of Scotland, while Banquo's heirs shall be kings. The generals want to hear more but the weird sisters disappear. Duncan creates Macbeth Thane of Cawdor in thanks for his success in the recent battles and then proposes to make a brief visit to Macbeth's castle.
Lady Macbeth receives news from her husband of the prophecy and his new title and she vows to help him become king by any means she can. Macbeth's return is followed almost at once by Duncan's arrival. The Macbeths plot together and later that night, while all are sleeping and after his wife has given the guards drugged wine, Macbeth kills the King and his guards. Lady Macbeth leaves the bloody daggers beside the dead king. Macduff arrives and when the murder is discovered Duncan's sons, Malcolm and Donalbain flee, fearing for their lives, but they are nevertheless blamed for the murder.
Macbeth is elected King of Scotland, but is plagued by feelings of guilt and insecurity. He arranges for Banquo and his son, Fleance to be killed, but the boy escapes the murderers. At a celebratory banquet Macbeth sees the ghost of Banquo and disconcerts the courtiers with his strange manner. Lady Macbeth tries to calm him but is rejected.Macbeth seeks out the witches and learns from them that he will be safe until Birnam Wood comes to his castle, Dunsinane.
They tell him that he need fear no-one born of woman, but also that the Scottish succession will come from Banquo's son. Macbeth embarks on a reign of terror and many, including Macduff's family are murdered, while Macduff himself has gone to join Malcolm at the court of the English king, Edward. Malcolm and Macduff decide to lead an army against Macbeth.
Macbeth feels safe in his remote castle at Dunsinane until he is told that Birnam Wood is moving towards him. The situation is that Malcolm's army is carrying branches from the forest as camouflage for their assault on the castle. Meanwhile Lady Macbeth, paralysed with guilt, walks in her sleep and gives away her secrets to a listening doctor. She kills herself as the final battle commences.
Macduff challenges Macbeth who, on learning his adversary is the child of a Ceasarian birth, realises he is doomed. Macduff triumphs and brings the head of the traitor to Malcolm who declares peace and is crowned king.
In Messina, as Don Pedro, the Prince of Arragon, and his officers return from a recently concluded war, a message comes to Leonato that the prince intends to visit his house for a month. The Duke's party arrives with Count Claudio, who had before the war been attracted by Leonato's only daughter, Hero. Another of the visitors is Benedick, a bachelor, who enjoys speaking his mind in witty argument with Hero's cousin and companion, the Lady Beatrice.
Leonato holds a masked ball to celebrate the end of the war and the engagement of Claudio to Hero is arranged while the Duke's brother, Don John, resenting the celebrations, seeks a way to spoil the general happiness. Don John plots with the soldiers, Borachio and Conrade, to deceive Claudio into believing Hero is false to him. As a result a trick is carried out with the unwitting assistance of Hero's maid, Margaret, who talks from Hero's bedroom window with Borachio at night while Claudio and the Duke watch secretly from a distance, under the delusion that the girl at the window is Hero.
Hero and Don Pedro meanwhile are convinced that Benedick and Beatrice are ideal partners and by means of overheard conversations the two realise they do indeed love one another.
At the wedding Claudio denounces Hero and leaves her apparently dead from shock, while her father, Beatrice and Benedick, amazed at the situation, decide that with the aid of the priest. Hero's recovery should be concealed until her name can be cleared. Help is at hand as the village constable, Dogberry, and his assistants have arrested Borachio and Conrade after overhearing them boasting of their deception of Claudio and the Duke.
The play comes to a joyful conclusion when Dogberry's information is, eventually, after some difficulty, given to Leonato and Don Pedro. Claudio agrees to accept Leonato's 'niece' whom he has never met, in place of Hero, whom he believes has been killed by his slander. The 'niece' turns out to be Hero, and as the lovers are reunited Benedick and Beatrice announce that they will share the wedding day. Don John has been captured while trying to escape and is left for future trial while the play ends with a merry dance.
On a hot morning fighting by young servants of the Capulet and Montague families is stopped by the Prince who tells them that the next person who breaks the peace will be punished with death.
Capulet plans a feast to introduce his daughter, Juliet, who is almost fourteen, to the Count Paris who would like to marry her. By a mistake of the illiterate servant Peter, Montague's son, Romeo, and his friends Benvolio and the Prince's cousin Mercutio, hear of the party and decide to go in disguise. Romeo hopes he will see his adored Rosaline but instead he meets and falls in love with Juliet.
Juliet's cousin Tybalt recognises the Montagues and they are forced to leave the party just as Romeo and Juliet have each discovered the other's identity. Romeo lingers near the Capulet's house and talks to Juliet when she appears on her balcony. With the help of Juliet's Nurse the lovers arrange to meet next day at the cell of Friar Lawrence when Juliet goes for confession, and they are married by him.
Tybalt picks a quarrel with Mercutio and his friends and Mercutio is accidentally killed as Romeo intervenes to try to break up the fight. Romeo pursues Tybalt in anger, kills him and is banished by the Prince for the deed. Juliet is anxious that Romeo is late meeting her and learns of the fighting from her Nurse. With Friar Lawrence's help it is arranged that Romeo will spend the night with Juliet before taking refuge at Mantua.
To calm the family's sorrow at Tybalt's death the day for the marriage of Juliet to Paris is brought forward. Capulet and his wife are angry that Juliet does not wish to marry Paris, not knowing of her secret contract with Romeo.
Friar Lawrence helps Juliet by providing a sleeping potion that will make everyone think she's dead. Romeo will then come to her tomb and take her away. When the wedding party arrives to greet Juliet next day they think she is dead. The Friar sends a colleague to warn Romeo to come to the Capulet's family monument to rescue his sleeping wife but the message doesn't get through and Romeo, hearing instead that Juliet is dead, buys poison in Mantua.
He returns to Verona and goes to the tomb where he surprises and kills the mourning Paris. Romeo takes the poison and dies just as Juliet awakes from her drugged sleep. She learns what has happened from Friar Lawrence but she refuses to leave the tomb and stabs herself as the Friar returns with the Prince, the Capulets and Romeo's father. The deaths of their children lead the families to make peace, promising to erect a monument in their memory.
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