A Midsummer Night's Dream is one of Shakespeare's earlier comedies, written around 1595-6. It is believed that Shakespeare wrote this play to be performed at the wedding celebrations of a young nobleman. If this is true, the final act of the play is self-referential, as the wedding guests would have been doing exactly what they watched Hippolyta and Theseus doing: watching a play before them on the stage. Although the title of the play refers to a dream, it is clear that it is also refers to the old English custom or festivity of 'maying' on the first day of May: a day of singing, dancing, and frolicking that was frowned upon by puritans at the time.
Indeed, the whole play contains references to England's society at the time of it's conception. The reigning monarch, Elizabeth I, is referred to by Oberon as "a fair vestal throned by the west" (Act 2, sc.1, l.157) and Puck and the mischievous sprites/fairies were well-known figures in English folklore at this time.
Tackling issues of gender equality, marital expectations, and thwarted love, A Midsummer Night's Dream, remains one of Shakespeare's most popular and most frequently performed plays. It is enjoyed by young and old, with its accessible and magical world often being adapted for younger viewers. In 1999, it was made into a film starring Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer, among others, and in 2016 the BBC produced a highly praised modern re-telling of the play by Russell T. Davies.