"A Midsummer Night's Dream" opens in ancient Athens, a city renowned for its great philosophers. We see parallels with Theseus, a man of reason.
A Midsummer Night's Dream: AS & A2
Elizabeth I ruled England when this play was written. She is referred to by Oberon as ‘a fair vestal thronèd by the west’ (II. 1. 157).
Robin Goodfellow (the ‘puck’ or hobgoblin) and the fairies of this play were well-known figures in English folklore. They were traditionally mischievous spirits.
Elements of festivals in this play include the rite of May. Theseus suggests that the lovers are in the woods collecting branches for May Day.
Shakespeare seems to have taken inspiration from a variety of texts, such as Ovid’s "Metamorphoses", Chaucer’s "The Knight’s Tale" and Plutarch’s "Life of Theseus".