After their surreal night of magic and mayhem in the forest, both the lovers and Bottom describe what happened to them as a "dream." They use the word "dream" to describe their experiences, because they wouldn't otherwise be able to understand the bizarre and irrational things that they remember happening to them in the forest. By calling their experiences dreams, Bottom and the lovers allow those experiences to exist as they are, without need for explanation or understanding. As Bottom says: "I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what / dream it was. Man is but an ass if he go about t'expound this dream"(IV.i.200-201). In a famous speech near the end of the play, Duke Theseus brushes off the lovers' tale of their night in the forest, and goes so far as to condemn the imagination of all lovers, madmen, and poets as full of illusion and untruths. But Theseus's argument overlooks that it is reason, as set down in the law of Athens, that caused all the problems to begin with. And it was the "dream" within the forest that solved those problems. Through this contrast, the play seems to be suggesting that dreams and imagination are as useful as reason, and can sometimes create truths that transcend reason's limits.
Dreams Quotes in A Midsummer Night's Dream
And think no more of this night's accidents
But as the fierce vexation of a dream. (50)
How comes this gentle concord in the world,
That hatred is so far from jealousy,
To sleep by hate, and fear no enmity? (129)
These antique fables nor these fairy toys.
Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,
Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend
More than cool reason ever comprehends.
The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact. (2)
Shall disturb this hallow'd house:
I am sent with broom before,
To sweep the dust behind the door. (297)
Think but this, and all is mended,
That you have but slumbered here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend,
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I am an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long,
Else the Puck a liar call.
So, goodnight unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends. (430)