Situation and characters
In the case of A Midsummer Night's Dream, the situation at the start of the play is Theseus' impending marriage to Hippolyta, within the court of Athens. Theseus' first words establish this immediately with the audience, along with his feelings for his bride-to-be. The forthcoming nuptials also bring with them a request for entertainment and 'merriments', setting up the mechanicals' play rehearsals.
We are then introduced to a number of characters in rapid succession: Egeus, Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius. Shakespeare contrives to make clear to his audience the relationship between these characters through Egeus' first speech.
Watch the opening scene of the play and see how quickly the situation and primary characters are introduced.
The opening scenes of the play are set within the court of Athens. As director Gale Edwards explains, the Athenian court stands for order and reason, and would have been interpreted as such by Shakespeare's audiences, establishing an initial harmony which the play's events will temporarily disrupt.