Look at the presentation of the play within the play by the Mechanicals in Act 5: 1
What is there in this performance that will interest and amuse the audience?
In the second scene that completes Act I, we are introduced to an extraordinary group of familiar but outlandish comical characters that have been enlightened with the possibility of performing a stage interlude as part of the entertainment at the quick approaching marriage of Theseus and Hippolyta.
The Mechanicals are not only thought of as the ‘rude mechanicals’, they are also thought of as sweet and gentle folk who have had no promoting purpose in their lives until now.
Peter Quince play as one of the mechanicals as the Playwright for the amateurs. We are able to tell that he is more experienced in writing as Shakespeare makes him present his prologue which is a masterpiece of writing deliberately ruined to give the play a comical beginning. Shakespeare does this by making Quince seem like a very smart man, the smartest out of the mechanicals and we know this because he is directing the play and not actually featuring it. This shows us the audience that he has a shy character although he seems very excited and open towards the beginning of the play when actually he seems to have Stage fright.
Nick Bottom the Weaver seems however to be very enthusiastic and wants to play all the roles, furthermore he always tends to overact which annoys Peter Quince but ends up acting the part of Pyramus in the Act 5 Scene 1.
Francis Flute the Bellows Mender is played as a young man. At the beginning of the play he points out that he's just getting his facial hair in order not to end up playing Thisbe but he is still chosen despite that as he seems the youngest and more feminine like.
This in a way is used to show us the method and type of people who would play women in plays. It is also purposely used by Shakespeare to show us that Flute is a gentle character and is very self-conscious. On the other hand we could also say that Shakespeare is using scenes like Act 1 Scene 2 to mock or rather ridicule his theatrical practices.
Robin Starveling the Tailor plays the part of the moon. He seems to forget his lines, and explains who he is in prose.
Snug the Joiner who says, "I am slow of study" but is told that the lion need only roar. Eventually Snug does learn a few lines.
Tom Snout the Tinker is simple minded and so is put to play as the wall.
These three characters, Robin, Tom and Snug, have a direct link as they are the discarded mechanicals in view of the fact that they are or rather seem to be illiterate as there parts are very simple and anyone can play them. By this I mean to show that Shakespeare has used them to show the type of people he has had to deal with in his Theatrical life. So it seems again as if he is deliberately mocking his own work and also the work of poets in order to make the play hilarious for the audience as he does this in lines 2 to 22 in Act 5 Scene 1.
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The lunatic, the lover, and the poet
Are of imagination all compact:
One sees more devils than vast hell can hold;
That is the madman. The lover, all as frantic,
Sees Helen's beauty in a brow of Egypt.
The poet's eye, in a fine frenzy rolling,
Doth glance from heaven to earth, from earth to heaven;
And as imagination bodies forth
At the beginning of act 5 we find ourselves in the palace, where Theseus and Hippolyta return with their guests, who await some form of after dinner entertainment. Theseus has Philostrate read him a list of possible performances of which Theseus finally settles on ‘A tedious brief scene of young Pyramus and his love Thisbe- ‘very tragical mirth’ as the play he wants to see performed. Philostrate tries to persuade him not to, telling him that the actors are workingmen with no talent, but Theseus is adamant that he watch them perform.
Hard-handed men that work in Athens here,
Which never labour'd in their minds till now;
I will hear that play;
For never anything can be amiss
When simpleness and duty tender it.
This shows us two things. One is that Theseus is a very stable figure choosing not to compromise with Philostrate’s decisions showing us that Theseus is a good duke. This is important as it give you an idea about Theseus’ position and character in the play making it more respectable and convincing. Shakespeare also puts across this point in order to show the audience what ‘high-class’ people like Philostrate think of the crude mechanicals. This is important because it shows us how the mechanicals are judged by people of that stature even before seeing the play which seems to me to be quite mean, though we the audience have already seen it being rehearsed and know it will end up being more of a parody than a tragedy.
The Play begins with a flourish of trumpets sounding and Peter Quince delivers the prologue. It is a masterpiece of writing because it is fraught with sentence fragments, which serve to reverse the meaning of the actual phrases which end up appearing meaningless.
Quince: If we offend, it is with our good will.
That you should think, we come not to offend,
But with good will. To show our simple skill,
That is the true beginning of our end.
This serves as an entertaining beginning to interest the audience and to add on to this there are witty comments broadened on by all the lovers watching the play.
Theseus: This fellow doth not stand upon points.
Lysander: He hath rid his prologue like a rough colt; he knows
Not the stop. A good moral, my lord: it is not enough to speak,
But to speak true.
Hippolyta: Indeed he hath played on this prologue like a child
On a recorder; a sound, but not in government.
Theseus: His speech was like a tangled chain; nothing impaired, but all
Disordered. Who is next?
If Peter Quince was to act it out as if he overheard the comments it would add on to the humour of the play as he gets more and more nervous and even more so if he was to remain on stage and pretend to be listening when Theseus had finished speaking to Hippolyta.
This seems like a deliberate mistake. By this I mean that Shakespeare did this on purpose to show us how rude and crude the mechanicals really are as well as to add on to the list of humorous parts to come. This is also to test the audience’s notions and give a first glimpse into the play. This would also seem entertaining as it would amuse the audience to see someone who is very nervous on stage as there actions would change for the worst.
At this point it become visible that the more serious the Mechanicals are about the play, the more intent and earnest, the funnier the result is.
Peter Quince then continues his prologue with even more haste as to finish it as quickly as he possibly can. The rest of the characters in the play are introduced onto the stage and begin to act out the play with even more hurriedness making it seem like a disaster. This is also ridiculous seeing as this is the prologue which leaves the audience asking why or rather what they are doing.
This was part of one of Shakespeare’s plans to degrade Quince his character and the rest of the mechanicals and the whole play within a play. This again shows that he has used one of his characters to mock himself as he intends to ridicule bad acting and writing and is not really personally pointed at the play or just at one specific character.
Shakespeare did this in order to lead to Pucks ending of the whole play as he says
‘If we shadows have offended, Think but this,--and all is mended,--
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
This shows us that the prologue is first-rate writing from Shakespeare as it is deliberately ruined.
I believe that this part of the play has a wonderful result on the audience as they have just seen a beautiful play about love at its supreme as well as the foolishness of man, therefore the comparison makes a great difference.
This comparison between humour in the play within the play and love is definitely making the play not only amusing but also interesting and a good way to lead up to the end Theseus’ and Hippolyta’s wedding.
This final act at first seems completely unnecessary to the overall plot of the play. After all, in Act Four we not only have the lovers chasing after each other, but overall there has been a happy resolution to the conflict. Thus, the immediate question which arises is why Shakespeare felt it necessary to include this act.
The final act is specifically for the working part of the audience. It serves as a link between the audience and the actors in Pyramus and Thisbe. By this I mean to say that Shakespeare’s intentions for the play where not for the high class people but instead for the workers, for the lower class audience as they can relate to it and laugh at there own practices.
Although this may be so the last act still manages to amuse both audiences. This is because the workers station in society makes them fair game for gentle indignities of which they are characteristically unaware.
After Quince’s Prologue the play is performed, with numerous linguistic errors and incorrect references making it into a complete farce. One of the many errors is that of Bottom’s speech as he repeats ‘Thisne’ instead of Thisbe as well as also saying Ninny’s tomb instead of Ninus tomb. These are only some of the errors in pronunciation whilst other errors on Bottoms part come from him answering to Theseus' comment on the wall cursing again.
The wall, methinks, being sensible, should curse again. PYRAMUS No, in truth, sir, he should not. 'Deceiving me' is Thisbe's
Cue: She is to enter now, and I am to spy her through the wall.
You shall see it will fall pat as I told you. Yonder she comes.
This is amusing to us as an audience as it is different because if you were doing a play of that type you would not be able to speak to the audience let alone confront them as it seems he is doing in this part.
Another mistake is that of Quince when he uses too much alliteration at the beginning of the play, during his Prologue whilst the others act as he speaks or rather reads out.
‘And finds his trusty Thisbe's mantle slain;
Whereat with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
He bravely broach'd his boiling bloody breast
And Thisbe, tarrying in mulberry shade,
His dagger drew, and died. For all the rest,
Let Lion, Moonshine, Wall, and lovers twain,
At large discourse while here they do remain’.
In that speech Quince uses alliteration to the wrong purpose making what should have been a good speech in the play an even funnier and ridiculous speech which adds on to the interest of the audiences actually watching A Mid summer Night’s Dream. Therefore we see another example of Bad writing that Shakespeare has used in order to inject the play with amusement.
Although that alliteration acts as a part of Shakespeare’s grand scheme to the play it somehow works on the Duke and his fellow’s part of the audience.
Therefore we see that Hippolyta condemns the play as being "silly" whilst Theseus defends it as being nothing more than imaginative.
This is the silliest stuff that ever I heard.
The best in this kind are but shadows; and the worst
Are no worse, if imagination amend them.
It must be your imagination then, and not theirs.
If we imagine no worse of them than they of
Themselves, they may pass for excellent men.
During this part Theseus shows himself as a true Duke because his speech serves as a challenge to the audience’s notions. By this I mean that his speech is used to change there minds on the mechanicals as they are only thinking of them as of no importance almost as if looking down on them, therefore this speech helps to challenge the audiences notions.
The play then continues until it comes to Bottoms scene which fully intrigues the audience. This is because of Hippolyta’s comment when Pyramus finds Thisbe’s blood stained cloth on the floor of the cave.
This passion, and the death of a dear friend, would go
Near to make a man look sad.
Beshrew my heart, but I pity the man
This change of attitude comes as a complete surprise as she herself has just been condemning the play. Thus we see that the audience has had a change of heart and this also acts in Shakespeare’s favour as he makes Hippolyta say this as if to change the notions of the real audience. The reason being it shows that even with bad acting and bad writing it still manages to tame the hardest of hearts which shows again Another way to see it is by her being sarcastic and instead is making fun of the mechanicals, but then that would mean that Shakespeare’s work does not make sense which is completely ridiculous.
The play is then continued and during the performance, Theseus, Lysander, Hippolyta and Demetrius inserts commentary which criticizes the action, and makes fun of the antics of the mechanicals which demonstrates the amusement caused by the play within a play. Such amusement is that of Pyramus stabbing himself and dying. This is entertaining because although he has stabbed himself and should be dead he continues to talk for awhile and then finally ‘dies’ showing again bad acting which definitely would get a few laughs if not an uproar meaning it has served its purpose well.
Come, tears, confound; Out, sword, and wound
The pap of Pyramus: Ay, that left pap, Where heart doth hop:--
Thus die I, thus, thus, thus. Now am I dead,
Now am I fled; my soul is in the sky:
Tongue, lose thy light! Moon, take thy flight! Now die, die, die, die, die.
At the end of the play both Bottom and Flute get up from where they are lying, supposedly dead, and offer to perform an epilogue or a bergamask (a type of dance). Theseus quickly intervenes and tells them they need no epilogue, but rather should only perform the dance, which they do and Puck ends the play.
Overall the play within a play is an exciting look into the life of the mechanicals and has a definite dramatic effect on both audience’s because of its charm and amusing effects, which too me would have made the audience applause, thus making it a good way to finish the play. This is because it helps break the illusion of the theatre and helps to bring us back down to earth, to the day of the wedding.