Bottom comes out of character in this speech to the audience. It is this that Shakespeare wants to highlight as a critique of amateur actors in his day.
Acting had become a very popular pastime amongst many people at the time, however the majority did not partake. As a result a law was passed preventing acting from taking place on the streets, as outside theatre groups were of a poor standard. Shakespeare used this criticism in order to show that he didn’t look highly on amateur acting performing his ‘art’. This is emphasised by Shakespeare by the way in which he portrays the mechanicals, with their incompetent acting skills.
In Act four, scene two, Bottom has a nightmare, it is the way that he deals with this nightmare which is not only crucial to understanding the character of Bottom, but also to the social commentaries that Shakespeare is making. He shows his fear but then turns it into a ballad, this illustrates the power of the text to take problems and fears and convert them into comedy. This is Shakespeare’s commentary on the nature of his work and its utility, of taking fear and making hilarity; yet another occasion when the character of Bottom shows his significance to the play.
There are several reasons why the play performed by the mechanicals is significant, to the overall play, as well as providing an element of comedy. This is shown by the resemblance of the characters between the plays. Pyramus and Thisbe face parental disapproval in the play within a play, similarly to Hermia and Lysander. Both plays also have a recurrent theme of romantic confusion; Pyramus believes that Thisbe has been killed by the lion, and the lovers feel miserable due to all of the problems that they have had to endure. Shakespeare brings comedy into the play through the actor’s abysmal performance. This makes light of a play which was at face value meant to be serious.
The play that the mechanicals perform therefore is a symbol of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ as the characters in each of the plays go through the same type of problems with love. Shakespeare is trying to get people to see his view on the way that love encompasses so many problems; through these parallelisms. He seeks to deliver this message to the audience through the lovers’ part of the play, but also in the form of the Mechanicals play.
The reason that Shakespeare brings the element of comedy into the play, is mainly because, in his time there would have been many uneducated people watching the play when it was performed live and at their own level. Comedy is a powerful vehicle that people of all backgrounds could enjoy, and relate to. Shakespeare brings this into the play so that all of the audience will enjoy it. The well-educated could enjoy the more intellectual and serious parts of the play, and the less-educated could enjoy the joyful and comedic content.
Nick Bottom is significant not only as an individual of the mechanicals but also to the overall performance, moreover he links all three worlds together; these worlds being that of reality; the world in which the mechanicals play is set and the realm of the fairies. There are three main reasons why Nick Bottom has such a significant role to the play. Firstly he adds comedy and excitement to the play, secondly he is the vehicle Oberon (the king of the fairies) uses to get back at his wife Titania (the queen of the fairies); as lastly performing for the lovers in the mechanicals play. Thus one of Bottom’s most significant roles is this link between the different worlds. Shakespeare uses the parallel plots (and characters) across the three worlds to unify the play as a whole, and it is the interlacing of the sub-tales which gives the play its multi-level appeal.
Nick Bottom’s impact on the play individually and as a part of the group of mechanicals is pivotal part, through entertaining the audience with his over stated and over-confident acting, he believes the reaction of the audience shows him to be an outstanding actor. Fuelling him to over act more, even through ad-libbing his lines, adding ‘O’ before each sentence to dramatise even the most ordinary line. Bottom feels the need to improvise on his lines believing that the audiences’ reaction is applause for his competence when it could also be said that the opposite is true.
The remaining importance is Oberon’s use of him to avenge Titania by turning Bottom into an ass. He does this by telling Puck (Oberon’s assistant), to put the love potion into Titania’s eyes so that she with fall in love with Bottom the ass, this is the pivotal point when Bottom links the worlds of the fairies and the mechanicals. Whilst performing in the play the mechanicals performed for the Dukes wedding, he and the other five mechanicals link the worlds of the lovers and the mechanicals together. This illustrates Bottom’s key roles as the individual entertainer and group cast member of the mechanicals.
We first meet Bottom in Act one scene two when the play is first being rehearsed, Bottom immediately takes over the direction of the play even though he is not stage manager, and gives more than enough ‘advice’. Bottom proclaims the play to be “a very good piece of work” even though he has barely enough knowledge of the play to recognise Pyramus, one of the title characters. This example is an excellent illustrator of Bottom’s character, he is full of good advice and intentions but has no idea of the way in which to deliver it. This scene demonstrates the mechanicals slim chance of putting on a good play as well as the talent of Bottom to always complicate situations.
In discussing the role of Nick Bottom and the significance he has in the mechanicals play, sufficient reasoning has been relayed in order to backup my opening sentence; the significance and role of Nick Bottom is made prominent by Shakespeare. With particular reference to that of Nick Bottom, this study has covered the mechanicals as well as dealing with parallels and links between the three worlds Shakespeare has woven. The analysis covered in this essay has outlined the major themes and issues connected with Nick Bottom as part of the mechanicals. Therefore based on all evidence and analysis portrayed in this essay, it is reasonable to conclude that the role of Nick Bottom and the significance of his portrayal in this text is truly an important one.
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