March 24, 2009
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
How does Shakespeare present Bottom as
a humorous character in Act 3, Scene 1?
In his play ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, William Shakespeare is presenting his character Bottom, as one of the somewhat witty characters. That is especially to be seen in Act 3, Scene 1, in which Bottom has his head transformed into a donkey’s head.
One of the first things that clearly show the idiocy of Bottom is how he always thinks, that he the greatest of all; his pompous attitude. It’s like he wants everyone to look at him, he wants to speak more, such as when he wants the prologue, to be in eight and eight instead of eight six, which is actually what Shakespeare used to write his prologues in. – Shakespeare makes Bottom, who is a fictional character that he invented himself, show a discrepancy with what Shakespeare usually does. – It’s like he’s telling his own creator, that “You don’t know how to carry out a good play, why don’t you just sit down, while I tell you how to do it the right way”.
He keeps on saying: “I’m the best, I’m the best!” while, as shown by his constant slip-ups, it’s clear that he’s definitely not the brightest, like when he’s shouting some sort of sonnet, to show that ‘he knows what he’s doing’ but he says a lot of it wrong and uses some of the words mistaken. – A thing Shakespeare does deliberately to make Bottom even more humorous, which is called Dramatic irony, when Bottom is unknowing, that he’s doing something wrong and just goes on doing it, while the audience is aware of the funny thing, which is another good reason for them to express their amusement. Like when Bottom’s got the ass head on, he doesn’t know why his mates are starting to flee from him, so he starts calling the asses, as if they were the ones with the ass head on.
This is a preview of the whole essay
It’s obvious that William Shakespeare has done quite a lot to prove, that Bottom is a stupid character.
One of the things he’s done is Bottom’s pretty stupid ideas, about how the actors should perform their play without frightening the ladies amongst the audience. (Perhaps Shakespeare’s experienced this himself sometime. The inspiration has to come from somewhere)
The play happens to involve a swords being drawn by one the actors, hereafter the actor will pretend to kill himself with it.
In Bottoms opinion, the ladies wouldn’t like that, so he comes up with this “brilliant” idea of writing a prologue, which will tell the audience that no harm is done with their sword, no one is killed and Pyramus is not really Pyramus, but Bottom.
It should be clear to everyone that Pyramus is not really dying on the stage. Everyone should know that it’s nothing more than an act and really murdering someone on stage, would either be an extremely unlucky accident or an actor, so absorbed by his acting, that he’s willing to kill himself just to please his audience – But I guess, that would never happen.
But it’s like Bottom comes up with all these silly, fussy suggestions just to say something. He’s doing it to show the other that he’s a thinking person.
Shakespeare manages to do this joke twice in this scene, because once again Bottom spies a problem in their play. A lion must appear on the stage and Bottom fears that, that will also frighten the ladies, therefore he suggests that they must tell the name of the actor who plays the lion, and that half of his face must be seen through the costume. He must say to the ‘fair ladies’ that he’s not a lion, but a man – and his name is Snug the joiner.
Shakespeare had managed to squeeze another verbal joke into Bottom’s speech, by letting him identify a lion, as was it some sort of bird. He calls it a wildfowl, which is an old English term for a bird – This is also helping to show the lack of intelligence, Shakespeare has forced upon Bottom, when he was writing this play.
Later on in the play, when the actors, who had all met in the woods, finally get to rehearsing, Shakespeare shows the stupidity of Bottom yet again, by putting another ‘mistake’ into Bottom’s dialogue. When Bottom is meant to speak, Shakespeare makes him say odious (which can refer to a word like horrible) instead of odorous (which is an adjective of the word odour).
Hereafter, Shakespeare decides to extend Bottom’s appearance of silliness even further by transforming his head into a donkey’s head, which, according to the story, is the result of the fairy, Puck’s exertion.
After that little incident, Bottom’s mates start to flee in anxiety. Bottom is obviously confused why his buddies are running away from him, since he doesn’t know that his head has been replaced by a donkey head. When doing this, Shakespeare uses the dramatic irony-technique again to increase the hilarity for this scene even more. – The audience is aware of the ass head, but Bottom is not – He’s striding around all over the stage, confused why his mates ran away from him, but his pompous attitude is not all gone yet, so instead of asking them, why they’re running away from him, he chooses to believe, they’re just messing about with him. So when they’re all running away in anxiety, he shouts, that he’ll not be afraid of their little joke.
Bottom just want to keep his pride, whatever it takes to do so.
For that reason, he randomly starts to sing about birds. – Which after my opinion is a quite ridiculous thing to do just suddenly.
To his surprise, he’s overheard by Titania, the fairy queen, who Puck has also messed around with, to make her fall in love with the first creature she set her eyes on. This creature turns out to be Bottom the weaver.
She hears his song and falls madly in love with him.
- It is humorous that the high class fairy queen, perhaps a beauty beyond everything else, falls in love with a low class guy, whose head has the same figure as the head of an animal, which is most likely considered one of the most unintelligent and stubborn mammals in the world. (I bet Shakespeare took this into account when he was writing the play).
This is clearly shown when they’re speaking. Titania says something like: “Be kind and courteous to this gentleman...” and she nearly makes a whole poem out of her speech, with lots of long poetic words.
Bottom will respond with something that he think himself is a hilarious joke; ‘well-thought’ and ‘intellectual’ – Not quite, but Bottom doesn’t know, because he’s still got his pompous attitude.
Shakespeare had most certainly been thinking thoroughly about the names of the fairies, that Bottom was about to meet when Titania had convinced him to go with her, because he wanted to make Bottom come up with a joke for each and everyone of them – A fairly bad joke of course.
Shakespeare knew that Bottom still had this pompous attitude going on, but he also knew that Bottom was a somewhat stupid character. It requires a certain level of intelligence to come up with good jokes, which will make listeners laugh or at least produce a bit of giggling. – But Bottom doesn’t have that intelligence. The thing that makes Bottom funny is not his jokes, but his belief that his jokes are good and the amount of time he’s spend making them up.