Role of the Craftsmen

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Describe the function of Bottom and his fellow craftsmen in the play.

Bottom and his fellow craftsmen are bubbly, animated and optimistic to a fault. With their amiable exuberance and whole-hearted cheerfulness, they are often seen as the most likeable characters in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. In terms of function, their presence serves to create humour and act as a foil to the upper echelons of Athenian society. With their play-within a play, Shakespeare also creates a parody of youthful impassioned love and a sturdy reminder of reality amidst all the magic and chaos in the forest.

Bottom and his fellow craftsmen with their good-humoured disposition create humour through their amusing malapropisms and unsophisticated poetry. For instance the craftsmen often use words out of context to hilarious results, like when Flute as Thisbe calls Pyramus ‘Jew’ when he probably meant jewel. To fully understand the humour here, one must realize that in Shakespearean times, Jews were widely loathed and thus would be the opposite of ‘jewel, thereby thoroughly tickling an Elizabethan audience. Another example of this is when Bottom as Pyramus mistakenly asks Thisbe to meet him at ‘Ninny’s’ instead of ‘Ninus’ Tomb’. Here, a ninny refers to an imbecile, whereas Ninus’ refers to the legendary founder of Nineveh. Shakespeare’s audience would very likely have been able to pick this up and see the humour in it. On top of this, in Quince’s script, there appears to be a lot of forced rhyme, which in contrast to lilting verses of the fairies is quite brusquely funny. For example, ‘Jew’ is used in a desperate attempt to rhyme with ‘hue’, likewise with ‘brier’ and ‘tire’. Thus part of the comedy the craftsmen create lies in the very crudely constructed poetry.

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Another way through which the Craftsmen create humour is through their pathetic attempts to perfect the play, which often seem to have the reverse effect. Firstly, even the title of their play is laughable: ‘The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe’. It is in itself an oxymoron and paradoxical, and reflect the craftsmen’s efforts (Quince in particular) to sound profound, which backfire because it sounds so nonsensical thereby amusing to the audience. The craftsmen’s fear that the ladies might be ‘afeared’ by the lion and would not be able to ‘abide’ seeing Pyramus ‘draw  a ...

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