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How is the rude mechanicals' little play related to the larger play in which it appears...

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english1991 | eNoter

Posted December 5, 2010 at 10:00 PM via web

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How is the rude mechanicals' little play related to the larger play in which it appears in A Midsummer Night’s Dream?

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shakespeareguru | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted December 6, 2010 at 2:39 AM (Answer #1)

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The Mechancials' play, which they present for Theseus' wedding day in Act V, is meant to be a Tragedy.  It is a spoof of a classic story, the tale of Pyramus and Thisbe, or, as Quince notes, it is titled:  The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe.  The story of these "star-crossed" lovers (who both kill themselves at the end) bears resemblance to Shakespeare's own Tragedy of star-crossed love, the full title of which is:  The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet.

The fact that Quince refers to his play of Pyramus and Thisbe as a "Lamentable Comedy" is simply a mistake that cues the audience as to the sort of bumbling, non-professional performance of this play that they are in for.  There are many other aspects of the Act V performance that play on cliches of bad productions of tragic plays.  From the excesses of Bottom as Pyramus (including his numerous "deaths") to the presentations of Wall and Moonshine, this play is definitely meant as a spoof of a Tragedy such as Romeo and Juliet.

The performance of a tragic love story played out as comic in the Mechanicals' rendition of Pyramus and Thisbe relates to the larger circumstances of plot in the play that concern Lysander and Hermia.  These young lovers begin this play as star-crossed  themselves, and yet the play manages to maintain a light-hearted tone.  The play-within-a-play mirrors the initially tragic circumstances confronting the lovers Hermia and Lysander, also adding in a comic tone that overshadows the tragedy of the circumstances.

Please follow the links below for more on the Mechanicals' play.

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