After watching this video from 1:36:52 and stopping at 1:54:00, in terms of voice, movement and production, how would you rate the performance of the "Athenian Tradesmen?" Also, why would...
After watching this video from 1:36:52 and stopping at 1:54:00, in terms of voice, movement and production, how would you rate the performance of the "Athenian Tradesmen?" Also, why would Shakespeare include a performance like this?
The referenced video depicts the Athenian tradesmen presenting their play of "Pyramus and Thisbe" to the lovers and the Duke who have just been married. The play within the play is found in Act V of A Midsummer Night's Dream by Shakespeare. The performance in this video is funny and entertaining as Shakespeare probably envisioned.
The reason Shakespeare has average men acting out a play for the Duke and Duchess on their wedding day is because A Midsummer Night's Dream is a comedy. "Pyramus and Thisbe" is hilarious because the tradesmen are not professional actors; therefore, their execution of it is slow, mechanical, forced, and clumsy. All of these things make it funnier than it would be if professionals would have played it. For example, in the referenced video, Snout, who plays the wall, is very slow of speech. His voice seems as if he is trying as hard as possible to remember his lines; but, he tends to struggle with them because he is not a highly educated man. Also, Bottom, who plays Pyramus, exaggerates his character in a hilarious way and messes up his lines just like he does throughout the main play. This shows that Bottom is a bad actor, but this also adds to the hilarity of the play's execution before a renowned and educated man like the Duke. Again, if professionals had played "Pyramus and Thisbe," it would have been executed correctly and would have been a tragedy rather than a comedy. The main play is a comedy, so the play within it needed to be funny, too.
Nevertheless, the Duke shows kindness towards the average actors by telling Hippolyta, "If we imagine no worse of them than they of themselves,/ they may pass for excellent men" (V.i.214-215). Through the Duke showing grace such as this, Shakespeare might be saying that anyone who wants to act, should because it is fun and shouldn't be taken so seriously all of the time. In conclusion, the actors are slow of speech, they stumble over the stage, and they don't seem to know what they are doing most of the time, but this adds to the richness of the comedy and makes the play enjoyable.