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A play within a play is a literary device used for the actors to connect themselves with what's really going on in their reality (the story) and to further the plot. For example, Hamlet uses a play about his father's murder to perform in front of his uncle in order to send a message to the murderous king and to see if his uncle acts guilty, thus furthering the plot and intensifying the conflict. With A Midsummer Night's Dream, a message of tragic love, (paralleled to Romeo and Juliet), helps to further the theme of love. The lovers show forth their true personalities as they watch and comment on the play about loved being performed for them. Through the lovers' reactions, then, the audience can make a connection between Pyramus and Thisbe's story and what the lovers may have had to deal with had they not come into contact with the fairies. All was going very badly for the lovers before they entered the forest. The lovers may have met the same fate as Pyramus and Thisbe had it not been for the help of the fairies' magic. Also, the play within the play has all of the humans together in the final scene where the audience can witness the difference between those who experienced the fairies' magic the night before with those who did not. Theseus and Hippolyta did not share in the midsummer's experience and therefore have differing views on the matter than those who experienced it. Plays within plays are all about comparing or contrasting themes and making connections between characters and themes.
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