What attitudes about theater does Shakespeare portray in the scenes with the rustics, or the mechanicals, in A Midsummer Night's Dream ?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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One attitude towards theater that the rustics, or mechanicals, present is that theater is grand and can be very emotionally moving. We especially see Bottom portray this attitude through his own opinion of his capabilities as a performer. Bottom thinks very highly of himself and thinks he has the ability to stir an audience, as we see in his lines, "If I do it, let the audience look to their eyes; I will move storms" (I.ii.22-23). Ironically, Bottom is actually too uneducated and too unskilled to move an audience except to laugh at him. Nonetheless, the fact that Bottom thinks he can stir an audience to tears shows us that at least one attitude towards theater is that drama did have the capability of emotionally moving an audience.

Another attitude of theater presented is that drama ought to be convincing. The mechanicals' play is made fun of because they do not have the education or skill to pull off what their ambitions have lead them to desire to perform. Instead, even Philostrate, Theseus' manager responsible for organizing the festival, confesses to having laughed at Bottom's death scene during the mechanicals' rehearsal, as we see in his lines:

... For Pyramus therein doth kill himself.
Which when I saw rehearsed, I must confess,
Made mine eyes water; but more merry tears
The passion of loud laughter never shed. (V.i.71-74)

Because Philostrate feels justified in laughing at a death scene he thinks has been comically presented, we see that one prevailing attitude of theater is that drama should be convincing.

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