Illustration of a donkey-headed musician in between two white trees

A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare
Start Free Trial

In act 1, scene 2 of A Midsummer Night's Dream, do you think the actors are capable of their duties? Explain.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This hilarious scene actually presents us with a parody of acting - we can only imagine what fun Shakespeare was having writing a scene specifically for actors where they had to act very badly! I will focus on the character of Pyramus (otherwise known as Bottom). There are many aspects to be aware of, but firstly it is impossible to ignore the character of Bottom and his pretentious, arrogant ways - notice how he tries to drown out all the other actors and poor Quince who is trying to manage everything. He insists that he can play every character and presumably gives an impression of how he would perform it:

And I may hide my face, let me play Thisby too: I'll speak in a monstrous little voice; Thisney, Thisne, Ah Pyramus my lover dear, thy Thisby dear, and Lady dear.

Notice too how Bottom continually uses words incorrectly in his efforts to be verbose and to sound impressive. The funniest example in my mind comes at the end of the scene:

We will meet, and there we may rehearse most obscenely and courageously.

Bottom seems to be presented as your typical big-headed, arrogant actor who wants to dominate the show with his supposed "talent". Note too the ridiculous absurd lengths he takes to try and think about how to dress and get in character:

I will discharge it, in either your straw colour beard, your orange tawny beard, your purple in grain beard, or your French-crown coloured beard, your perfect yellow.

Equally amusing of course are Quince's efforts to maintain control and leadership of the situation, and trying to rein and curtail Bottom's comments! These aspects all demonstrate that this play that they will perform will be more of a comedy than a tragedy, as their performance proves later on.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team