A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night's Dream book cover
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What is the metatheatricality found in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night’s Dream ?

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Metafiction refers to fiction that is self-aware as to its own fictional nature. A Midsummer Night's Dream certainly counts as an example of metadrama in the degree to which it actively engages its own artificiality.

Probably the most famous example of this lies in the craftsmen. In essence, what we see here is a play within a play, performed by actors portraying actors. However, memorable though this example is, the play's tendencies toward the meta run even deeper than this and are embedded within the very structure of A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Consider just how much of the plot, from the moment that Hermia and Lysander run into the woods, is almost entirely artificial. Lysander's infatuation with Helena, Titania's infatuation with Bottom, the resolution of the lovers' subplot (by which Demetrius ends up with Helena, freeing Hermia to marry Lysander) . . . it's all been manufactured.

This is what makes the play's conclusion so striking: it ends with Puck, standing on an empty stage,...

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