In A Midsummer Night's Dream, how does Shakespeare use the mechanicals' play to comment on performing a tragedy?
Please describe two ways Shakesepeare uses the play within a play to comment on performing a tragedy.
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It is tricky to answer this question completely, since most of the comment and comedy of the play about Pyramus and Thisbe needs to be developed by the actors performing the mechanicals who perform the play within a play.
Here are some observations:
- Bottom is the classic theatrical diva. He wants to play every part and direct all the other performers to boot. From the background we have about in him in rehearsals, it can be assumed that he will overact all his lines when performing before Theseus, becoming the classic stage hog, milking all tragic moments. This goes double for his suicide, which the text indicates is an event he plays over and over -- dramatic overkill!
- Flute is a young man who must play the girl. This actor does not want to play the girl, and maybe must be reminded (even during the performance?) to keep his voice high and girlie.
- The story goes so fast that all the outlandish dramatic elements look absurd. Thisbe goes to "Ninny's" tomb and is randomly scared away by a lion, runs off, dropping her scarf, which is then ripped up and dropped by the lion, and finally found by Pyramus who recognizes it and assumes that Thisbe is dead. This is the sort of outlandish string of coincidences found in many tragedies -- Romeo and Juliet being a good example.
- The company of mechancials decides to add elements to the play for effect: a Wall and Moonshine. These additions point to the kinds of elements that Shakespeare left to the imagination. So, by having the mechancials decide to present them, he demonstrates how absurd it can be to actually represent these things on stage.
I'm sure that more ways could be brought out, but these are a good start. If you'd like to hone in on only two examples from the above that relate directly to staging a tragedy, they are Bottom/Pyramus' overkill on the death scene and the outlandish string of coincidences that bring about the tragic demise of the lovers.
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