What is the significance of the play within the play Pyramus and Thisby in A Midsummer Night's Dream?  

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teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This play within a play, performed by a comically bumbling set of lower class actors, provides a commentary on the main action of A Midsummer's Night Dream. Broadly speaking, the play's theme is an exploration love in its many manifestations, with an emphasis on love's irrationality. The players, in Pyramis and Thisbe, show yet another version of love, in this case thwarted love that ends badly, in contrast to the forbidden love of Hermia and Lysander that ends well. The play within a play, though performed as farce, suggests, however obliquely, that love does not always have the happy ending provided by the "real" story of the play. Hermia and Lysander's story could also have ended tragically. Used as a play to celebrate marriage, Pyramis and Thisbe, may as well hint, again subtly, that despite all the joyous weddings, all may not always go well in the future with the newlyweds. After all, we have already learned that the path of true love is never smooth. 

The openly fictive quality of the Pyramis and Thisbe play, fraught with bad acting and the players breaking character to explain the action to the audience, hints at the fictive quality of the main drama. Puck will also raise the question of whether anything in the larger play A Midsummer's Night Dream is real or if it all should be taken as a dream, leaving it to the viewer to decide. With the play within the play, Shakespeare again raises the question of representation: how seriously should we take anything depicted on this stage?

kwoo1213 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The play has significance because of its ties to the "real-life" couples that have been married.  Pyramus and Thisbe's love story ends tragically, however, unlike the newly married couples, who are very happy.  The play's tragic ending serves to show the couples that they must always respect each other and their love and cherish it and their time together.  It also shows the couples that true love cannot be denied and should not be hindered. Also the parallels are evident between another Shakespeare play, Romeo and Juliet, and the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, which is interesting!

jalden eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Pyramus & Thisbe play is a brilliant piece of stagecraft.  Shakespeare puts a tragedy about Love into a comedy about Love and turns the tragedy into an overwhelmingly comic tour-de-force right at a time in the play when all the characters are at their most unnerved and vulnerable. It serves to lift the spirits of the characters from confusion to ease, and enjoins all of us to treat ourselves and each other with humerous compassion.

It is also an homage to the joy to be had from the art of theater.

lit24 | Student

The 'play within a play' is simultaneously an example of intertextuality and metatheatre. As such it impacts the audience /readers in a very subtle  manner.

Intertextuality: When the main play begins it looks as though it is going to end as a tragedy (Hermia will be executed if she does not obey her father and marry Demetrius). This is immediately underscored in the very next scene itself-Bottom and his company choose a tragedy to be enacted to celebrate Theseus' wedding. But the way they go about rehearsing the play is farcical and the audience/readers  immediately realise Shakespeare's comic intentions.The intertext which has been borrowed from Ovid would have been familiar to Shakespeare's Renaissance audience which would have immediately seen the parallel connection to the main story of the play: parental opposition to romantic love.

Pyramus and Thisby were two lovers living in adjacent houses. Their parents are opposed to their weding and they die under tragic circumstances.

Metatheatre: The discussions of how exactly the story is to be adapted to the actual performance on Theseus' wedding day[ActI sc.2] clearly expresses the unlikeness of art to life and the mysterious likeness of life to art itself. It begs the question does art reflect life or does life reflect art? Shakespeare thus uses the intertext to contrast art and life.

Most importantly all of us play different roles in life and we have multiple identities. Acting in a play is an expression of an individual's (Bottom) strong desire to  take on another  identity atleast for a short while.

haishikaramful | Student

PLEASE tell me more importance of the play within the play in A Midsummer Night's Dream

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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