What is the significance of the play within the play A Midsummer's Night Dream?
The play within the play creates opportunities for humor and reinforces the themes of the main story.
When Peter Quince decides to get together a group of craftsmen and try to write a play, he is asking for trouble. The writing is terrible and the acting even worse, but it is hilarious. Nick Bottom, who overacts and overtakes the production at every turn, has a good heart and is genuinely loved by his castmates.
O sweet bully Bottom! Thus hath he lost sixpence a
day during his life; he could not have scaped sixpence a day.
An the Duke had not given him sixpence a day for(20)
playing Pyramus, I'll be hanged. (Act 4, Scene 2)
The play they decide to put on for Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding is Pyramus and Thisbe. It is not an original story line, but Quince writes up his version. The actors give him trouble at every turn, with Bottom wanting to play every part, and the other actors not liking their assigned parts. Yet their play is chosen and they successfully, and hilariously, perform it for the wedding.
The play is about two young lovers who have a misunderstanding involving a lion, and end up tragically ending their lives in a murder suicide. The themes of the strength of love, the chaos of misunderstanding, and the tragedy of separating young lovers clearly reinforce the main plot.