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

A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare

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In what ways does Shakespeare differentiate his rustic tradesmen from the aristocrats?

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Very good question. You will want to consider how Shakespeare juxtaposes the action of Act I scene 1 with Act I Scene 2. The former centres on the action of the nobles, who speak in verse and very eloquently. The action is centred in Theseus' palace or grounds and the tone is serious and it is clear that much is at stake. Looking at Act I scene 2, however, we see that we are introduced to a completely different level of Athenian society. It is clear that the Mechanicals are all simple tradesmen. They speak in prose and are laughably inept in everything they do. They are clearly meant to be humorous characters to be laughed at.

This comparison is continued throughout the play. Towards the end it is clear that they are clearly in awe of the nobles and that the potential repercussions of performing a bad play are dangerous. Fortunate for them, then, that they perform to an indulgent audience in Act V scene 1.

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