Would A Midsummer Night's Dream have worked as a play without the Rude Mechanicals? What is the purpose of their inclusion?
A Midsummer Night’s Dream follows several threads which sometimes intertwine. The four lovers, the fairies, and the rude mechanicals are the three main storylines. The rude mechanicals are less essential to the plot than the other two. Without them, only a few adjustments would have to be made to keep the story together. The play would also be darker and more serious. However, the players add a delightful levity to the comedy and provide the other characters with much entertainment.
The commoners counterbalance the story’s noble fairies, lovers, and leaders. These men are actors by night and tradesmen by day. They speak in prose rather than verse, except when they recite lines from their terrible play Pyramus and Thisby. The egoistic Bottom, who wishes to perform all the roles, plays a part in the fairy king’s humiliation of the fairy queen Titania. Puck turns his head into a donkey’s, frightening the other mortals and adding to Midsummer’s fantastical qualities. Bewitched by a love potion, Titania hears his presumably wretched singing and declares, “What angel wakes me from my flowery bed?” She woos him, and when he awakes, he believes the whole experience was a dream.
Bottom serves as the play’s buffoonish clown, and their performance before the aristocrats fulfills the theatrical trope of a play within a play. The rude mechanicals contribute to and enhance the roles of other characters, but they are also an engrossing plotline in their own right. The audience laughs at and empathizes with their fears and triumphs, however silly. Midsummer would survive without them, but it would not have the same charm.