Act I, Scene 2: Summary and Analysis
Peter Quince (the carpenter): author and director of the play-within-the-play
Nick Bottom (the weaver): manager of the play-within-the-play and is Pyramus in it; becomes the object of Titania’s love
Francis Flute (the bellows mender): unwillingly plays the role of Thisbe in the play-within-the-play
Snug (the joiner): portrays the lion in the play-within-the-play because he roars well
Robin Starveling (the tailor): portrays the moon in the play-within-the-play
Tom Snout (the tinker): portrays a wall in the play-within-the play
The craftsmen meet with Quince, the director, to assign the roles for the play—“The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisbe”—they are going to present at the revel in honor of Theseus’ and Hippolyta’s wedding during the new moon in four days. Bottom is to play the lover, Pyramus, although he would prefer to be Thisbe or the Lion and professes that he will make the audience cry. Flute is to play the lady, Thisbe, but is worried because he is growing a beard, however, this will be covered by a mask so it is not the problem he thinks it is. Starveling is to play Thisbe’s mother and the Moon. Snout is to be Pyramus’ father and the Wall. Quince will play Thisbe’s father. Snug, who is to be the Lion, is worried he will need more time to memorize his lines but he needs only roar. After some discussion of what beard Bottom should wear as his costume, the men agree to meet in the wood to rehearse since they would be too easily distracted or interrupted should they rehearse in the city.
In this scene, we begin to differentiate the craftsmen from one another. Bottom, who predicts his extraordinary job of acting and states his preference for the “fun” parts, seems to be the clown of the group. Snug, worrying that he will not learn his part in time, seems well aware of his limitations. Flute, on the other hand, is the literalist wondering how he can play a woman if he is growing a beard. Quince is all business and reassuring as well, making certain each is comfortable with his role and ironing out any problems they may foresee with their parts. Starveling and Snout are perfectly acquiescent, asking no questions and making no comments.