To what extent is the mechanicals’ performance of Pyramus and Thisby a success? ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’ is a play about love, magic and comedy. At the start of the play, there are four days until the Duke Theseus and his lady Hippolyta get married. At the court, there are four young people; Hermia, Demetrius, Helena and Lysander. Hermia and Lysander love each other, Demetrius loves Hermia, and Helena loves Demetrius. Titania and Oberon are the King and Queen of the fairies. Oberon decides to play a trick on Titania because they are having an argument over a slave boy.
Oberon gets his trusty slave Puck to use a “Love in Idleness” flower to make Demetrius love Helena. Puck gets confused and mixes up the people. Oberon uses the “Love in Idleness” flower on Titania, hoping that she will fall in love with something monstrous. When she wakes up she sees Bottom, who Puck had mischievously given an Asses head. She falls in love with Bottom. Oberon tells Puck to correct his mistakes, but he doesn’t quite get it right. Now, Hermia loves Lysander who loves Helena. Demetrius also loves Helena. Helena doesn’t love anyone and isn’t happy because she feels that everyone is making a mockery of her.
Oberon uses the love flower to make Titania love him again. Puck sorts out the mess and makes it so that Hermia and Lysander love each other and Demetrius and Helena love each other. Including Theseus and Hippolyta, three couples get married at the end of the play. Their entertainment at the reception is a play put on by the mechanicals. During rehearsals, the play is described by the mechanicals as “A tedious and brief scene of young Pyramus and his love Thisby; a very tragical mirth” (5. 1. 56), but when performing it is described as “The most lamentable comedy and most cruel death of Pyramus and Thisby” (1.
2. 11). The mechanicals aimed for “Pyramus and Thisby” to be a tragedy, but due to poor acting skills and the play being poorly written, the audience find it to be a comedy. There is a lot of humour written into the script, such as “These lily lips, this cherry nose, these yellow cowslip cheeks are gone” (3. 3. 3) Shakespeare has also written in little errors that the actors make during performance, such as “I see a voice, and I can hear my sweet Thisby’s’ face” (1. 1. 95) and “Wilt thou at Ninnys Tomb meet me straight way? ” (5. 1. 204), instead of Ninus Tomb.
In some versions this is seen as comical, but in the BBC version the audience just sigh disappointedly. In both the Michael Hoffman version and the RSC version the prompt (Quince) gets very frustrated at the actors and shouts the corrections, disturbing the play. The play is written in very bad verse, which is meant to sound intelligent but in fact lowers the audiences’ opinion of the mechanicals. The prologue is written with all of the punctuation in the wrong places, so that when read out it sounds muddled up.
For example; “If we offend, it is with our good will, that you should think, we come not to offend, but with good will” (5.1. 108) This quote also shows that the mechanicals are apologising for their performance before it has even begun, which lowers the audiences opinions of them even further; “His speech was like a tangled chain: nothing impaired, but all disordered” (5. 1. 126). There is also over use of alliteration. For example; “Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade, he bravely broache’d his boiling bloody breast” (5. 1. 148). This sounds unintelligent and does not impress the audience. Pyramus’ opening speech is a complete waste of time. He repeats the same points again and again.
He is trying to be profound and intelligent but it just makes him sound silly; “O Night, which ever art, when day is not: O Night, O night, Alack, Alack, Alack” (5. 1. 171) the rest of the speech is pretty much a repetition of that quote. It is completely ridiculous and exaggerated. I have seen ‘Pyramus and Thisby’ represented on film in three different versions. I watched the Royal Shakespeare Company version, the BBC version, and the Michael Hoffman version (Starring Michelle Pfeiffer). The RSC version was very different from the others because they had made it more modern.
The wedding had obviously had a Hawaiian theme and the Duke and Hippolyta spoke in almost modern English. What I didn’t like about this version was that they had added a character, a little boy, which I didn’t understand. The BBC version was very monotonous and the acting was very serious. In the Michael Hoffman version before the play starts Wall tries to run away backstage but the others pull him back. The casts’ costumes are ridiculous and exaggerated. Pyramus inappropriately wears Armour. Thisby (played by Snout, a young man) wears a dress, a lot of make up and extraordinarily long pigtails.