It seems that Shakespeare uses side-notes/side stories as a tool in his playwriting. Having only read The Twelfth Night in addition to a Midsummer Night’s Dream, I am noticing that this is a strategy Shakespeare repeats. It as almost as if he opens his plays by displaying scenes that are loosely connected (which in turn does a very good job at throwing off the audience, in my opinion) and then slowly begins to knit the seemingly unrelated scenes together until the stories are interwoven and become one.
I feel as though the placement of these different scenes serves as a distraction from the main storyline. In this case I’m referring to the main-plot as it is presented in Act I Scene I in contrast to the side-plot in Scene II. First, we are introduced to the ruler, Theseus and his bride to be, Hippolyta. Then we are introduced to the love sick puppies: Demetrius, Hermia, Lysander, and Hermia’s overpowering father figure, Egeus. From there we are introduced to the love-triangle that Shakespeare has created for these characters as well as a general introduction to the obstacles they will be grappling with for the remainder of the play. Then we are thrown into Scene II.
Scene II introduces a whole new slew of characters. I am in agreement with Krystal’s post about the childish nature of these characters, especially in this scene. Scene II is much more carefree and a tad silly if you ask me. As opposed to Scene I, Scene II does not really lay out an obstacle the characters are facing. Rather, it presents a task the characters must fulfill which is to perform a play for the Duke and his bride on their wedding night. The language/dialogue and behavior of these characters lightens the “impending-doom” feeling that Helena’s speech leaves the audience with at the end of Scene I.
Are these distractions actually distractions or am I just really bad at multi-tasking? I feel as though Shakespeare is making his audience work really hard to pay attention and get a full grasp on the play. Is this all a part of Shakespeare’s genius or is this a bad move on his part? Most would have to agree that the man had a way with words, but is it wise to open a play with a scatter-brained type style? Since his plays were being performed for the general public, were these side-stories/distractions a problem for those less versed in the intricate literary strategies implemented in Shakespeare’s plays? I’m just not so sure I see the point in having a plot underlying a plot for something that is to be performed. When read, these types of literary tools are enjoyable and really highlight the skill of the writer but on the stage (in my experience at least) these kinds of methods have more potential to confuse than to bring things to light.