Alternate Ending – Play within the Play

            Shakespeare has a very witty way of writing when it comes to including plays within plays.  This type of device is a strong tool for foreshadowing, reflection and comparison.  There are other works by Shakespeare which incorporate plays into an already existing work, like Hamlet and The Taming of the Shrew.  In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, being that the play within a play is at the very end, I can only see it to be a reflection of what could have possibly been if the fate of the characters were to result in tragedy.  Although I still have yet to come to a solid conclusion as to why the play needs to be performed, I do see it as an “alternate ending” if the play were to be a tragedy.  Not only does this idea resonate with me but it further enforces the reasoning behind Egeus’ reluctance to have Theseus choose this play to be performed on not only his wedding night, but also the wedding night of Egeus’ daughter, Hermia.  After all that has happened over the course of four short dream-like days, the fate of all the characters luckily end up in a happily ever after marriage, just as comedies should.
            Since Theseus chose to watch Pyramus and Thisbe (we all knew this play would be the choice at the end despite having an option to pick an alternative) I decided to look for a clear summary to read through about the story, without interruptions to protect the audience from fear.  Upon reading this, I see a clear representation of what could have been Egeus’ future because of his actions towards Hermia in the beginning of the play.  Egeus’ personality is nothing short of rash and selfish in every aspect possible.  Although the stories are not identical, there is still a very strong comparison between the two stories.  If the parents of Pyramus and Thisbe had let their children meet each other and allow them to love and make their own choices, the two “star-crossed” lovers would never have run away to “Ninny’s tomb” to meet one another and flee the strict rules they live under (V.I. 199).  Egeus’ is the physical representation of the parents in the play.   Although nothing is mentioned in the play/myth of the parents reactions to the situation, one can only assume the devastation and reflection certain events cause them. After Egeus hears of the play on his own time, I believe he has a realization as to what the play could do with his emotions, and that is why he tries to tell Theseus;
                        No, my noble lord,
                         It is not for you.  I have heard it over,
                         And it is nothing, nothing in the world,
                        Unless you can find sport in their intents
                        Extremely stretched, and conned with cruel pain
                        To do you service (V.I.77-81)
Unfortunately for Egeus, Theseus disregards what he says and the play is performed.  For readers, we are given the tragic element of a play that we find entertaining with a bit of comedic relief. Finally at the end, we still see the play finish with a happy ending but know the story of these lovers could have ended under different circumstances, circumstance that would have been all because of Egeus’ forceful actions as a pushy father. 
            This whole play makes me also recognize that every action has its own results, and one never knows which way the situation will end, but that would be a completely different blog post involving so much more including the fairies, Helena and other characters.  Seeing that the play is able to end happy allows the characters and readers to embrace the goodness of the play and be thankful for the ability to end happily in marriage instead of death. 
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One thought on “Alternate Ending – Play within the Play

  1. Cyrus Mulready

    What your post raises for me, Brianna, is an important insight about the close relation of comedy and tragedy. We can imagine how the outcome of this play could have been very different with only a few small differences. Likewise, it doesn't take much for Shakespeare to transform the sad story of Pyramus and Thisbe into a farce. I take this to be one of the key ideas of the play, that tragedy and comedy are radically different genres that are separated by such a thin veil of difference.

    Reply

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