“A Play within a Play” Humorous or Exasperating?

The one question that came to my mind when reading Act 5, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, was why would the author insert a play inside of his own writings of a play? I thought this was quite odd, very rarely have I ever read anything where an author has a character reading a book in their stories. So I thought to myself why would Shakespeare do such a thing like add a play to his play. I have come up with a few ideas as to why I think he would have done this.

My first idea was that he had added this little play to prompt humor into his story line. I mean everyone has to admit that the characters in Pyramus and Thisbe are quite amusing . They even goes as far as to apologize in the beginning for how their acting is going to be. Even the constant criticisms made from the main characters in Midsummer Night’s Dream make fun of them. This led me to then think that maybe he was trying to make a humorous reference to how silly his own characters were being portrayed in the story.

My second thought was that it is kind of ironic how in Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream he has made his characters to be couples that go through odd yet funny situations of falling in love with one another and although there are trials and tribulations throughout the story it turns out to be a happy ending. But in Pyramus and Thisbe the couple who is in love end up killing themselves due to the fact that they think the other has died. So my thought was maybe he was trying to incorporate a different ending or version within his story.

Then a third and kind of silly reasoning came to mind as to maybe he was short for time and just added another play to this story to lengthen it. Maybe his play was just to short and didn’t have what he thought would be enough comical material to keep peoples attention so he added this. And due to the fact that it was a popular play of that time people could reference to his play.

My opinion is just that I thought it was kind of a distraction to use a play in a play. It just adds more characters to tell apart from who is who and adds another story line to remember and differentiate the details from one another. For me it was just a little confusing. I would of rather read something like details about the festivities of all the weddings or something of that nature.


One thought on ““A Play within a Play” Humorous or Exasperating?

  1. hackb

    Although I thought the ending was strange, I like the idea of adding a play within a play. It’s like a mockumentary. Making a movie or a show within the actually work of (often times) fiction – THIS IS SPINAL TAP – THE OFFICE – TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN. I love the idea of adding in another layer to the film making process (or whatever the medium may be; it doesn’t have to be film). It creates a stronger bond with the audience; that is, they feel closer to the characters, almost like they are part of them and their friends. It blows my mind to be able to play with the audience’s mind like that and use the surrounding elements in the work to develop the character/audience relationship.


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