I love the last lines of Act V. Puck is insisting that if the play offended anyone in the audience or if they did not find it enjoyable, that they should simply remember it as a dream.
“If we shadows have offended, / Think but this, and all is mended, / That you have but slumber’d here / While these visions did appear. / And this weak and idle theme, / No more yielding but a dream” (5.1.281)
I think that this is fascinating and just flat out funny. On one hand, it makes me think that you shouldn’t take things so seriously in life and that if you ever find yourself stressing out about something transient or relatively unimportant, you should think of it as a dream from which you can extract a small lesson. This makes it easier to move past the small details. On the other hand, it is funny because he and his colleagues have just put on a ridiculous rendition of a tragic love story and he just says at the end, “Hey guys, sorry if it sucked, but you can just pretend like it was a part of your subconscious and we’ll just move on. Thanks for watching though”. And this also fits as a nice reminder that the four young lovers don’t really remember what happened with them the night they fell asleep in the forest and everything felt like it was a dream.
Was Act V necessary? I think it was. It probably could have been done away with, but I think it had a nice reinforcement factor. A lot of the times when I read a story or watch a movie, I feel like the ending is just a placeholder and that after it “ends”, anything else can happen. If Act V wasn’t there, and I didn’t see the characters moving on with their lives after everything worked out as it should have, I would probably feel like it could fall apart at any moment because so much happened between the characters that was either uncontrollable or unpredictable. That’s more of a preferential thing though. The inclusion of Act V gave me a sort of safety net to know that all would be fine for the characters who went through hell to fall into proper love … if you can even call it that after so much supernatural interference.
It was also interesting to see the similarities between the stories of Romeo and Juliet and Pyramus and Thisbe. It is always cool to think of Shakespeare as an actual guy who wrote these stories and to think that perhaps this act of this play inspired him to write one of the greatest love stories of all time.