By the time we have reached the concluding act of William Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream everything has pretty much already been resolved. By the end of act four all the lovers are in their proper pairs (with a little help from the fairies of course), and Titania has been released from her love for the half-man, half-ass creature.
So, if everybody is all set to live “happily ever after” why does Shakespeare include this fifth act? My guess would have to be that there are elements of this play that are much murkier than what is visible on the surface; this can be seen through the ludicrous rendition of The Tale of Pyramus and Thisbe. The Tale of Pyramus and Thisbe is meant to be a tragic story. However, the mechanicals butcher their production so much that it becomes comedic rather than tragic, and I find that somewhat disturbing. There is nothing really funny about teenagers killing themselves for love. It is all just very twisted, especially because this is th
e play being performed after a ceremony of love.
It is as if the fifth act was included just to make the audience feel just ever so slightly uncomfortable, and to remind us that “the course of true love never did run smooth” (Act I, Scene I). And although, the lovers all seem happy right now, there is always a chance for things to go awry.
Puck reminds the audience in his closing speech, “If we have shadows have offended, Think but this, and all is mended…And this weak and idle theme, No more yielding but a dream” (Act V, Scene I). Meaning, that if you felt this play provoked some uncomfortable and unsettling emotions, think of it simply as a dream. Because as lovely as everything ended there is something off about how it ended. So, if the audience is able to think of this story in the same way one thinks of a dream, there a better chance of being able to digest this somewhat convoluted tale of young lovers.