“All’s Well that Ends Well” Sort of…

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.                                     



3 thoughts on ““All’s Well that Ends Well” Sort of…

  1. Jordan White

    I like your interpretation of Act V in that you bring up how Shakespeare wants us to be uncomfortable towards the end. He wants to acknowledge that a neat and compact ending does not exist in real life. Evidence to your argument might be how the Mechanicals keep acknowledging over and over again how that parts they’re playing are not their real selves– for example, when they tell the audience not to be worried about lion because the lion is not real. They obviously do not understand the idea behind theater, which serves as a foil for us to recognize that perhaps there is a separation between the play and real life– perhaps life is not as concise as Acts I-IV portray.

  2. Marcella

    Reading the last Act, I felt uncomfortable as well, finding solace in the fact that the characters felt the same way I did. Like we discussed in class, we see that Helena and Hermia watch the play, but don’t even mutter one word. I think what also makes us (and the characters) feel uncomfortable is the fact that the play of Pyramus and Thisbe closely mirrors the one that we are reading. Hermia and Helena see themselves in the play, and that is pretty frightening.

  3. Michelle

    I agree with Jordan above on the discomfort. But that’s what life is I think. Shakespeare may have been trying to tie in different themes of the reality that he and his audience lived in at the time, but while also letting everyone know that imperfection and ridiculousness is what happens. We know what the mechanicals meant to say. That’s what important to understand, but maybe he was also trying to show that life can take many different perspectives, good or bad. These men clearly thought they were fine at their acting and they were aiming for higher in society, is he encouraging it throughout the play to let it fall at the end? Or is he saying keep trying? And as for the women, they’re realizing the reality of their lives through poor acting. What is trying to tell women of his generation and society? To follow the structure of their rules or be mocked? It’s left to wonder.


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