How to Open a Play According to Shakespeare:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream- Act 1
Theseus and Hippolyta are speaking about their wedding upon the beginning of this play. Also, the controversy and drama is developed right from the start. Theseus speaks with Egeus about his daughter Hermia and her disobedience. Hermia does not wish to marry Demetrius, and is defiant of her father’s wishes. Hermia gives her opinions about her true love, Lysander. She basically argues against her dad’s wishes. There is also competition and remarks between Demetrius and Lysander. Demetrius loves Hermia, but is rejected while Lysander loves her and receives her love as well. This sets up the play for the love stories and drama that ensues.
Twelfth Night- Act 1
Orsino gives a speech about love and falling in love. He expresses his passionate feelings towards Olivia. We discover that Olivia has lost her brother and will not show her face for seven years. The conversation is comical, because Orsino is so obsessed with Olivia he doesn’t care for her loss, but admires the love she has for her brother. He hopes this will someday transfer to him. This opening scene sets up the bizarre love dynamic that will unfold throughout the play.
Much Ado About Nothing- Act 1
This is slightly different from the others. The play begins with the mentions of war. Leonato speaks with a messenger concern battle, war, and some of the characters who are introduced a little later. The reader hears about the noble soldiers, who have seen battle, Claudio and Don Pedro. This introduction seems very masculine with all the mention of fighting, war, battle, and the compliments Leonato dispenses. The conversation continues with introductions to Leonato’s kin, Beatric and Hero. Other soldiers are mentioned as the story unfolds. There is a contrast between the mentions of war and the witty verbal war between Beatrice and Benedick. Beatrice says she always wins and is Leonato says she is too critical.
Othello – Act 1
Shakespeare jumps right into the action in Act 1 of Othello. Roderigo and Iago entering and start talking badly about Othello, although they do not mention his name. They talk and decide to go to Brabantio’s house to deliver the news that his daughter has betrayed him. They are mischievous, and at first Brabantio does not believe them. However, upon discovering his daughter missing he soon is very upset with the truth of this news.
There are common themes among these plays and how they all begin. I think Shakespeare does this to capture the attention of the audience. As a reader, we are sucked right into the action and dramatics of his plays. I’m sure the effect is the same with a live performance of the plays, the audience is enticed from the very beginning of the play. Through this process, we can see similar themes arising early in the play and also the way Shakespeare entices his audience.