Advanced English Literature Part 2
Unit 2 Lesson 5
The learner will:
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The Comedic Element
The first four acts of A Midsummer Night’s Dream provide the action of the play. In contrast, Act 5 provides the comedic epilogue by centering on the craftsmen’s play. Thus, in an ironic contrast, the tragedy of Pyramus and Thisbe becomes comical when performed by the craftsmen.
Theme is defined by the Free Online Dictionary as “A topic of discourse or discussion.” There is a significant focus on theme in Act 5 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream in that the main point of having the play-within-a-play storyline is to provide comedic enjoyment for the audience. The tale of Pyramus and Thisbe touches on the themes of both confusion and romantic adversity that are found throughout the play’s main action. In the play, Pyramus and Thisbe are kept apart by their parents, mirroring the plight of Lysander and Hermia. This play-within-a-play that exists in A Midsummer Night’s Dream satirizes the grief that previously beleaguered the Athenian lovers.
Dreams play an essential role in the play. In fact, they are part of its thematic makeup. One of the main themes in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the relationship between dreams and love and obscurity. This is demonstrated when the lovers awaken in the morning in the forest and believe that their experiences were all a dream. Theseus actually suggests the prospect of it all being a dream to Hippolyta; however, she does not believe this is so, as she thinks it is odd that each of the lovers would have experienced the same dream.
Click here to read a critical analysis on theme in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Read Act 5 Scenes I and II of A Midsummer Night’s Dream using this website.
To summarize the reading:
The scene begins with Theseus and Hippolyta discussing the tale they have been told by the young lovers. Theseus does not believe their story, but Hippolyta remarks that each of the lovers told his or her story in exactly the same way, making the tale all the more believable. Theseus is then presented with a selection of plays, each of which he considers undesirable. Theseus is then told of the play the craftsmen have put together about Pyramus and Thisbe. Despite being discouraged to select the play, this is the performance Theseus chooses. After the craftsmen provide a clumsily executed performance, Puck bids the audience good night.
When you have finished reading Act 5 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, check your understanding by responding to the following questions. When you are finished, compare your answers to those provided in the answer key.
1. In Act 5, why does Hippolyta believe the lovers’ story about their experience in the forest?
2. Whose play does Theseus select?
3. Why does Theseus command Demetrius to be silent?
4. What is Hippolyta’s comment regarding the play?
5. How does Pyramus die in the play-within-the-play?
Click here to check your answers.
Now that you have finished reviewing this lesson and reading Act 5 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, complete this graded ten-point assessment.
Assessment not available in sample lesson