Comical Interlude in a Midsummer Night??™s Dream
A comical interlude is a part in a play where there is a break from the main plotting and is a chance for the audience and actors to relax. Some may argue that the final scene in ‘A Midsummer Night’s dream’ is only a comical interlude and nothing more as it does not relate to the main story directly. However, I would argue against this and say that the last scene is written by Shakespeare as a clever way of showing the audience what might have happened to the lovers. Also, a common convention of comedies is mockery, so the craftsman’s play could be interpreted as a way of mocking the foolish behavior of the four lovers.
Another classic convention of comedy is forbidden love. In both ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Paramus and Thesis’ there is a couple who are forbidden to marry. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it’s Segues forbidding Alexander and his daughter Hernia to marry, ‘Scornful Alexander… And all my right of her I do estate unto Demerits’. This shows that Segues treats Alexander with contempt and considers him unworthy to marry his daughter. The word ‘estate’ shows that Segues treats Hernia as his property and not as a human. This reflects what life was like in the Elizabethan era as women were expected to obey their fathers and men in general.
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In ‘Paramus and Thesis’, we do not get told that the lovers are forbidden to marry, however Snout says, ‘Paramus and Thesis, Did whisper often, very secretly. ‘ So, we presume that these lovers are not meant to be together- that’s why they’re meeting in private. One explanation to why Shakespeare connected these two is because at the beginning, the forbidden love is very serious as people may die however at the end in ‘Paramus and Thesis’, it is very humorous. It also means that the characters watching ‘Paramus and Thesis’ can look jack and laugh at themselves, so Shakespeare is mocking a key flaw in humanity, our hypocritical nature.
In both plays, the couples decide to run off together. Hernia and Alexander go to the forest, ‘Steal forth… And in the wood, a league without the town’. The word ‘steal’ automatically shows you that what they are doing is criminal and very serious. On the other hand, Paramus and Thesis decide to go to Minus’ Tomb’, Wilt thou at Ninny’s tomb meet me straightway. Compared to the serious language used by Alexander, Bottom mispronouncing ‘Minus’ tomb’ for ‘Ninny’s tomb’ is humorous as it wows how uneducated him and the rest of the carpenters are.
You could also say that it shows how arrogant Bottom is, as clearly he was not listening when Quince corrects Flute of the same mistake, ‘Minus’ tomb, man’. The more likely explanation is that Shakespeare is showing Bottom to be the arrogant fool he is, as Quince managed to understand it. There is a huge difference in where the couples plan to meet, the forest is a very magical place where as Paramus and Thesis are meeting at a tomb which is a very sad, depressing place.
With forests you associate getting lost and infusion which is another classic convention of comedies where as you associate death with tombs and death is a common convention of tragedies. However you could interpret the forest to be like a tomb for the lovers as they fall asleep there and are lucky to be alive thanks to the fairies. The more plausible explanation to why Shakespeare used this comparison between locations is because he wanted to show the strong contrast between a comical forest and a depressing tomb. This is where the stories first start to take different turns and they divide into being a tragedy and a modem.
Both plans seem flawless but they are both disturbed in some way or another. In ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, Oberon and Puck disrupt Hernia and Lassoer’s love together by having Alexander fall in love with Helena, ‘anoint his eyes’. The word ‘anoint’ portrays the fairies and very delicate and gentle when really the fairies are quite the opposite. In ‘Paramus and Thesis’, the Lion disrupts the love, ‘[roaring] 0-! [Lion tears Thistle’s mantle]’. This is comical for the audience as the Lion is meant to be a roaring beast and all he says is ‘O’, This could be interpreted to how that Snug is very stupid or to show that he is very shy.
It is more likely that he is very stupid as this is a lot more comical for the audience. It also contrasts from ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ as the lion (a fearsome animal) is portrayed comically where as the fairies (conventionally happy) portrayed as powerful characters in the play so it shows the tops-truly nature of the play. In both plays, one of the lovers thinks that the other has been slain. Hernia thinks that Demerits has killed Alexander, ‘Out, dog… Hast thou slain him, then? She thinks this as she is so madly in love’ with Alexander and is full of hatred for Demerits.
Shakespeare is trying to young love and show how easily it can affect someone. On the other hand Paramus thinks that Thesis has been eaten by the Lion, ‘O dainty duck! O dear… Lion vile hath here deflowered my dear’. The term ‘deflowered’ is humorous for the audience as Bottom is trying to say that Thesis is dead but it can be seen to mean that she’s lost her virginity to the lion which is extremely comical along with ‘dainty duck also being a sexual reference adding to the comedic value.
Both characters use an animal adaptor to portray their emotions, Shakespeare has had Hernia call Demerits a dog to show that she is angry and show that this part of the play is very serious. Bottom/ Paramus says ‘Dainty Duck as he is meant to be upset- but as it’s a humorous production and a duck is a tame animal it is funny because Bottom has most likely made another mistake adding to his egotistical character, it is also a oxymoron as ducks are far from dainty. Not to mention, Shakespeare has used alliteration. There is a connection between both plays throughout and that is still the case in the IANAL part.
Alexander and Hernia get married and live happily ever after, where as both Paramus and Thesis kill themselves. ‘Now die, die, die, die’. This line performed by Bottom as Paramus in the play is an extremely comical moment. Bottom is a self- assured and over confident character who tries to make every part of his role eccentric and exaggerated. So he repeats this line to make it more dramatic but it becomes a comical moment because Shakespeare has created Bottoms character for the audience to laugh at. Another interpretation to why Shakespeare has added in his part is because there is no death in ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’.
This makes sense as the play is a comedy and one of the key conventions of a comedy is that nobody dies and there is at least one marriage at the end. Perhaps Shakespeare included this death of Paramus because the audiences of the time loved seeing people die. So I think the reason Shakespeare killed Paramus off in this humorous way to keep his audience interested and laughing at the same time. The repetition of the word ‘Die’ creates humor as it emphasizes it to the audience and shows how stuck up Bottom is trying to milk every line he has.
Another explanation to why Shakespeare has written it like this is because he wants us to remember Bottom’s humorous death. This particular explanation argues that the craftsman’s play does have relevance to the main story as Shakespeare wants you to remember Paramus dying as much as the wedding. So Shakespeare has put in Bottoms death to show you that Alexander and Hernia were lucky to escape death. On the other hand, you could say that Shakespeare wanted to continue the parallel structure right through to the end so in a way he could be suggesting that marriage is like dying.
When they awake into the real world once again, Demerits says, ‘Are you sure that we are awake? It seems to me that yet we sleep, we dream’. With it being a comedy the plausible interpretation is that Shakespeare put in the craftsman’s play to simply demonstrate what could have happened, not what actually happened. ‘Are you sure that we are awake? Is a rhetorical question often delivered to the audience as to get them to start questioning themselves as to whether or not they have been truly awake the whole time.
So, the green world was all real in the play so the characters ND audience could see the deeper meaning of how humanity has many flaws which are humorous. To conclude, although I understand that the final act is a comical interlude and that’s how most audiences now and then view it, I believe that Shakespeare wrote it in to have a greater meaning than that as it links in to the main plotting so perfectly. The major plot points of ‘Paramus and Thesis’ are not the exact same to ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ but mirrored with tragic conventions instead of comedic to symbolism what could of have happened to the lovers.