Merchant of Venice

Challenging the Verbal Contract: The Trial of the Rings in The Merchant of Venice

ShakespeareÃÂÂs A Midsummer NightÃÂÂs Dream is a play that reveals its scaffolding. Behavior and motive are explained for comic consistency and unity, almost as if the playwright did not trust our capacity to intuit them. This is seen most starkly in Act V, Scene I, the ÃÂÂplay within a play,ÃÂ? in which the rude mechanicals stage a play for the benefit of Theseus and the company of lovers. The exposed cues are dropped by the mechanicals for comic effect, as in PyramusÃÂÂs verbal repetition of his visual act on stage: ÃÂÂI see a voice: now will I to the chink / To spy an I can hear my ThisbyÃÂÂs faceÃÂ? (5.1.192-93). It does not take long for the audience to begin to conform to the charade. After Wall announces his departure, Theseus picks up the cue, anticipating MoonshineÃÂÂs entrance and speaking in his stead: ÃÂÂNow is the moon used between the two neighborsÃÂ? (5.1.207-8). ShakespeareÃÂÂs insistence on exposing the structure of the internal play suggests the untrustworthiness of the playÃÂÂs audience, that is, the aristocrats of TheseusÃÂÂs court and citystate; their struggle to comprehend motive and behavior invests A Midsummer NightÃÂÂs Dream with a pervasive feeling of unnaturalness that goes beyond the playÃÂÂs...

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