A Midsummer Night's Dream

The Theater as Irrational Distillate in A Midsummer Night's Dream

By the time A Midsummer Night's Dream reaches its final act, the major conflicts of the play have already more or less been resolved. Thus, instead of serving its usual function, this comedy's Act V offers the audience a chance to reflect on what they just watched. The play within a play in particular can be interpreted as illustrating Shakespeare's vision of theater. He places his actors on a stage within a stage, a location where they can evade the official authority of the expectations of not only real life, but the relativistic "real life" shared by all the characters in A Midsummer Night's Dream. In this fantasy world of Pyramus and Thisbe the actors are free to speak in opposites, misnomers and ridiculous extremes, which forces their audience to try to tease some order from their disorder. This is consistent with how the audience should approach interpreting A Midsummer Night's Dream: by understanding the nuances of the confused interactions of the characters from such a removed perspective, one can then, in the words of Theseus, "find the concord of [the] discord" within their own lives. (5.1.60) In this regard, Shakespeare's theater serves as a simplified,...

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