The following sample essay on Comedy In A Midsummer Night’s Dream Essay discusses it in detail, offering basic facts and pros and cons associated with it. To read the essay’s introduction, body and conclusion, scroll down.
I am writing an essay based on the several ways Shakespeare creates comedy in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I will start by explaining the visual humour first, followed by the aural humour and ending with my conclusion that gives an overall evaluation of Shakespeare’s presentation of humour in this play.
Doing this I will hope to find out how a contemporary audience still finds the play humorous just as an Elizabethan audience did four hundred years ago. Plays are meant to be performed and therefore the visual aspect of them is very important when examining an aspect of the play.
They are not like books where the reader must imagine the pictures in his/her head. Some plays can be performed over the radio but they rely completely on aural skills to be appreciated.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream would lose much of it’s humour were the audience only able to listen to it. There is a lot of visual humour to be appreciated within this play. An example of this is when the lovers chase each other through the woods. Both men, Lysander and Demetrius, are in love with only one woman, Hermia. Helena just follows Demetrius like a lost puppy, obsessively declaring her love for him.
Demetrius: I’ll run from thee, and hide me in the brakes, and leave thee to the mercy of wild beasts.
Helena: The wildest hath not such a heart as you. Run when you will. The story shall be changed. No matter how repulsed Demetrius seems, Helena will not take no for an answer and maintains stalking him throughout the woods. After Lysander falls in blind love with Helena, she becomes suspicious and confused making it impossible for the audience not to laugh when Hermia and Helena provide one of the most comical scenes of the play, the catfight.
Together they scream amusing accusations to each other as then men start to fight. Hermia: O me, you juggler, you canker-blossom, you thief of love. What, have you come by night and stolen my love’s heart from him? Helena: Have you no modesty, no maiden shame, no touch of bashfulness? What, will you tear impatient answers from my gentle tongue? Fie, fie, you counterfeit, you puppet, you! An Elizabethan audience as well as a contemporary audience would have found this hilarious, considering how this it is such a weak argument.
Shakespeare also shows a great deal of hilarity when all of the Elizabethan workmen take a shot at acting. Bottom recommends a prologue, to show he is in reality Bottom and the lion was in fact snug the joiner so that the ladies would not become ‘frightened and hysterical’. He suggested they also cut out all the fighting. This would make the play look very funny considering the play was essentially based on fighting. To top off the whole performance, the men play the rolls of the ladies, and attempt high-pitched voices just to feel the part.
Bottom, in my opinion, is the funniest character in the whole. For instance, they are all in the forest and are each given part to play. Bottom is given the part of Pyramus, the manly man that would be perfect for him. is given the part of Thisby, but Bottom jumps at the chance and pleads to get this part and virtually every other part Quince assigns. It’s funny the way he over-performs each part to be in the spotlight. Whilst A Midsummer Night’s Dream is visually comic, a lot would be lost were there no sound to go with it. The play is rich in Shakespeare’s language as a tool for creating comedy.
I am now going to explore the various ways that the language is used to this effect. A lot of enjoyable malapropism is in this play. Bottom displays this plenty of times when rehearsing and performing the play. Annoying Quince, he tends to say ninny quite a lot of times instead of Ninus, ninny meaning stupid or foolish. Quince also makes the same mistake when Bottom’s head is turned into an ass’ head.
Quince confuses his words and tells him ‘thou art translated’ when really he intended to say transformed. Bottom says, “What do you see? You see an ass-head of your own do you? This is ironic, bearing in mind only the audience can see that he himself has the head of an ass and he just happens to come out with this. His voice as a donkey is very funny and husky in comparison to Titania’s gentle voice, and when she speaks to him as though is any ordinary person, it will leave the audience in hysterics. The four lovers bring aural comedy into the play with their content of language. Just the manner of the words Demetrius uses is enough to make anyone laugh when he says; ‘I would rather feed his (Lysander’s) carcass to my hounds’.
Shakespeare has took a pleasant man and fed him funny language used in context in this way. Hermia gets labelled a lot of things, and all because of her size. One of the things Lysander identifies her with, is a bead. But he does not stop there, and continues to compare her with an acorn of all things. I believe the whole play relies on every form of comedy. It would not have the same hysteria if it had only the aural comedy and equally the other way round with Visual humour. I don’t feel that the play would have had as much of a humorous affect if it had a miserable ending.
The audience would see the unhappy ending and have that fixed in their head blocking out the funny side of the play. Shakespeare’s made this play comical by using witty humour, offending characters in an amusing way and even providing visual hilarious scenes that not only an Elizabethan audience would find funny but a contemporary audience would, just as much. But saying that, there were a lot of scenes where it just wouldn’t be funny to a contemporary audience because the humour has matured a lot more than it would’ve been in the sixteenth century.
For example, all the men who played the women’s parts, this would be extremely amusing for a sixteenth century audience because in those days things were different and it was uncommon. An audience today would have seen this so many times in reality that the funny side of it would have just worn off. I personally only found slight parts of the book funny and the video moderately funny. Whether I’d find the film funny or not I think relies totally on the director and whether he feels the comedy he adds in is appropriate or pointless. He’s the only one who can decide the comedy involved in the play and just hope the audience enjoy it.