Discuss the role of the play- within- a- play in Act V of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Does the Pyramus and Thisbe story have any relevance to the main story, or is it simply a comical interlude? What effect does the mechanicals production of their play have on the tone of the play as a whole? The Pymamus and Thisbe story in Act V of A Midsummer Night’s Dream plays an important role to the main story. Not only does the play- within- a- play echoes with the story of the four lovers- Helena, Hermia, Lysander and Demetrius, it also serves as a reinforcement of the theme: love.
Though the mechanicals’ production seems to be a comic interlude, it is a warning to both the pairs of lovers and to the audience about the potential danger brought by love’s blindness. Despite the tragic content of the play- within- a- play, the mechanicals’ comic illustration and performance makes the play a lot more lighthearted. On top of that, the play- within- a- play brings in the major message of the story- that “the best in this kind [of play] are but shadows; and the worst are no worse, if imagination amend[s] them. ” The echo between the two plays starts at the very beginning of the Pymamus and Thisbe story.
Objections from the father of Thisby act as a “wall” “stand[ing] between” Thisbe and Pyramus. Despite the objection from the great father authority, the “fearful lovers” risk everything just to hear the other one’s “whisper” and the only way for the lovers to communicate is through the “crannied hole” on the wall. This is very much similar with the situation of Hermia and Lysander. Their relationship is extremely opposed by Hermia’s father, Egeus who is by then having the greatest power, the power to “dispose/ her”. Hermia is given three unfavourable choices- to marry Demetrius, “die the death or to abjure forever the society of men”.
Indeed, “the course of true love never did run smooth” and this is vividly portrayed in the situations of the pairs of lovers. Besides having to encounter the same high authority’s objection, the pairs of lovers share a common asset or you can say liability, which is the passionate power of love. The power is so strong that it makes Hermia “bold” enough to “turn her obedience which is due to [her father] to stubborn harshness”; it is so powerful that it causes Thisbe as a lady to neglect her father’s opposition and “meet [Pyramus] at Ninus’ tomb”.
Love not only makes the lovers blind in sight but in the mind. Without “judgment taste”, the lovers can only count on their instincts, thus without doubt, makes rash and irrational decisions. For Hermia, she and Lysander make a decision without second thought: to get married in the “place the sharp Athenian law cannot pursue [them]”. Splendid does the idea sound, but obviously elopement would not be the best solution. It is way too risky and dangerous and the main reason of them making such decision is that love makes a person impatient and selfish.
As John Donne said in The Good Morrow, the lovers “possess one world, each hath one and is one”, they are living in a world with no outsiders. The objections and obstacles “stand as an edict in destiny”, a kind of “a customary cross” which teaches them “trial patience”. Therefore, like a fence in front, what they only need to do is to jump over it. However, did they think about walking around it or any other methods? Echoing the main story, Thisbe as well though fully aware of the consequences, decides to make a rash decision and to meet Pyramus in a secret place, the Ninus’ tomb.