Metatheatre in a Midsummer Night's Dream

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METATHEATRE IN A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (SHAKESPEARE). The term metatheatre is used to refer to any instance in which a play draws attention to itself as a play, rather than pretending to be a representation of “reality.” Various uses of metatheatrical devices can be found in the works of William Shakespeare. One of Shakespeare’s favorite such devices is the “play-within-a-play.” With this device, the theatre audience finds itself watching an audience (on stage) watching a play. The play-within-a-play is thus a self-reflexive device that addresses the question of where audience reality ends and theatrical illusion begins. Shakespeare often incorporated the device as an integral part of his plots. A famous example can…show more content…
Puck’s statement reflects back to the words used by Quince in his prologue to the play-within-a-play. In the words of Quince: “If we offend, it is with our good will. That you should think, we come not to offend, but with good will” (5.1.108-109). Throughout A Midsummer Night’s Dream, while the story involving Lysander, Demetrius, Hermia, Helena, Oberon and Titania is developing, the rustic gentlemen (Bottom and his friends) are shown rehearsing for a play that they will perform in honor of the upcoming wedding of Theseus (the Duke of Athens) and Hippolyta. The play, “Pyramus and Thisby,” is based on a story that was told by the ancient Roman writer Ovid and retold by Chaucer. The “Pyramus and Thisby” play is not performed until the fifth and final act of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. By then, as Barton points out, the major problems of Lysander, Demetrius and the rest have all been neatly resolved. As such, the “Pyramus and Thisby” play-within-a-play “seems, in effect, to take place beyond the normal, plot-defined boundaries of comedy” (Barton 110). Taylor argues that the speech made by Theseus before the play-within-a-play is performed “brings logic and order to all that is illogical and

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