Humor in Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare
The Play “Pyramus and Thisbe”
Historical records from the late sixteenth century are marked by the severe outcomes of the plague, which spread throughout most of Europe. The increased death rate and famine suppressed cultural development and thus very few works of art or literature were produced. During these devastating years, the young poet William Shakespeare refused to travel to the provinces, away from London, where the plague had reached enormous extents. On the contrary, in 1593 and 1594 he composed the poems Venus and Adonis and Lucrece which were both met by great interest and excitement. These positive responses encouraged Shakespeare and with even stronger efforts he wrote the play A Midsummer Night’s Dream in the beginning of 1595, when the plague was brought under control. This work not only marks the end of famine and suffering in London during the late sixteenth century, but also signifies that the Master is now “confident in his art, at ease with it, as a man in his dressing-gown”. Categorized as a festive comedy, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a considerable advance in Shakespeare’s work. The most remarkable evidence for this advance is the skilful usage of different variations of humor in one play. Another distinctive aspect of the work is the incorporation of another play within the borders of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Analysis of different characteristics of the work should inevitably focus on the story of the craftsmen performing “Pyramus and Thisbe”, since this part is a representative of Shakespearean comedy and all of its patterns. Therefore, it also portrays the impressionable usage of humor, or more specifically, of literary devices and social characteristics, not only in A Midsummer Night’s Dream but also throughout all Shakespearean comedies. The poet’s works can be roughly categorized in four categories: tragedies, comedies, histories, and romance. All of them are having separate characteristics, tone and style, involving different literary devices and mechanisms. Comedies are usually stories with happy ending, lighthearted patterns and often involving a marriage. They all have a distinct usage of humor, which can be defined as innovative and typically Shakespearean. The plays usually present the struggle of young lovers who have to get over many obstacles in pursue of their feelings and often involve mistaken identities, separation and unification, heightened tensions within a family, and multiple plots. One very significant trait of the poet’s comedies is that they do not involve any satire, which makes them more lighthearted and easy to process. The common setting of the plots tends to be nature, more specifically the “green world”. This is one of Shakespeare’s preferred cites since it creates a more casual atmosphere, where jokes and puns easily find their way to the public, unbound by the social norms present the city. Another significance of the setting is the current time period, which constitutes the pattern of the society, its expectations and rules, and its literacy. The poet carefully takes advantage of the prejudices and the ideologies of the public and hence makes his comedies very contemporary, discussing topics that are relevant to the time period. Shakespearean comedies imply the participation of the audience and therefore they are dependent on people’s way of viewing life and way of expression. A play performed during the period of its setting would be far more funny and entertaining than the same play performed nowadays because of the evolved human way of thinking. Nonetheless, Shakespearean comedies contain certain literal devices creating humor, which function in the same way now, as four centuries ago. The story of the amateur and awkward actors in A Midsummer Night’s Dream contains a great deal of those devices, which make it independent upon the public, still involving it in its plot....
Please join StudyMode to read the full document