GCSE English Coursework
A Midsummer Night's Dream' is one of Shakespeare's best-known comedies. With close reference to two scenes, show and discuss the variety of different kinds of comedy possible to be found in the play
A Midsummer Night's Dream' hereon after referred to as MND, has its plot closely circled around comedy. There is something potentially funny about every single character in the play. However, almost no one will find every character funny. Shakespeare has accommodated for most senses of humour. He has verbal comedy, an example from a television programme today would be Dead Ringers' in which celebrities and politicians alike are impersonated and their personalities exaggerated. Also, for the perhaps less intellectual people, there is straight forward slapstick humour, people falling over etc. In Shakespeare's time, the people that would understand vocal comedy would be the professional middle class, who would be educated and able to understand complex jokes. These kinds of people had their tastes inclined towards very fine writing and strikingly original writing. He also appealed to the groundling, working class peoples. They would have been uneducated and needed people falling over to be amused, as said before. They needed more physical comedy than verbal comedy. An example of this might be the children's television programme Chucklevision, or the older Laurel and Hardy. This, unlike Chucklevision plays on the opposites, one very fat man, and one small thin man, very much like the book, Of Mice and Men', with George and Lenny. However, Of Mice and Men' is not meant to be comical in any way. Personally, I am amused by both types of comedy. Sometimes it is nice not to have to work to understand a joke, and to be able to laugh so hard your sides hurt. Quite a lot of the verbal comedy we see today makes you smile at the joke or remark, but laugh out loud not so much.
The basic comedy in MND is that the rude mechanicals and wealthy Athenians are both in the woods at the same time, and even though they have know idea, and would never believe it, are affecting and interfering with both parties affections and in Bottom's case; looks! The comedy then evolves mostly from the meddling fairies; however the plain stupidity of the rude mechanicals is also extremely comic. There is also a certain amount of dramatic irony in the play, because we all know why Lysander and Demetrius fallen out of love with Hermia, but she has not a clue.
The first of two scenes from MND that I found to be the funniest is from Act III Scene II. Both Demetrius and Lysander have had the love potion poured into their eyes, and have both now fallen madly in love with Helena, who is less attractive than Hermia, whom they were both besotted with before. Hermia, who is used to the two Athenian gentlemen fighting over her, is shocked when neither of them will pay her a second glance; and even more surprised when they both run after Helena exclaiming their love for her. Helena is angry more than shocked and flattered, which she probably should have been. She thinks that they have all ganged up against her and plotted to ridicule her by pretending to be in love with her. There is a lot of name calling in this scene, and the comedy lies from the opposites. Thinking about the play visually, we must imagine one very tall, pale, fairly flat chested maiden, possibly a curly, messy red head to add insult to injury! On the other hand, a short, tanned big bosomed maiden, with dark brown flowing hair, who is far more attractive. The two women are going at each other, claws out, picking out each other's faults viciously. One very funny aspect of the verbal comedy is the invective. For example, Hermia begins the name calling row by calling Helena a canker-blossom'. This is a worm, and she means that Helena is a worm that has eaten its way inside the apple of her and Lysander's love, and is now turning it rotten....
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