Sunday, September 9, 2012

Oh, A "play within a play"

The final act of this play, is one that I was not expecting while I was reading the play. While I was hoping for a more Romeo and Juliet ending, I found this act to end the play on a more comical note. I want to mainly focus on act 5 scene 1 of the play. In class we have been talking a great deal about the significance of the "play within a play". At this particular moment in the play, Theseus is already married to Hippolyta and is looking to enjoy some entertainment that has been prepared for the occasion.
 I find it quiet comical that the options Theseus is given do not seem very appropriate for a wedding to begin with. The first option that Theseus reads aloud is about a battle between Hercules and the Centaurs (line 44-47). Not only is it a play about a battle, but it is "to be sung/ By an Athenian eunuch to the harp" (line 44-45). The most comical about this play is Theseus' reason for not wanting to see this play performed, "We'll none of that. That have I told my love" (line 46). It is not the gruesome realities of battle that leads to Theseus to opt against the play, it is because he told his new wife the story already.
The second choice that Theseus has is the play "The riot of the tipsy Bacchanals, Tearing the Thracian singer in their rage". Just the title of the play alone says that it is not very wedding like! Drunk individuals that rip a singer to shreds is not reason enough not to watch it on your wedding night for Theseus. No, his reason is that the play is old and he saw it the last time he came back from his conquer of Thebes. (line 50-51).
His third option is "The thrice three Muses mourning for the death of learning, late deceased in beggary". Now this play is probably the closest on the list to appropriate for a wedding, although not 100% the best choice, but Theseus says, "That is some satire, keen and critical, Not sorting with a nuptial ceremony" (line 53-55).
Finally, Theseus chooses the play that our "Hard-handed men that work in Athens" (line 72) have put together because it is a very sad and tradgic comedy. As I read this, I could not help but say to myself, "because that is just all kinds of perfect for a wedding!" 
Did anyone else find this moment of the play to be one of the most comical moments toward the end of the play?


Elizabeth Pinto said...

I was confused as to why you were hoping for a Romeo and Juliet ending. In the end of act 4 when the two sets of lovers are found everything is resolved. There would be no need for either couple to plot a fake death to be together.

But on the note of Theseus choosing the post wedding entertainment I do agree with you. None of the options are appropriate and his reasoning is incredibly flawed. I feel he chose the play put on by the mechanicals because they wouldn't know how to be actors. I think he knew they would really mess it up in such a way that would be entertaining for him and his guests.

Erika Pumilia said...

By Romeo and Juliet I meant a more tradgic ending. Not a fake death. Being that the choices for entertainment were so dark, I was wondering if this was forshadowing on Shakespeare's part. I guess I was simply not expecting what I got.