In Act V we finally get the performance of the "play within a play." Bottom and his fellow actors put on their show for Theseus and the other happy couples. What I find interesting in this act is what Shakespeare seems to be saying about the power of art and self-belief.
It is first implied that perception of self is important when Theseus makes the comment, "If we imagine no worse of them that they of them-/ selves, they may pass for excellent men," while speaking of the actors (211-212). The actors are simple-minded, and therefore are unable to see the foolish things about themselves that the others make fun of. Because of this, the actors are happy and content, believing that they are putting on a show of high quality for their viewers.We can see here that the extend to which one believes in himself can be powerful.
Shakespeare also shows this idea again, this time in relation to the power of art, in Snugs small speech about the lion. In this part of the play, Snug proceeds to let the audience know that he is simply wearing a costume and that the women have nothing to fear, because the lion is not real. The fact that the actors felt the need to include this in their play shows how passionately they believe in art's power and their own power to convey it. They believe that art has the ability to make people believe things that are not real, and temporarily draw the audience in and make them feel things, such as fear, from watching a play. They see themselves as having mastered this art, and therefore needing to reassure their audience.
I believe that Shakespeare must have chosen to make the actors foolish and simple-minded characters in order to really call attention to the importance of what I've mentioned here. They do not have the same perception of themselves that the audience has of them, and yet it is their own perception that proves to be the most important.