A Midsummer Night's Dream | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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A Midsummer Night's Dream | Act 4, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Quince, Flute, Snout, and Starveling sadly bemoan the disappearance of Bottom. They all agree that they cannot perform the play without their Pyramus. Snug enters, saying that Theseus and Hippolyta, Lysander and Hermia, and Demetrius and Helena have all married. They think that if they had been able to perform their play, Theseus might have given them payments of money for life. As they sadly think about this loss, Bottom enters, and they all greet him joyfully. They all go together to the palace in good spirits.

Analysis

The happy ending that began at the end of the Act 3 continues as this act opens. The reunion of Bottom and the other mechanicals echoes the way the lovers are brought together into two happy couples. The conflict of the play has been resolved, and the only event that remains is for the wedding celebration to commence.

When Nick Bottom, the weaver, is enchanted and does not return from the woods, the other mechanicals sadly discuss what life might have been like if they had been able to perform their play for Theseus and the other nobles. They think it is likely they would have had "sixpence a day" for life if the play had been pleasing to the duke. Sixpence is about the same amount a farm worker might receive for a day's work in Shakespeare's time; a skilled worker might be paid a shilling a day, equal to 12 pence. Groundlings, those who stood in the pit of the theater, would gain admission to one of Shakespeare's plays using one penny (the singular of pence).

As Bottom finally enters, breaking up the pity party, his tendency to hilariously contradict himself lifts the spirits of the audience as well as those of the assembled men. He tells the mechanicals he will tell them everything "right as it fell out," but then he refuses to tell them what happened, saying "Not a word of me." Then he talks for a long time before saying, "No more words." Bottom is back as his usual oblivious self.

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