Evening has descended, the wedding ceremonies are complete, the wedding banquet and afternoon celebrations long gone by.
Theseus, in a rare moment alone with Hippolyta, discusses the tales the lovers have been telling of their night in the forest.
Theseus thinks they are only the by-products of over excited imaginations and the natural lunacies of lovers.
Hippolyta thinks there is more to the tales than that.
All too soon the other newly weds join them and Theseus greets them and wishes them joy and love.
The Duke's chief steward comes in and Theseus demands to know what entertainments there are to fill in the long hour before bedtime.
Philostrate gives him a long list - some he has seen before, some are not the right thing for a wedding night. He sees the play, Pyramus and Thisbe - described in a most unusual way - funny and tragic, very long and, at the same time short.
Philostrate tries to persuade the Duke it isn't good enough - but once Theseus hears that it is being performed by a group of ordinary working men, citizens of Athens, that is the play he chooses.
Hippolyta is worried it won't be good enough and that they will only end up laughing at the performers - Theseus says that as long as it is duty and love which makes the men want to perform, there can be nothing wrong in what they do: He will hear this play.
Philostrate announces they are ready to start. The three couples and their guests take their places and Peter Quince, nervous, not sure of himself and only wanting to get his lines out and leave the stage, enters.
He makes a complete mess of it, apologising for the play before they start, mixing his sentences up and changing the meaning of what he wanted to say.
Theseus and the others talk as they wait for the remaining characters to come on the stage.
The Prologue explains who each character is and tells the story they are to act out - he carefully points to the sword that Pyramus will use to kill himself, and the dagger his lover Thisbe uses to do the same thing, then all leave the stage except the wall.
Snout, a tinker by trade, has been covered in clay and painted white to look like a very strange wall. He speaks, tells the royal audience who he is and what he is pretending to be – just in case they can’t tell - and holds up his fingers to represent a hole in the wall.
Pyramus (Bottom dressed in a few pieces of armour, wooden sword at his side, and with a fine papier-mâché helmet on his head) enters and talks to the wall. His speech is full of the sighs of a lover, until he looks through Snout’s fingers and doesn’t see his lover, Thisbe.
He stamps the wall’s foot, for being a wicked wall and keeping his girlfriend from him.
Theseus says the wall should curse at that sort of treatment, and Bottom, not really understanding Theseus is making a joke, steps out of character and explains to the Duke it is in fact a cue for Thisbe to enter.
Thisbe now enters on the other side of the wall. She is played by Flute – the boy apprentice bellows mender who, because of his high voice and the fact he hasn’t yet started to grow a beard, is forced by the others to play a woman. He is not very happy about it and stomps in, hairy legs showing under the too short dress, and wearing far too much make-up. The bright orange lipstick is smudged across his face as he wipes his mouth before speaking into the wall’s hole.
Thisbe and Pyramus talk and, even though Bottom confuses his words a little, it is clear that the two lovers have arranged to meet latter that night. They both leave.
The wall, its job finished, limps off.
As Theseus and the others are waiting for the next scene to start, they discuss the play.
Hippolyta thinks it is really very silly, but Theseus reminds her that, if she imagines it is as good as the actors think, it really is a good play.
Snug, dressed in an old, faded, yellow rug with a woollen tale pinned to it, and painted cats face, comes on and tells the watchers he is a lion and that they shouldn’t be afraid.
Again the play is interrupted by the Duke and the others talking and when ‘Moonshine’ tries to speak he can hardly get a word out because of the interruptions.
Eventually he gets very annoyed, shouts out his words, goes to the back of the stage and has a good sulk.
Thisbe comes in and is chased off by the lion, who gently takes out a pair of scissors and cuts a couple of slits into a shawl that Thisbe has ‘dropped’ as she fled. The lion looks at the audience, smiles very gently, picks up his tale and wanders off.
Pyramus enters looking for Thisbe, shakes hands with the moon, finds the shawl, makes a long loud speech about the wickedness of lions, and kills himself by sticking his wooden sword under his left armpit and falling on the floor.
The moon wanders off.
Thisbe comes back in, finds the dead body of Pyramus, gives a very sweet speech and kills herself with the same wooden sword. The beauty of her death is spoiled a little by Bottom holding on to the sword and trying to give Thisbe his dagger, but in the end she wins the battle and both lie dead on the stage.
There is a bit of a pause and Theseus asks who is going to bury the two dead lovers – at which point Bottom leaps up and asks the Duke if he wants to hear some more words or watch a ‘Bergomask’: a funny dance.
The dance is chosen, and just as it ends, the bell on the clock tower in the palace chimes midnight.
The Duke orders everyone to bed – it is their wedding night after all, and time for the fairies to come out and play.
The stage darkens as the lights are put out, and an old man comes in backwards, sweeping the floor with long slow strokes of his broom.
He pauses, looks to the left and the right, turns to face the audience and lowers his hood – it is Puck, just checking the humans have gone to bed.
He talks of graves, and owls, death and darkness – then smiles, as the music of the stars we heard earlier fades in and Oberon and Titania, hand in hand, with a train of ‘fair ones’ sweep into the room.
Oberon and Titania, together - all powerful now their argument is ended – bless the house with a dance and then send their servants to bless each individual newly-wedded couple.
All disperse, leaving Puck alone on stage.
He comes right to the front of the stage, and talks to the audience – if you don’t like the play, he says, just imagine it was a dream. Nothing more, not important – just a dream.
But if you think it was entertaining, clap your hands and he will make sure you all have good luck in the future!
(Not totally happy with this one - but for now, 'tis done, 'tis done, 'tis done. Moving on to one of the Histories - Shakespeare's first written I think. )
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