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A Midsummer Night's Dream: Bottom

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A Midsummer Night's Dream: Nick Bottom

In a Mid Summer Night's Dream, the character Nick Bottom is given a rather prominent role in the several scenes he appears in, although he is not a lead character in the play. Bottom is unique from all the other characters of the play not only because of the considerable contribution his character brings to the comedic value of the play, but because he is the only character able to enter fully in to both the human world and the world of the fairies. In this paper I will examine the character of Nick Bottom, and provide some analysis into the motives behind this humorous character's strange ways.

The initial aspect one notices about Nick Bottom's personality is his enthusiasm for acting. From the introduction of the Mechanicals (1.2) when Peter Quince is assigning the roles of the play (The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe) to each of the characters, Bottom enthusiastically volunteers to play every role as they are being assigned to the other characters. This eagerness is clearly demonstrated when the second and third characters of their play (Thisbe and the Lion) are assigned. Bottom jumps in to each conversation, saying, "An I may hide my face, let me play Thisbe too." (1.2. 45), and "Let me play the Lion too." (1.2. 63) Bottom's eagerness to play each of the roles sets him up as the central figure of the mechanical's play. Because he has already been cast as Pyramus, the lead role in their play, the self-centered aspect of his personality becomes more apparent. Bottom exhibits true passion for theatre, and truly believes that whichever role he plays will be performed without flaw. The problem with Bottoms imagination is that it is almost too big. The characters he describes are so exaggerated that if he were to attempt to perform these characters as he describes them, the play would end in disaster. Bottom describes how he would play the Lion, " I will roar that I will do any man's heart good to hear me. I will roar that I will make the Duke say 'Let him roar again' let him roar again." (1.2. 63-65) This is followed by his concern that if he were to play the Lion too well, the audience would forget he is acting and may frighten the ladies of the audience. This is a clear example of the naivetй he possesses, which clearly adds to the comic aspects of the play.

The confidence Bottom has in his acting ability is clearly unquestioned to him and to the audience, which may be perceived as ridiculous or silly. Bottom seems to have the ability to envision the characters he wishes to portray as a real professional actor would. He describes his Lion, " I will discharge it in either your straw-color beard, your orange-tawny beard, your purple-in-grain beard, or you French-crown-color beard, your perfect yellow."(1.2.83-85). Bottom does display the imagination and ability to envision the role of the character as it should be played, but because he lacks the talent of a true professional, he is unable to deliver such a performance.

Bottoms misuse of words throughout the play is another example of how he adds to the comedic value of the play. The frequent reoccurrence of these mistakes gives the impression that perhaps Bottom is attempting to depict himself as a person of higher social status, or seem more intelligent than he really is. On more than one occasion he uses words that contradict what he is trying to describe, "Ah speak in a monstrous little voice" (1.2.47). This only adds to the notion that perhaps his arrogance as a serious actor is unmerited and brings to question the level of his talent.

The placement of the scenes involving Bottom seem to be an intentional move by Shakespeare to serve as a comedic device intended to alter or lighten the mood of the play in that particular scene. In the first act, the scene in which Bottom is included in follows a long woeful rant by Helena about her misfortune. In this case the mood is shifted instantaneously from sympathy for poor Helena to laughter for Bottom and the other mechanicals at their seemingly futile attempts at organizing themselves enough to begin practicing.

The next instance is at the beginning of the third act, when the mechanicals enter the forest to begin rehearsal. This is the scene in which Bottom's transformation occurs, and sets up his entrance into the fairy world. When Bottom awakens from the fairy world in the fourth act, he realizes he has had a unique experience, one that is beyond description. This is in contrast to the previous scene in which the lovers all seem to be unaware of what caused them to act as they did throughout the previous night. The lovers are unaware of the events that transpired the night before, which led to their current situation.

The most significant scene that involves Bottom is the scene in which his metamorphosis



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