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  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: March 2007

‘When Everything Seems Double’: Peter Quince, the other Playwright in A Midsummer Night's Dream

Summary

The final version of ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’, the play-within-a-play in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is arrived at only after a series of last minute, rather frenetic changes. At the first meeting of the tradesmen in the city, their play is apparently complete; parts are assigned, and each player given his lines to learn for the rehearsal next night in the forest. However, by the time the play is performed half of the original six parts, Thisbe’s mother and father, and Pyramus’s father (see 1.2.56-9), have disappeared without trace. When the ‘company’ meet in the forest, in the discussion before rehearsal begins, two new parts, ‘Wall’ and ‘Moonshine’, are added; a prologue, to be spoken by Pyramus telling the audience he ‘is not killed indeed’ (3.1.18), promised but never written; and curiously, the scene they rehearse never performed. At one level, this makes sense, but it also adds to the impression that the emergence of ‘Pyramus and Thisbe’ is somewhat chaotic. And in the middle of all this, either directly suggesting changes himself or responding to suggestions by members of the ‘company’, is A Midsummer Night’s Dream ’s other playwright, Peter Quince the carpenter. As his play undergoes deletion and revision which will mean his adding fifty-three new lines to the final script, itself only 133 lines in total, he is remarkable for his genial tolerance and enthusiasm.

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