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Rude Mechanicals in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream

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  • 0:01 Who Are the Rude Mechanicals?
  • 1:59 Act One, Scene Two
  • 2:40 Act Three, Scene One
  • 3:46 Act Four, Scene Two
  • 4:06 Act Five, Scene One
  • 5:49 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Richard Davis

Richard teaches college writing and has a master's degree in creative writing.

What are rude mechanicals? Unfortunately, they are not ill-tempered robots, as the name might suggest. However, the rude mechanicals are still an essential part of Shakespeare's 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' In this lesson, we'll identify the members of the group and discuss the comedic role the rude mechanicals play.

Who Are the Rude Mechanicals?

'Rude Mechanicals' isn't just a cool name for a band. In fact, the phrase refers to a specific group of characters in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. The rude mechanicals are skilled laborers, or craftsmen, from Athens who want to put on a play for the city's royalty. There are six members in this group.

The leader of the group is Peter Quince, the carpenter. Quince chooses the play, assigns the parts, and directs the actors as they rehearse. He also delivers the prologue, a speech before the play starts, in the play the rude mechanicals put on.

The next member is Snug, the joiner, a kind of carpenter who makes doors, window frames, and cabinets. He claims to be 'slow of study,' so he is happy to play the part of the lion.

The third, and most important, member of the group is Nick Bottom. Bottom has an overblown sense of self-confidence, so his ego goes overboard when he is given the lead part in the play: Pyramus. Additionally, Bottom is the only one of the rude mechanicals who interacts extensively with characters outside of the group. In fact, he becomes the love interest of Titania, the queen of the fairies.

The fourth member of the group is Francis Flute, the bellows-mender. Flute is disappointed when he learns he will be playing the part of Thisby, the lady who falls in love with Pyramus.

The fifth member of the group is Tom Snout, the tinker - a craftsman who works with metals. Quince casts him as Pyramus' father. However, because the rude mechanicals can't afford to build a set for their play, Snout plays the part of a wall.

The sixth member of the group is Robin Starveling, the tailor. Originally, he is supposed to play the part of Thisby's mother, but he ends up playing the part of 'moonshine.' This is because Pyramus and Thisby meet under the light of the moon, and the rude mechanicals don't know if there will be a window in the room where they'll be performing. What happens to them?

As a group, the rude mechanicals only appear in four scenes. Let's look at each of these individually.

Act One, Scene Two

The rude mechanicals first appear in Act One, Scene Two.

Quince has called a meeting at his house, and he announces that the group will be performing the play 'Pyramus and Thisby', which tells the story of two lovers whose parents forbid them to be together. Sounds like Romeo and Juliet, doesn't it? Quince assigns the parts, but Bottom attempts to take over the meeting, volunteering to play every part himself. Quince gets Bottom to calm down, appealing to his ego with the following lines:

'You can play no part but Pyramus; for Pyramus is a
sweet-faced man; a proper man, as one shall see in a
summer's day; a most lovely gentleman-like man:
therefore you must needs play Pyramus.'

Act Three Scene One

The next scene the rude mechanicals appear in is Act Three, Scene One.

The group meets to rehearse in the woods outside of Athens. During this rehearsal, Bottom makes several suggestions to make the play more 'suitable' for the royal audience. First, he instructs Quince to write a prologue that explains that the violence in the play isn't real. Next, he suggests that the lion should give a brief speech when he first enters, explaining to the ladies in the audience that he isn't a real lion. Finally, he suggests that the moonshine and the wall should be played by actors.

Once the actors actually start rehearsing, a mischievous fairy named Puck casts a spell that turns Bottom's head into a donkey's head. When the other rude mechanicals see Bottom's new head, they flee in terror.

Soon after, the fairy queen Titania, who is under a love spell, enters and immediately falls in love with Bottom. All the while, Bottom is unaware of his new appearance. Later in the play, when the fairies end the spell on Bottom and let him go, Bottom believes that his experience in the woods was just a dream.

Act Four, Scene Two

The next scene in which the rude mechanicals appear is Act Four, Scene Two. Once again, the group is gathered in Quince's house, but Bottom is nowhere to be found. The rude mechanicals are anxious because they cannot put on their play without a leading man. Suddenly, Bottom enters, unwilling to explain what happened in the woods but eager to get ready for the play.

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