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Let’s Explore: Bottom – the leading actor

Before we explore the character of Bottom, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, let us just remind you how you can explore a Shakespearean character in any of our published plays.

If you haven’t tried out our  techniques of using ‘Parts and Cues’ and ‘Highlit Text’ to explore a Shakespeare character, then you’ll find it helpful to read the detailed explanation we give for the character Hamlet (click on Let’s Explore Hamlet).

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Bottom – the leading actor

You can explore any Shakespearean character in a play  published by Players-Shakespeare.com in a similar way. Here we help you explore Bottom, the leading actor in the ‘Rude Mechanicals’ that want to put on a play for Theseus and his bride.

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream was one of the first plays produced by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men after Shakespeare joined them as a sharer in 1594. However, he had by that time had six or so of his plays produced on stage, so no doubt the characters of the ‘Rude Mechanicals’ drew on his experience of Shakespearean players.

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Certainly, for anyone who has been involved with stage productions, the character of Bottom demonstrates some of the more amusing characteristics of players of probably any century, and certainly the modern day.

  • Certainly in A1S2, where we are introduced to the rude mechanicals, Bottom throws his weight around, telling the director, Quince, in no uncertain terms, how to organise things. It’s worth exploring Bottom’s role  both in Parts and Cues, and Highlit text modes. Here’s a link to Bottom’s lines in Parts and Cues format and here’s one to the scene in Highlit Text mode.
  • We have to wait until A3S1 to see Bottom again. In the first half of that scene the Mechanicals are rehearsing in the wood, and Bottom continues his leading actor role, coming up with creative solutions to the problems in the script. Then Puck puts an Ass’s head on him, the other actors run away, and  Bottom meets Titania and some of her fairies. It is really a separate scene, and shows another side to Bottom’s character.  Here’s a link to his lines in A3S1 in Parts and Cues format. Once you’ve explored those lines, you can switch to Highlight Text mode, using the setup window (click on the gearwheel) and see his lines in the context of the whole scene.
  • In Bottom’s next scene (A4S1) he is settling into his ‘new life’ with the fairies, and seems to be enjoying himself. By the end of the scene, Titania has awoken to the fact that she’s been in love with an ass, and has left Bottom all alone, to speak one of my favourite speeches in Shakespeare’s work, starting “I have seen a most rare vision.” Perhaps Bottom is a little deeper than we’ve thought up till now. Let’s start with his lines in Parts and Cues.
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    If you prefer, you can watch, in the following video, Eliza Langland of the Edinburgh Shakespeare playreading group, read the speech.
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    (Click on this link to see a list of our videos: Let’s Explore Shakespeare monologues)
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  • In A5S1, Bottom has returned as an actor, and for virtually the whole scene, we see Bottom ‘in character’ as Pyramus, so let’s explore his lines in Parts and Cues mode, and then you can switch to Highlight Text mode to see the whole of the mechanicals’ play (and Bottom’s two lines as well).
  • The scenes above should help you to come to a view about Bottom’s character but it is also worth having a look at A4S2, when he returns from the forest and meets his fellow actors..

Of course, by reading the scenes above, you may well see things differently from what I’ve outlined above, but  you should come to clearer view of what you think about the character of Bottom. D

Let’s play!

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Richard Forsyth
‘The Director’
Players-Shakespeare.com

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