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Let’s Explore: Quince / Prologue – the Elizabethan ‘director’

Before we explore the character of Quince / Prologue, 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’, then you’ll find it helpful to read the detailed explanation we give for the character Hamlet (click on Let’s Explore Hamlet). You can explore any Shakespearean character in a play  published by Players-Shakespeare.com in a similar way. Here we help you explore Quince, the ‘director’ of the rude  mechanicals, who also plays ‘Prologue’ in their performance of Pyramus and Thisbe.

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Quince / Prologue – the Elizabethan ‘director’

It seems unlikely that Elizabethan theatre companies had, what we call today, a ‘director’. Plays don’t seem to have been rehearsed long enough for the intense discussion between actors and director on character and other matters. And yet, in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, it seems clear that Quince has overall responsibility for getting the production of Pyramus and Thisbe together: he has selected the play and obtained (?written) the script; he has cast the play; he arranges a rehearsal; and shows much of the nervousness about the production that a director (at least this ex-director) does.

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So perhaps it is not unfair to suggest that Quince, in his three scenes, shows us what Shakespeare (comically) thought about Elizabethan directors, and his acting ability when he plays the Prologue in their production:

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  • Quince (and the rude mechanicals) first appears in A1S2, when they all meet in a ‘production kick-off meeting’ to allocate parts for their production. Although Elizabethan theatre companies may not have had directors, they certainly had actors, and Bottom seems to demonstrate some of their worst failings, making it difficult for  Quince to keep his self-control. To catch the undertones of this scene it’s best to read Quince’s lines in Highlight Text mode, to see his interactions with Bottom and the other players.
  • The first half of A3S1, Quince’s next scene, is a rehearsal of Pyramus and Thisbe by the rude mechanicals in the Forest. Quince is less assured than at the kick-off meeting, as he worries about production matters, and then his actors start to ruin his finely-crafted prose. Again, it is best to read Quince’s lines in Highlight Text mode. Once Puck has put an Ass’s head on Bottom, Quince completely loses it.
  • In A4S2, Bottom has still not re-appeared from getting lost in the Forest. The rude mechanicals meet and regret Bottom’s loss, until he finally arrives. Quince has only a few lines in this scene. They demonstrate how much he depends on Bottom as his lead actor, but don’t say much about his character.   Once again, it is best to read Quince’s lines in Highlight Text mode.
  • In A5S1, Quince is no longer the director. He has two speeches playing the Prologue to the play, so it’s best to read those lines in Parts and Cues mode. In the first speech, he seems to be suffering a bad case of actor’s nerves, as he completely messes up the punctuation of his speech. It might be worth working out where the full-stops are supposed to go  He seems to recover his nerves for the second speech, which is just as well, as it allows us to understand his outline of the plot of the play that they are about to play.

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The scenes above should help you to come to a view about Puck’s character. Of course, by reading the scenes above, you may well see things differently from what I’ve outlined above, but  you should know what you think about Puck.

Let’s play!

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Richard Forsyth
‘The Director’
Players-Shakespeare.com

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