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Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream

5. Pyramus and Thisbe

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About this Lecture


In this final module, we consider the characters of Pyramus and Thisbe and the play-within-a-play. In particular, we think about the implications of our laughter at this point in the play, noting that the tragic story that unfolds between Pyramus and Thisbe (and which modern audiences so funny) is highly reminiscent of Romeo & Juliet. What is the difference between the two plays? Why do we laugh at one but at the other?


In this course, Professor Diane Purkiss (Oxford) explores Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, with a particular focus on some of the more magical aspects of the play. The course begins with an exploration of the idea of the "Midsummer Night" in the Elizabethan imagination, before thinking about contemporary beliefs about dreams (and nightmares). After this, we look in turn at three major fairies in the play - Titania, Oberon and Puck - exploring how they might have been understood by teh original Elizabethan audience. The course ends with a consideration of Pyramus and Thisbe, characters in the play-within-a-play, and asks: "Why is it that audiences find this tragic story so funny?"


Diane Purkiss is a Professor at Keble College, Oxford. She has published two books on the English Civil War - 'The English Civil War: A People's History' (2006) and 'Literature, Gender, and Politics during the English Civil War' (2005).

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Purkiss, D. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream - Pyramus and Thisbe [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Purkiss, D. "Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night's Dream – Pyramus and Thisbe." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,