Props are especially important in any play and are very relevant in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream in one of the most notable aspects of the play: the play within the play. Pyramus and Thisbe is put on by a group of craftsmen who are actors in their spare time. One of the main functions of their amateur performance is for Shakespeare to comment about art and theatre and more specifically props within the play. This is important because Pyramus and Thisbe directly parallels the plot of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Theseus bans Hermia from marrying Lysander; likewise, the fathers of Pyramus and Thisbe ban their marriage. Shakespeare’s juxtaposition between Pyramus and Thisbe and the larger plot of A Midsummer Night’s Dream allows the reader to look closer at the play within the play and question the significance of the props.
The props that the craftsmen decide to use deserves recognition and are a noteworthy aspect of the play. This play within the play first appears when the actors meet in the forest to practice and Bottom declares that there are “things in this comedy of Pyramus and Thisbe that will never please” our audience (3.1.9-10). The other men share his concern, so they address the audience’s fear of props like the sword and lion by writing a prologue to warn the women and the nobles and the women in the audience about the fake props. Later, Snug, one of the actors in the play, addresses the audience before his part saying that “I, as Snug the joiner, am a lion fell" in order to make the women and children feel safer (5.1.237-238).The group also adds props like the moon to show that the play takes place at night, while also adding a wall to show that Pyramus and Thisbe are separated by a physical boundary with only a crack through the middle to talk through. The craftsmen decide that the best way to represent the separation is to assign a man to play the wall and another the moonlight by carrying a bush and a lantern. This choice is significant because the craftsmen had to practice and plan out which props to use in order to put on the best possible show for Theseus. Fast forward to Act Five, scene one, when the play is performed. Again the audience can see characters interacting with the props in the play within the play. First, we see how the wall influences the play, as Snout, who plays the wall, addresses the crowd first and keeps Pyramus and Thisbe separated. Without the wall, the audience would have difficulty seeing the physical separation between the two parties. Moreover, the wall adds a concrete boundary on stage that the crowd and actors can see and interact with to make the play easier to grasp because Pyramus and Thisbe must “talk through the chink of a wall” (3.1.63). In the play, Pyramus blames the wall for why he cannot see Thisbe and the sole reason why they cannot be lovers. Soon after, Thisbe claims much of the same, while professing her love for Pyramus, and she kisses the wall to get close to Pyramus. Lastly, the moon and the sword are very prevalent towards the end of this play. The moon represents life, light, and good luck in the final scene. The moon exits, which is symbolic that all hope for the two lovers is gone forever. After Pyramus assumes the lion has killed Thisbe, he takes his sword and stabs himself as a result of his broken heart.
Overall, the props in the play within the play enhance the play as a whole and make the scene feel more authentic and relatable for the audience and actors.