A Midsummer Night's Dream Puritanism Analysis

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Shakespeare’s Attitude to Puritanism in his Plays
The term “Puritan” appeared in England around 1565 as a reference to the abuse of religious propaganda in the period. German refugees brought into England the notion of pure primitive church and purity of reform. One of the first printed uses of the term originated in a Catholic attack on an Anglican policy statement and later as an argument of Protestant leaders against Elizabeth’s keeping of the crucifix on her chapel altar. Puritanism can be viewed as the expression of Protestant’s dissatisfaction with the official religion in Elizabethan time. By the mid 1570-s officialdom indiscriminately used the name as a contemptuous term for radical parties such as the anti-vestment party, the passive-resistance
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The Shakespearean audience might have recognized Puritan concerns spoken through the mouths of the mechanicals in the play. A group of common laborers gathers in the house of Peter Quince to rehearse a play that they hope to perform in the celebration preceding Theseus and Hippolyta’s wedding. The play they plan to perform tells the love story of Pyramus and Thisbe, a young couple who is separated by their families’ hatred. One night Thisbe is surprised by a lion that tatters her robe before she escapes. Seeing her shredded robe, Pyramus assumes Thisbe is dead and commits suicide. When Thisbe finds her lover’s body she commits suicide as well. When Quince assigns the roles, the mechanicals are concerned with the role of the lion. Bottom says he will roar terribly to which the other laborers reply: “That would hang us, every mother’s son” (Cohen, p.821). Shakespearean audience would have laughed at the laborers’ fear of scaring the noble ladies. Those worries were absurd and probably would have been viewed as Puritan concerns. In Act 3, scene 1, Bottom makes another such remark. The play which the mechanicals are going to perform involves suicides and the use of sword, so the laborers find that the weapons would surely scare noble ladies. Bottom’s proposition is to write a prologue that will say “…that we will do no harm with our swords, and that Pyramus is not killed indeed” (p.831. Bottom manages to find a solution for the lion problem as well. He recommends that the lion has half of his face seen and that the animal speaks to the ladies and diminishes their anxiety by telling them not fear. The concerns of the mechanicals are silly and too far- fetching to which they owe their effect as being absurd. A Shakespearean audience would have found them to be entertainingly similar to exaggerated Puritan

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