365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

288. Character analysis: Nick Bottom

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Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” may have had at least some basis in fact, presented in the form of the “rude mechanicals”. These hardworking fellows, who are not exactly the brightest stars in the sky, are seeking to put on a brilliant play to impress the Duke and Duchess. The most eager among them, and the one that must play their leading role, is a weaver named Nick Bottom.

Bottom suffers from a common affliction among wannabe actors known as “Playemall Disease”. This means that he is not satisfied to just play the lead; he wants to hide his face and also play the love interest, don a mane and roar as the lion, and he would probably be willing to play the wall, too, if the director Peter Quince didn’t rein him back in after a while. Bottom may come across as a bit of a ham and a diva, which he is, but he truly has a lot of heart, too.

The man believes in the play. He is so enthusiastic about the performance that he seeks to improve the script (much to Peter Quince’s dismay and the audience’s amusement), performs several speeches to demonstrate his ability and range, and even manages to wake up from sleep knowing his next cue. He takes his job very seriously, and in many ways is exactly who you would want to be working with.

During his time with Titania, Shakespeare makes it unclear whether Bottom falls in love with Titania as she has with him, or whether Bottom is simply amused, assuming it is some sort of dream, and going along with it. After all, when the gorgeous Queen of the Fairies claims she loves you and showers you with attention and gifts, it would be understandably hard to resist.

The monologue, known usually as “Bottom’s Dream”, is a moment of real sincerity in most productions. Bottom speaks of this strange dream he had in which he had the head of an ass and was loved by a fairy. Though he falls victim to one of Shakespeare’s sillier jokes – saying things like “man’s ear hath not seen” and other sensory mix-ups – it is a beautiful moment of poetry for him before he returns to the giant ham he really is.

Bottom is, in short, a terrible actor and a bit of a control freak, but at heart is a good man who only want the best for the art he is creating and his fellow troupe members.

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Written by Caroline Mincks

July 16, 2010 at 12:06 AM

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