The “Rude Mechanicals” play a major role in Shakespeare’s beloved A Midsummer Night’s Dream:
I think we’re on pretty safe ground in saying that the only purpose the Rude Mechanicals serve is a comedic one. The question is what kind of humour is being elicited, and is it possible for us to ‘get’ all of the comedy of the play today?
Well, some of it’s plain and ageless enough: Their repeated oxymorons, “most lamentable comedy”; Bottom’s diva-like behaviour, “That will ask some tears in the true performing of it”; and the complete hash that is the product of their attempts at amateur dramatics.
Today, I argue we have a whole new class of “Rude Mechanicals” in real society — but they’re Millennials, not Mechanicals — and they’re new, and rude, and play the same role in the drama of our lives as the Shakespearean mechs before them.
Ask a random current student if he or she has read something by William Shakespeare, Geoffrey Chaucer, or Mark Twain, and the answer will almost certainly be a yes— whether that “yes” is voiced with fondness, indifference, or bitterness. Ask that student’s parents or grandparents the same question, and despite generational gaps, the answer likely will not change.
The good name of Shakespeare has suffered through numerous slings and arrows over the years. He has been accused of anti-Semitism through the various interpretations of his play The Merchant of Venice. Then there is the actual authorship itself — was it Shakespeare’s hand that wrote all of the plays and sonnets, or were there multiple writers that wrote under the common name of Shakespeare — or was it all Sir Francis Bacon? Some would even point to poor quality interpretations of his works as being grave insults themselves — Gnomeo and Juliet, anyone?