snug                      snug2


      Along this paper, I am going to analyse one of the “Mid Summer Night’s Dream’s” characters, who is Snug. Snug is considered a minor character concerning the action and development of the play itself, so I will try to focus my analysis, not only on his importance throughout the play, but more in the symbolic meaning that this character has. In my opinion, Snug, with his actions and speech, and with his relationship with other characters, shows how stupid the human being and the society can be most of the times. Apart from this research, I will try to answer four main questions: 1- Who is Snug?  2-What is his function in the play?; 3- What is his relationship with other characters? And 4- What would happen, concerning the play, if Snug did never appear during the course of the story? 

     As I have commented before, Snug is a “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” character. A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play that can be divided into four sub-stories, which are interconnected between them. One is the story about the preparation for the marriage between Theseus and Hippolyta (Duke and Duchess of Athens); The second one is about the conflict between: Egeus, Hermia, Lysander, Demetrius and Helena; the third one deals with the preparation of the play that Snug and his collegues must perform in front of the duke and duchess; and the last one is the struggle between the fairies: Oberon and Titania (king and queen of the fairies) and Puck’s magic tricks.

      It must be said that Snug has not got the same importance as some other characters, but this fact does not mean that his appearance and function are not important for the play. The fact is that, despite Snug only appears two or three times during the play and his speech is reduced just to few lines, in my opinion, his symbolical meaning as a cha-racter is essential for the play. He is a member of an “amateur” company, that has been ordered to perform a play in front of the Duke and Duchess. Snug, as the rest of the members of the company, is just an artisan (he is a joiner). All the members of the company have a name that can be traced with their professions and attitudes towards life: Snug, Starveling, Snout…

        Peter Quince and Bottom are the ones who distribute the roles for the play “The death of Pyramus and Thisby”. All of them are very interested in performing in the most convincing way. For example: if one of them plays a tragic character, he must be very touching; if another plays a comic character, he must be a hilarious performance. Snug is the one who must perform the lion of the play. He, as the rest of “actors”, appears very interested in doing his best. He asks for his lines to study them and memorise them as soon as possible because “he is slow of study”. Then, here we have two conflicts: the first one is that Bottom also wants to perform the lion’s part; and the other one is the problem that performing a lion may have.  Peter Quince tells them that if the lion roars too “convincing”, then, the ladies of the audience would get frightened, and the autho-rities will hang all of them for it. Peter tells Snug that he will perform the lion. So, on the one hand, Snug is considered as a “soft” character and, somehow, a “stupid” character because Peter Quince thinks that he is only able to perform a role whose only lines are just to say “roar”. On the other hand, one can also analyse that Peter gives Snug “the power of controlling their lives” because Snug has their destiny in his hands and performance: if his roar is too “convincing”, they are all going to die, but if he performs it on the correct volume of voice, the audience will be very grateful.

       However, at the end, Bottom convinces Peter and both decide that Snug, despite being disguised as a lion during the performance, he must firstly present himself as a real man and tell the ladies not no be frightened, despite his “roars”.

      The fact is that, before performing the play in front of the dukes, Snug claims one of the most important ideas and lines of the sub-story concerning these actors and that also reflects the real actors´ way of life and thinking: “If our sport had gone forward, we had all been men”. He tells this line when he thought they will not perform the play, but finally they end performing it in front of the duke, duchess and the court. I think that the most important words of this line deal with the concept of “becoming men”. They, as actors are in constant process of development. They were artisans and now, they are searching for glory. They have become actors and throughout their performances they will reach that glory or death. So, that is why is so important for them to perform the play, because, they are all in the middle: if they succeed, they will become man and will gain the Duke’s favours and respect; but if they fail, they will be all hung.

      So, as it can be noticed, Snug is presented as a naive and soft character, who does what all the other members of the company order him. But, it must be said that all the members of the company are presented as a collective that, more or less, have all the same intention, which is succeeding in their performance. The fact is that, despite Snug is presented as a sort of fool, who is worried because he thinks he can not memorise the simple fact of roaring without studying a lot, I think Shakespeare deals with a kind of criticism to the society with the attitude and behaviour of these “actors”. If we analyse their actions from a serious and real perspective, we will observe how absurd their behaviour is. Their absurdity is not due to the fact that they are amateur and unprepared actors, but to the fact of how they analyse their own acting. In my opinion the concept of being afraid to be killed just because if the roar is too scaring they will end all hang, can be very absurd. So they have to practise the “roar”´s lines in order to perform it properly; just to finally decide that they have to prepare a prologue (as with many other characters) informing their audience while they are performing that they are real men inside their disguise. This is funny and ironic because, those prologues are what nearly end ruining the play and annoying the court. I think that is a trick that Shakespeare uses to play with the audience in order to show what fools these characters really are.

      Furthermore, in my opinion, this absurdity can be also a reflex of what actors feel while they are performing. We must remember that Shakespeare was part owner of the company “Lord Chamberlain’s Men” and “The Globe Theatre” and that he himself was an actor and director. In addition, it must be said, that many Shakespearean charac-ters are parodies of real people, some of them, very influential people that maybe, if they felt parodied and ridiculed, they could order to kill the actors. Of course, Shakespeare was subtle enough and “brave” to carry on the performances until their last consequences. From my point of view, that is why Shakespearean plays within the plays are very important: To show what a fool the human being is; to show a reflection of the society; to show the real events and truth (as in Hamlet). So, Snug and the metaphor of the lion is very important because all the actors finally end performing their characters, and despite the lion informs the people that he is a real man, he finally ends roaring and being praised by Demetrius because of his roar. As one may observe during the end of the play, these actors are very nervous performing in front of those authorities and they make many mistakes during their performances. This also can reflect how real actors felt when they were performing in front of all the authorities. I think that performing in front of the Queen of England may be so much impressing.  
       In conclusion, from my point of view, Snug is not an essential character of this play. I think that his presence is used to give more twists to the story and to express the metaphorical meaning of the lion’s role, and despite the fact that all the Pyramus and Thisby´s play can be considered as a symbolical resource as I have commented before. Furthermore, despite I believe that the story concerning Pyramus and Thisby´s play is less important than the other sub-stories, that does not mean that this story is less funny or less interesting than the other ones.


A Biography of William Shakespeare, Kristina's LBSC 690 webpage, Page maintained by Kristina Reschke, 30 November 2006
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