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In William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, Peter Quince is a carpenter who works in ancient Athensmarker. He is one of the six craftsmen (the mechanicals) that put on a play for Theseus and Hippolyta at their wedding. Quince is the author and director of their play, The Most Lamentable Comedy and Most Cruel Death of Pyramus and Thisbe.

Peter Quince meets Nick Bottom the weaver, Francis Flute the bellows-mender, Tom Snout the tinker, Starveling the tailor, and Snug the joiner in the woods to rehearse the play. In the rehearsals he is seen in a managerial role even though he struggles to assert himself over the more charismatic Nick Bottom. When Bottom reappears as himself after his temporary acquisition of an ass's head, Quince promises to write a ballad about Bottom's "dream" of his transformation.

His name is derived from “quines” or “quoins”, which are wooden wedges used by carpenters.

Playwriting

Quince's amateurish playwrighting is usually taken to be a parody of the popular mystery plays of the pre-Elizabethan era, which were also produced by craftspeople. His metrical preferences refer to vernacular ballads. Despite Quince's obvious shortcomings as a writer, Stanley Wells argues that he partly resembles Shakespeare himself. Both are from a craftsmanly background, both work quickly and both take secondary roles in their own plays. Robert Leach makes the same point.

In the play, he recites the prologue, but struggles to fit his lines into the meter and to make them rhyme. The Nobles interject to point out his errors.

Characterisation

Traditionally, Peter Quince is portrayed as a bookish character, caught up in the minute details of his play, but ineffective as a theatrical organiser. However in the 1999 film version of A Midsummer Night's Dream, he is portrayed by Roger Rees as a strong character extremely capable of being a director. It is he who leads the search party looking for Nick Bottom in the middle of the play.

Cultural references

The character is alluded to in the title of a Wallace Stevens poem, "Peter Quince at the Clavier", which is written in the first person as if spoken by Quince. It is written in eight footed lines, which is Quince's preferred meter according to the play.

References

  1. Louis Adrian Montrose, The purpose of playing: Shakespeare and the cultural politics of the Elizabethan theatre, University of Chicago Press, 1996, p.185.
  2. Stanley W. Wells, Shakespeare and the Elizabethans, Cambridge University Press, 1990, p.60-63.
  3. Robert Leach, Theatre studies: the basics, Routledge, 2008, p.119.



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