The central “rude-mechanical” in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM is a weaver called Bottom, who Is overwhelmingly egotistical, and who thinks that he can play all roles better than anyone. Rather than acting in the play about Pyramus and Thisbe, two lovers separated by a wall for example, Bottom would prefer to play a tyrant: “Yet my chief humor is for a tyrant …..I will use a beard (or could be a wig, do you see where I'm going with this?) which is “perfect yellow.” Or, if they do stick to Pyramus, “Let me play the lion…I will roar that I will do any man’s heart good to hear me….. I can roar as gently any sucking dove…I will roar you an ‘twere any nightingale.” Remarkably he doesn’t want to play “wall” though he so obviously wants one.
The second time we see Bottom is when the “mechanicals” are rehearsing. Robin Goodfellow, a sprite, places an ass’ head on Bottom..…His friends are frightened as they suddenly see him in this new shape; while the queen of the night perceives him as astonishingly beautiful. Audiences since Shakespeare have laughed at Bottom to see him when he turns into a donkey. This section of MIDSUMMER has been staged variously with masks suggesting a donkey, but he also has been staged, for example, with a simple red nose, as if with a clown’s nose.. (I”d wager he could be staged with a shock of a yellow hair, a blue suit, and a maybe a long red tie or hat; though in this version we’d continue to expect that to find an oversized “national-emergency” a big, beautiful wall.)
Bottom struts around singing when all run away from him. (He has multiple reasons for being afraid, but singing seems to help.) Later, awakening from being a donkey he famously says: “I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream past the wit of man to say what dream it was. Man’s but an ass if he go about t’expound this dream. Methought I was….. and Methought I had……but man is but a patched fool if he offer to say what methought I had”….….
While in the midst of his DREAM, in his very guarded way, Bottom warns that no man will make an ass of him. When he says this, he is obviously costumed, to visually look like an ass. When he is returned to rehearsing the play, he thinks the wall “sweet and lovely.”
We know the stuff walls are made of: “loam, roughcast, and stone, complete with a cranny.”
We know that misperceptions happen, and that Bottom feigns stabbing himself with a wooden sword in the, “pap the left pap, wherein heart doth hop.” The line implies self-knowledge and inevitably gets a laugh. (It being difficult to aim for the left pap with a wooden sword.)
Is it too soon to laugh at a multi-billion dollar wall? I remain unsure when we will ever be able to laugh at a expensive midieval wall separating the U.S. from Mexico. Barriers or massive unjustified costs are simply not laughable.
To be fair, Alec Baldwin is making hay feeding on our Bottom.