The play-within-a-play that takes up most of Act V, scene i is used to represent, in condensed form, many of the important ideas and themes of the main plot. Because the craftsmen are such bumbling actors, their performance satirizes the melodramatic Athenian lovers and gives the play a purely joyful, comedic ending. Pyramus and Thisbe face parental disapproval in the play-within-a-play, just as Hermia and Lysander do; the theme of romantic confusion enhanced by the darkness of night is rehashed, as Pyramus mistakenly believes that Thisbe has been killed by the lion, just as the Athenian lovers experience intense misery because of the mix-ups caused by the fairies’ meddling. The craftsmen’s play is, therefore, a kind of symbol for A Midsummer Night’s Dream itself: a story involving powerful emotions that is made hilarious by its comical presentation.
The final act of the play, completely unnecessary in relation to the rest of the plot, brings to light a traditional fear of the Elizabethan theater, namely that of censorship. Throughout the play the lower artisans, who wish to perform Pyramus and Thisbe, try to corrupt the plot and assure the audience that the play is not real and that they need not fear the actions taking place. This culminates in the actual ending, in which Puck suggests that if we do not like the play, then we should merely consider it to have been a dream. One of the most remarkable features of A Midsummer Night's Dream is that at the end members of the audience are unsure whether what they have seen is real, or whether they have woken up after having shared the same dream. This is of course precisely what Shakespeare wants to make clear, namely that the theater is nothing more than a shared dream. Hence the constant interruption of that dream in the Pyramus and Thisbe production, which serves to highlight the artificial aspect of the theater. Bottom and his company offer us not only Pyramus and Thisbe as a product of our imagination, but the entire play as well.