Article Title

"I See a Voice"


In lieu of an abstract, the first paragraph of the essay follows:

We have torn away the mental fancies to get at the reality beneath, only to find that the reality of that which is beneath is bound up with its potentially of awakening these fancies. It is because the mind, the weaver of illusion, is also the only guarantor of reality that reality is always to be sought at the base of illusion. (Sir Arthur Eddington, Nature of the Physical World)

Bottom sometimes gets his sensory perceptions confused, especially after he has been "translated" into the world of Faerie.1 That experience was a considerable jolt to his perceptions, the most literal-minded character in the play. When he says that he sees a voice, he is speaking in the character of Pyramus - and wiser than he knows. Earlier he had spoken in the person of a disillusioned ass of how "The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen..." The world of make-believe must indeed allow the sensory perceptions to be somewhat confused, substituted one for another. (Suddenly caught off-guard by an impulsive and unseemly confession from Father Mulcahy, Hawkeye bursts out with, "Say that again. The sun got in my ear" - or - we may also remember the melodious tear wept for Lycidas by the uncouth swain.) Thus in whichever person he speaks, in his own proper play-world of Bottom the weaver of Athens, which is to his audience a world of make-believe in the play of Pyramus and Thisby, which is to us, the auidence, a make-believe within a make-believe, he is not speaking such nonsense as it may seem.

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