The Beatles' 1964 performance of the 'Pyramus and Thisbe' playlet from A Midsummer Night's Dream, originally an oddball product of variety television, has gained a new life as a popular clip on YouTube. This essay explores the video's engagement with online theatrical culture by way of a complex interplay of source and context. As performed by The Beatles, 'Pyramus and Thisbe' mocks classroom Shakespeare while simultaneously drawing on its reputation to position the band in a playful - and lucrative - space between high culture and counterculture. The sketch also locates The Beatles on multiple planes of performance and reality: their deliberately poor performances offer a glimpse of the 'real' Beatles while also recreating Shakespeare's rude mechanicals and highlighting the artificiality, not just of the play, but of 'The Beatles' as an image in itself. Finally, the sketch's presence on YouTube adds another layer of spectator/image recursion, as the online audience appropriates both Shakespeare and The Beatles, while unconsciously mimicking prior audiences of the 1960s and the 1590s.


A Midsummer Night's Dream,Pyramus and Thisbe,The Beatles,variety,YouTube,metatheatricality,digital culture,popular culture,counterculture,hegemony,performative identity


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pp. 299-318
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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