A Midsummer Nights Dream by William ShakespeareShakespeares intertwined love polygons begin to get complicated from the start--Demetrius and Lysander both want Hermia but she only has eyes for Lysander. Bad news is, Hermias father wants Demetrius for a son-in-law. On the outside is Helena, whose unreturned love burns hot for Demetrius. Hermia and Lysander plan to flee from the city under cover of darkness but are pursued by an enraged Demetrius (who is himself pursued by an enraptured Helena). In the forest, unbeknownst to the mortals, Oberon and Titania (King and Queen of the faeries) are having a spat over a servant boy. The plot twists up when Oberons head mischief-maker, Puck, runs loose with a flower which causes people to fall in love with the first thing they see upon waking. Throw in a group of labourers preparing a play for the Dukes wedding (one of whom is given a donkeys head and Titania for a lover by Puck) and the complications become fantastically funny.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Puck is a clever, mischievous fairy , sprite, or jester. He is the first of the main fairy characters to appear, and creates the drama of the human lovers' story by splitting up a young couple lost in an enchanted forest. As a "shrewd and knavish sprite", he is an impish trickster and delights in pranks and practical jokes, like replacing Bottom's head with that of an ass. FAIRY Either I mistake your shape and making quite, Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite Call'd Robin Goodfellow: are not you he That frights the maidens of the villagery; Skim milk, and sometimes labour in the quern And bootless make the breathless housewife churn; And sometime make the drink to bear no barm; Mislead night-wanderers, laughing at their harm? Those that Hobgoblin call you and sweet Puck, You do their work, and they shall have good luck: Are not you he? I jest to Oberon and make him smile When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile, Neighing in likeness of a filly foal: And sometime lurk I in a gossip's bowl, In very likeness of a roasted crab, And when she drinks, against her lips I bob And on her wither'd dewlap pour the ale. The wisest aunt, telling the saddest tale, Sometime for three-foot stool mistaketh me; Then slip I from her bum, down topples she, And 'tailor' cries, and falls into a cough; And then the whole quire hold their hips and laugh, And waxen in their mirth and neeze and swear A merrier hour was never wasted there.
Oberon's jester and lieutenant, Puck is a powerful supernatural creature, capable of circling the globe in 40 minutes or of enshrouding unsuspecting mortals in a deep fog. Also known as Robin Goodfellow, Puck would have been familiar to a sixteenth-century English audience, who would have recognized him as a common household spirit also often associated with travelers. But he's also a "puck," an elf or goblin that enjoys playing practical jokes on mortals. Although he is more mischievous than malevolent, Puck reminds us that the fairy world is not all goodness and generosity. Another definition of his name aligns him with a Norse demon, sometimes associated with the devil. Perhaps it isn't surprising that he brings a somewhat more dangerous element to Titania and Oberon's seemingly benevolent fairy realm. He invokes the "damned spirits" that wander home to graveyards after a night of evil doing, while Oberon reminds him that his band of fairies are aligned with the morning dew, with sunlight and joy.
Read an in-depth analysis of Nick Bottom. Read an in-depth analysis of Puck.
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He causes trouble but is central to the play's action
In Elizabethan folklore, Puck a. Robin Goodfellow is a household sprite who, depending on his mood, plays annoying tricks on people or helps them out with their chores. This explains why Shakespeare's Puck brags to us about all the times he's been a pest to local villagers by sabotaging vats of ale and ruining the batches of butter that housewives spent all morning churning. Puck loves a good practical joke more than anything else. After transforming Bottom's head into that of an "ass," he gleefully declares "My mistress with a monster is in love" 3. Because of his fun-loving spirit and willingness to prank anyone and everyone, he's often considered the heart and soul of the play. His antics and his sense of humor inject A Midsummer Night's Dream with a playful and topsy-turvy spirit that creates much of the play's fun atmosphere.
Although usually played by a male actor, it's worth noting that nowhere in the play is the audience told whether Puck is male or female and there are no gendered pronouns used to reference Puck. The character's alternate name is Robin Goodfellow, which is also fairly androgynous. It is interesting to consider that Puck is regularly thought to be a male character based solely on his actions and attitudes during the play. It is also worth pondering how it would affect the play's dynamic and its outcome if Puck were cast as a female fairy. Puck is not the most mindful of fairies.