A Midsummer Night's Dream

Puck and Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream

What motivates Puck in A Midsummer Night’s Dream? Also known as Robin Goodfellow, the spirit Puck is based on legend contemporary to Shakespeare (OED). His origins are as curious as his character: the Oxford English Dictionary traces the origin of Puck to “the pouke… commonly identified with the biblical devil.” In the sixteenth century Puck becomes associated with Robin Goodfellow, “[a] sportive and capricious elf or goblin believed to haunt the English country-side” or, in the words of a Fairy in Shakespeare’s play, a “shrewd and knavish sprite” (II, i: 33). Puck plays a critical role in the plot development of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”

True to legend and reputation, Puck carries out all sorts of mischief. He transforms Bottom into an ass-headed figure, and to witness Bottom’s face follows the metamorphosed Bottom “[t]hrough bog, through bush, through brake, through / brier” (III, i: 102). When Oberon orders him to anoint Titania’s and Demitrius’ eyes with a magical love “juice,” Puck mistakes Demetrius for Lysander and causes much confusion. He is also responsible for Titania’s misplaced love. When she awakes and falls in love, the object of her mad affection is none other than Bottom, the ass.

What are Puck’s motives? The...

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