Puck (A Midsummer Night's Dream)
Based on the Puck of English mythology, Puck is a mischievous fairy, sprite, or jester. He is the first of the main fairy characters to appear, and he significantly influences events in the play. He delights in pranks such as replacing Bottom's head with that of an ass.
Appearances in the play
The audience is introduced to Puck in 2.1:
Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
Or else you are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Call'd Robin Goodfellow: are you not 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 you not he?
Fairy, thou speak'st aright;
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
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 [2.1.32-57].
Puck serves the fairy king Oberon. Oberon is angry with Titania, the fairy queen, because she will not let him have a particular "little changeling boy" (2.1.120). Oberon sends Puck to fetch a particular flower, whereof the juice "on sleeping eyelids laid / Will make or man or woman madly dote / Upon the next live creature that it sees" (2.1.170-72). Puck is told to apply some of it to the "disdainful youth" (2.1.261) in "Athenian garments" (2.1.264), but Puck mistakes Lysander for Demetrius and applies it to Lysander. Oberon applies some of the juice to Titania, and Titania is waked by a singing Nick Bottom, whose head Puck has changed to that of an ass. Later, Puck is ordered to rectify his mistake with Lysander and Demetrius, and he creates a black fog through which he separates the "testy rivals" (3.2.358), imitating their voices until they are asleep. Puck has the final lines of the play:
If we shadows have offended,
Think but this, and all is mended.
That you have but slumber'd here
While these visions did appear.
And this weak and idle theme,
No more yielding but a dream,
Gentles, do not reprehend:
If you pardon, we will mend.
And, as I'm an honest Puck,
If we have unearned luck
Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
We will make amends ere long;
Else the Puck a liar call:
So, good night unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends [5.1.433-48].
Name of character
The original texts of Shakespeare's plays do not have cast-lists, and are not always consistent with characters' names. Puck's case is particularly awkward. Both the Quarto and the First Folio call the character "Robin Goodfellow" on the first entrance, but "Puck" later in the same scene, and they remain inconsistent. The Arden Shakespeare calls the character "Puck", and emends all stage directions (but not actual dialogue) that refer to the character as "Robin" or "Robin Goodfellow".
Film and TV
- Mickey Rooney, in the Oscar-winning 1935 film.
- Ian Holm, in the 1968 film.
- Phil Daniels, in the 1981 BBC Shakespeare television production.
- Robert Sean Leonard plays Puck in a high-school production in the 1989 film Dead Poets Society.
- Brent Spiner plays a version of Puck in Disney's Gargoyles, first appearing in the season two episode "The Mirror" in 1995.
- Stanley Tucci, in the 1999 film.
- Tanner Cohen, in a high-school production depicted in the 2008 film Were the World Mine.
- Hiran Abeysekera in the 2016 film.
- Avan Jogia, in the 2017 film.
- Ken Nwosu, in Upstart Crow in 2018.
- Jonathan Whitesell plays a version of Robin Goodfellow in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina in 2020.
- Frederick Peisley in Donald Wolfit's production in 1947.
- Adam Darius, with the Stora Teatern in Göteborg, Sweden in 1961.
- John Kane, with The Royal Shakespeare Company in 1970.
- Puck is renamed "Dr. Wheelgood" in Diane Paulus's production The Donkey Show in 1999.
- Matthew Tennyson, with Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in 2013.
- Kathryn Hunter in Julie Taymor's 2013 production for the Theatre for a New Audience.
- Laurence Olivier, with St Edward's School, Oxford in 1923.
- Sebastian de Souza, with St Edward's School, Oxford.
Painting and sculpture
- Puck (1789), a painting by Joshua Reynolds
- Puck (c. 1810–1820), a painting by Henry Fuseli.
- The Puck Building built in 1885–1888 in Nolita, New York City, features two naked statues of Puck by sculptor Henry Baerer. The building is named after and housed the 19th-century humor magazine Puck. The magazine was named after the character, and used a depiction and a quote of him as a logotype.
- Sculpture Puck, by Carl Andersson, bronze, 1912, in the Stockholm suburb of Midsommarkransen in Sweden.
- Puck by Brenda Putnam, marble, 1932, at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.
- In Neil Gaiman's comic-book The Sandman story "'A Midsummer Night's Dream" (1990), Puck and other fairies watch Shakespeare's company of actors perform A Midsummer Night's Dream. After the play, Puck decides to remain in the "mortal" world and appear in later stories.
- Shakespeare's sources for Puck were assembled and analysed by Winifried Schleiner (1985). "Imaginative Sources For Shakespeare's Puck" Shakespeare Quarterly 36(1): 65–68. doi:10.2307/2870083. JSTOR 2870083.
- Arden Shakespeare introduction and text of A Midsummer Night's Dream
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- Shakespeare, William (1905). A Midsummer Night's Dream. Sourcebooks, Inc. p. 70. ISBN 9781402226809. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
- Richards, Stuart James (2017). The Queer Film Festival: Popcorn and Politics. Springer. p. 191. ISBN 9781137584380. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
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- Sorren, Martha. "Robin From Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3 Has Shakespearean Roots". Refinery29.com. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
- Inc, Nielsen Business Media (17 January 1948). "Billboard". Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 42. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
- The Music Magazine/Musical Courier. 1961. p. 57.
- Shakespeare, William (1905). A Midsummer Night's Dream. Sourcebooks, Inc. p. 14. ISBN 9781402226809. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
- Aucoin, Don (14 September 2009). "Dream in 'Donkey Show' is Shakespearean". Boston.com. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
- Wollman, Elizabeth L. (2009). The Theater Will Rock: A History of the Rock Musical, from Hair to Hedwig. University of Michigan Press. p. 215. ISBN 9780472034024.
- Shakespeare, William (2016). The New Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199591152.
- "A Midsummer Night's Dream". TheaterMania. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
- Barnes, Jennifer (2017). Shakespearean Star. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107181113. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
- "The North Wall: From the school stage to living the artistic dream". The Oxford Times. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
- Sillars, Stuart (2006). Painting Shakespeare: The Artist as Critic, 1720-1820. Cambridge University Press. pp. 241–242. ISBN 978-0-521-85308-8. Retrieved 1 March 2020.
- Finn, Robin (19 September 2013). "Penthouses for the Puck Building". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
- Alleman, Richard (2013). New York: The Movie Lover's Guide: The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie New York. Crown/Archetype. p. 283. ISBN 9780804137782. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
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- "Puck". www.skulptur.stockholm.se. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
- "Denna gestalt skulle alla oberoende av kön kunna spela". BÄTTRE STADSDEL. 7 March 2016. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
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- Levenson, Jill L.; Ormsby, Robert (27 March 2017). The Shakespearean World. Taylor & Francis. p. 386. ISBN 9781317696193. Retrieved 12 October 2017 – via Google Books.
- Media related to Puck (elf) at Wikimedia Commons