Puck (A Midsummer Night's Dream)

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Vince Cardinale as Puck from the Carmel Shakespeare Festival production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, September 2000

Puck, or Robin Goodfellow, is a character in William Shakespeare's play, A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Based on the Puck of English mythology and the púca of Celtic mythology,[1][2] 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 Nick Bottom's head with that of an ass.

Appearances in the play[edit]

Oil painting representing Puck as a baby with pointed ears and curly blonde hair sitting on an enormous mushroom in a forest. He holds a small posy and grins mischievously.
Puck (1789) by Joshua Reynolds

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].[3]

Puck (c. 1810–1820), Henry Fuseli's depiction of the character

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:

Puck by William Dyce, (1825) Aberdeen Archives, Gallery and Museums

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].[4]

Name of character[edit]

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".[5][citation needed]


Puck by Carl Andersson (sculptor) [sv], Midsommarkransen, Stockholm, Sweden

Film and TV[edit]


School productions[edit]

Painting and sculpture[edit]

Logo for the magazine Puck, 1871-1918


  • French pianist and composer Claude Debussy dedicated a prelude to Puck, La danse de Puck.[37]



  1. ^ 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.
  2. ^ Wall, Wendy (2001). "Why Does Puck Sweep?: Fairylore, Merry Wives, and Social Struggle". Shakespeare Quarterly. 52 (1): 67–106. doi:10.1353/shq.2001.0021. ISSN 0037-3222. JSTOR 3648647. S2CID 191580811.
  3. ^ Shakespeare, William, "The Text: Act II", A Midsummer Night's Dream, retrieved 14 March 2023
  4. ^ Shakespeare, William, "The Text: Act V", A Midsummer Night's Dream, retrieved 14 March 2023
  5. ^ Arden Shakespeare introduction and text of A Midsummer Night's Dream
  6. ^ James, Clive (17 September 2016). "Clive James: 'Mickey Rooney hammed it up rotten as Puck'". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  7. ^ Clarke, Andrew. "Shake up your Shakespeare: 10 innovative plays for today". East Anglian Daily Times. Archived from the original on 11 April 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  8. ^ Dobson, Michael; Wells, Stanley; Sharpe, Will; Sullivan, Erin (2015). The Oxford Companion to Shakespeare. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780191058158. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  9. ^ Burnett, Mark Thornton; Streete, Adrian; Wray, Ramona (31 October 2011). The Edinburgh Companion to Shakespeare and the Arts. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 9780748649341. Retrieved 15 October 2017 – via Google Books.
  10. ^ Perlmutter, David (2018). The Encyclopedia of American Animated Television Shows. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 231. ISBN 9781538103746. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  11. ^ Shakespeare, William (1905). A Midsummer Night's Dream. Sourcebooks, Inc. p. 70. ISBN 9781402226809. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  12. ^ Richards, Stuart James (2017). The Queer Film Festival: Popcorn and Politics. Springer. p. 191. ISBN 9781137584380. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  13. ^ "Meet the cast of A Midsummer Night's Dream". Radio Times. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  14. ^ "Review | This new 'Midsummer Night's Dream' movie is set in Hollywood. Sounds cool, no? Wrong". Washington Post. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  15. ^ "BBC Two - Upstart Crow, Series 3, Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be!, If we shadows have offended". BBC. 28 August 2018. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  16. ^ "Upstart Crow - S3 - Episode 1: Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be!". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 11 April 2019. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  17. ^ Sorren, Martha. "Robin From Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Part 3 Has Shakespearean Roots". Refinery29.com. Retrieved 2 February 2020.
  18. ^ "Digitale Bibliothek - Münchener Digitalisierungszentrum" (in German). Retrieved 18 March 2018.
  19. ^ "Billboard". Nielsen Business Media, Inc. 17 January 1948. p. 42. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  20. ^ The Music Magazine/Musical Courier. 1961. p. 57.
  21. ^ Shakespeare, William (1905). A Midsummer Night's Dream. Sourcebooks, Inc. p. 14. ISBN 9781402226809. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  22. ^ Aucoin, Don (14 September 2009). "Dream in 'Donkey Show' is Shakespearean". Boston.com. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ Sanders, Kim (31 January 2007). "Heating Up 'Midsummer'". Daily Bruin. Retrieved 19 April 2023.
  25. ^ Shakespeare, William (2016). The New Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199591152.
  26. ^ "A Midsummer Night's Dream". TheaterMania. Retrieved 26 March 2020.
  27. ^ Barnes, Jennifer (2017). Shakespearean Star. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107181113. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  28. ^ "The North Wall: From the school stage to living the artistic dream". The Oxford Times. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  29. ^ 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.
  30. ^ "Puck". Smithsonian American Art Museum. Retrieved 25 September 2022.
  31. ^ Finn, Robin (19 September 2013). "Penthouses for the Puck Building". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  32. ^ 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.
  33. ^ Kahn, Michael Alexander; West, Richard Samuel (2014). PUCK: What Fools These Mortals Be!. IDW Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 9781623026691.
  34. ^ "Puck". www.skulptur.stockholm.se. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
  35. ^ "Denna gestalt skulle alla oberoende av kön kunna spela". BÄTTRE STADSDEL. 7 March 2016. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  36. ^ Rubenstein, Charlotte Streifer, American Women Sculptors: A History of Women Working in Three Dimensions, G. K. Hall and Co. Boston, 1990 p. 248
  37. ^ Walsh, Stephen (2018). Debussy: A Painter in Sound. Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-5247-3193-9.
  38. ^ Levenson, Jill L.; Ormsby, Robert (27 March 2017). The Shakespearean World. Taylor & Francis. p. 386. ISBN 9781317696193. Retrieved 12 October 2017 – via Google Books.

External links[edit]