Puck (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.
Appearances in the play
The audience is introduced to Puck in Act 2 Scene 1 when one of Titania's fairies encounters Puck:
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?
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.
But, room, fairy! Here comes Oberon
Puck is the servant of the fairy king Oberon, who is angry with Titania the fairy queen. Oberon is jealous of Titania's fondness for her Indian slave boy. Puck is sent to fetch a flower that, having been struck by Cupid's arrows, now has the power to induce love in anyone who drinks its juices. Puck is then instructed by Oberon to use the love flower to fix the love entanglement occurring between the Athenian lovers who are on a merry chase in the forest. He mistakenly administers the charm to the sleeping Lysander instead of Demetrius. Puck provides Nick Bottom with a donkey's head so that Titania will fall in love with a beast and forget her attachment to the slave boy, allowing Oberon to take the child from her. Later, Puck is ordered by Oberon to fix the mistake he has made, by producing a dark fog, leading the lovers astray within it by imitating their voices, and then applying the flower to Lysander's eyes, which will cause him to fall back in love with Hermia. The four lovers wonder if the events that occurred in the forest were real, or merely a shared delusion (or, to put it another way, A Midsummer Night's Dream). At the end of the play (Act 5 Scene 1) Puck delivers a speech in which he addresses the audience directly, and suggests that anyone who might have been offended by the play's events should, like the characters, consider that the whole performance was just a bad dream:
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 am 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.
Name of character
The original texts of Shakespeare's plays do not have cast lists, and can sometimes be inconsistent about what they call characters, but Puck's is a particularly awkward case. 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 amends 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.
- 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.
- Brent Spiner plays a version of Puck in Disney's Gargoyles, first appearing in the season two episode "The Mirror" in 1995.
- Ken Nwosu, in Upstart Crow in 2018.
- Jonathan Whitesell plays a version of Robin Goodfellow in The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina in 2020.
- John Kane, with The Royal Shakespeare Company in 1970.
- Adam Darius, with the Stora Teatern in Göteborg, Sweden in 1961.
- Matthew Tennyson, with Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in 2013.
- Frederick Peisley in Donald Wolfit's production in 1947.
- Puck is renamed "Dr. Wheelgood" in Diane Paulus's production The Donkey Show in 1999.
- Laurence Olivier, with St Edward's School, Oxford in 1923.
- Sebastian de Souza, with St Edward's School, Oxford.
- 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.
- The Puck Building built in 1885–8 in Nolita, New York City, features two gilded 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.
- In Neil Gaiman's comic-book The Sandman, 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.
- Arden Shakespeare introduction and text of A Midsummer Night's Dream
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- "BBC Two - Upstart Crow, Series 3, Lord, What Fools These Mortals Be!, If we shadows have offended". BBC. 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.
- Shakespeare, William (1905). A Midsummer Night's Dream. Sourcebooks, Inc. p. 14. ISBN 9781402226809. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
- The Music Magazine/Musical Courier. 1961. p. 57.
- Shakespeare, William (2016). The New Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199591152.
- Inc, Nielsen Business Media (17 January 1948). "Billboard". Nielsen Business Media, Inc. p. 42. 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.
- 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.
- "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.
- Rubenstein, Charlotte Streifer, American Women Sculptors: A History of Women Working in Three Dimensions, G. K. Hall and Co. Boston, 1990 p. 248
- Finn, Robin (19 September 2013). "Penthouses for the Puck Building". The New York Times. Retrieved 29 March 2019.
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- Kahn, Michael Alexander; West, Richard Samuel (2014). PUCK: What Fools These Mortals Be!. IDW Publishing. p. 13. ISBN 9781623026691.
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- Media related to Puck (elf) at Wikimedia Commons