Puck (A Midsummer Night's Dream)
Puck is a clever, mischievous elf, sprite or jester that personifies the wise knave. In the play, Shakespeare introduces Puck as the "shrewd and knavish sprite" and "that merry wanderer of the night". Puck and Bottom, jesters to Oberon the fairy king, are the only two characters who interact and progress the three central stories in the whole play. Puck is the one who is first introduced in the fairies' story and creates the drama of the lovers' story by breaking up a young couple lost in an enchanted forest, as well as by replacing Bottom's head with that of an ass. Similarly, Bottom is performing in a play intending it to be presented in the lovers' story, as well as interacting with Titania in the fairies' story. While there are limited references to Puck's gender within the text, the character is referred to twice in the opening dialogue of Act 2 Scene 1 as "he".
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.
Puck is Oberon's servant sent by Oberon, who is angry with Titania the fairy queen because he could not have the Indian boy/slave, so Puck is sent to fetch the flower that has been hit by Cupid's arrows. Puck is then instructed by Oberon to use the love flowers juices to fix the love entanglement occurring between the Athenian lovers who also happen to be running about 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 Changeling Boy, allowing Oberon to take the child from her. (Oberon does so successfully.) Later, Puck is ordered by Oberon to fix the mistake Puck 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 are then made to believe that they were dreaming what took place in the forest (hence the play's title 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, apologising for anything that might have offended them and suggesting that they pretend it was a 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".
- 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.
- Dov Tiefenbach, in a high-school musical adaptation of a Midsummer Night's Dream in the 2001 film Get Over It.
- Tanner Cohen, in a high-school production depicted in the 2008 film Were the World Mine.
- 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.
- Dr. Wheelgood in Diane Paulus's production of The Donkey Show in 1999.
- School productions with now famous people
- Laurence Olivier, with St Edward's School, Oxford.
- Hilarie Burton, with Park View High School.
- Sebastian de Souza, with St Edward's School, Oxford.
- Gary Oldman, with Rose Bruford College .
- Fine arts
- 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.
- Other literature
- Puck is a character in the childrens-book series The Sisters Grimm by Michael Buckley.
- 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
- Burnett, Mark Thornton; Streete, Adrian; Wray, Ramona (31 October 2011). "The Edinburgh Companion to Shakespeare and the Arts". Edinburgh University Press. Retrieved 15 October 2017 – via Google Books.
- Rubenstein, Charlotte Streifer, American Women Sculptors: A History of Women Working in Three Dimensions, G. K. Hall and Co. Boston, 1990 p. 248
- Levenson, Jill L.; Ormsby, Robert (27 March 2017). "The Shakespearean World". Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 12 October 2017 – via Google Books.
- Media related to Puck (elf) at Wikimedia Commons