University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Puck: Character Analysis
One of the most interesting characters in Shakespeare’s play, Midsummer Night’s Dream, is Puck. Puck’s whimsical spirit, magical fancy, fun-loving humor, and lovely, evocative language permeate the atmosphere of the play. Being brought to the audience’s attention when carrying out Oberon’s orders, Puck is often overlooked in relation to the attention given to other events occurring in each plot. Puck is servant and jester to the Fairy King Oberon and it is his charm and enchantment that serves useful to him and also Oberon. He is poised but not as sugary as the other fairies; as Oberon’s jester, he is given to a certain roughness, which leads him to transform Bottom’s head into that of an ass merely for the sake of enjoyment. Being a fairy of a mischievous nature is what leads Puck into triggering many of the memorable moments in the play. It is because of Puck’s many different character tendencies, along with his ever present mischievous nature that it is possible to analyze his character in three different ways.
The first way to analyze Puck is through his own eyes. A fairy many be the simplest way to describe Puck but he knows he is seen well as a goblin, or a creature of chaos. Agreeing that the previous would more accurately fit his description, Puck knows that he is prone to misadventure and cruel but good-hearted tricks. Knowing that Puck is a mischief maker and creator of chaos, Oberon still relies on him to carry out his orders that way he intends for them to happen. To puck chaos is correct, and it is that chaos that Oberon secretly relies on.
When Oberon sends Puck to Titania and her lover, Bottom, it easily foreseen before Puck even arrives that something unfortunate would soon spoil Titania’s evening. Here Puck’s lighthearted, yet cruel trickery gets the best of him where he could not but help himself in turning Bottom’s head into that of an ass. Also, without his wit, creativity, and trickery, Puck would not have been able to trick the mortal men into chasing him. Puck is able only then to lead the mortal men far into the forest where eventually they both tire and fall asleep. Puck knows that his mischievous nature is more than just his entertainment, but that it is also his greatest strength that proves to be useful to his master, Oberon, himself, and also the audience.
A second way to view Puck is as a bringer of love, a Cupid of some sort. Although the concept of the love spell was Oberon’s, he delegates the task to Puck. The mortals are not important enough for him to take care of himself and so he delegates this responsibility to puck, acting almost as Hermes to Zeus. As previously stated, Puck is fun-loving and prone to unfortunate mistakes and with this in Oberon’s full knowledge Puck is still given the flower with the power of love. After receiving the flower Puck sets off with the best of intention but his personality wins out.
Upon seeing the mortals lying sleeping, Puck confuses which mortal man he is to put the spell on and chooses the wrong one. Creating havoc rather than love, when the mortals wake up Puck realizes what he has done and amused and to some degree pleased, he does not get in any hurry to fix the mistake. He is not sorry, nor does he panic at the thought of Oberon finding out his mistake. Puck instead, blames the misfortune on the lover’s own foolishness. Not having done the work himself the first time, Oberon once again must entrust Puck to undo his mistake. Even after turning the young lover’s world upside down, it is Puck who is sent to restore order and set things right between the lovers, ensuring the play’s happy ending.
In many of Shakespeare’s play there is a character whose main purpose is informing the audience of the important aspects of the past, the present, and the future action of the play. These characters are known as the chorus and are prevalent in many of Shakespeare’s dramas. This is third way to view Puck’s character. Sometimes the events taking place are only discussed by the chorus, and other times the chorus seems to make predictions that lead the audience to expect the event. More often than not though, a twist ending is what the audience usually comes to accept. As the chorus, Puck not only directs the drama of A Midsummer Night’s Dream but brings the audience along with him. He keeps them updated on what has happened and what is happening throughout the play. Given that there are two plots, Puck pulls off the task of narrator and fairy guide effortlessly as he ensures that no one gets lost as the two plots continuously weave in and out of each other.
To decide between these three different personalities as to which Puck would more closely fit would be interesting and yet near impossible. It is only when the three personalities are combined that the real exploration and analysis of Puck’s true character can begin. Chaos is usually looked at as a derogatory term, but there can be good and bad chaos. Puck is exactly that, good and bad chaos. In fact, one could say Puck almost perfectly straddles the line between tranquility and chaos in that when it comes to his many unfortunate events, one gets fixed usually before more situations arise. Depending on the recipient of his work, Puck is not evil, just playful enough to cause problems and also smart enough to go back and help undo or fix the multitude of problems he causes throughout the play. Shakespeare’s inclusion of Puck as the form of knowledge shows that there is more to Puck’s character than just a mischievous hobgoblin you see at first glance. His character plays an important, if not major, role in the process of telling the story of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Puck is not to be undermined as just a jokster fairy, but understood in his own right.