Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream: Character Traits & Analysis

Puck in A Midsummer Night's Dream: Character Traits & Analysis
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  • 0:01 Character Traits of Puck
  • 1:35 Character Analysis of Puck
  • 4:22 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Patricia Vineski
In this lesson, you will learn who Puck is, and what his role is in Shakespeare's play, 'A Midsummer Night's Dream.' Take a look at the character traits and analysis, and then test your knowledge with a quiz.

Character Traits of Puck

Puck has a miscreant spirit and capricious humor, and along with his magic, sets many of the play's events in motion by means of both deliberate pranks on the human characters and his tendency toward making unfortunate mistakes. He smears magical love juice on the wrong man's eyes, causing a love triangle that quickly blossoms into a frantic confusion in which blood is nearly shed. He transforms the actor Nick Bottom's head into that of an ass (or donkey--don't be crude), merely for the sake of his own enjoyment, as he anticipates the humiliation of Titania, the fairy queen, when she wakes up under the influence of the love juice and falls in love with 'a monster.' He is not only capricious, reveling in the chaos he creates, but he is cruel.

Yet, he is also good-hearted. He does attempt to undo his initial mistake with the love juice, and in the end, he sets things to rights, with any suffering that may have ensued because of his mistakes being alleviated. He then asks the audience for forgiveness, which suggests that he is aware of what he has done and feels some remorse. However, even as he asks for forgiveness, he reminds the audience of the dangers of the night, of graves gaping open and wolves howling at the moon. He never asks for forgiveness from the characters themselves, from those he has pranked or who fell victim to his mistakes. Because the final mischief that he leaves us with is that the events just witnessed were only a dream, and, in a sense, we, the audience, are his last prank.

Character Analysis of Puck

Puck is the mischievous, quick-witted sprite who serves Oberon, the fairy king. When we first meet Puck, he has been sent by Oberon to find the flower 'love-in-idleness,' the juice of which can be spread over a sleeping person's eyelids to make that person fall in love with the first thing he or she sees upon waking. Puck brings him the magical flower, and Oberon tells him of his plan to spread its juice on the sleeping Titania's eyelids to make her agreeable to his desire to knight the beautiful, young Indian prince given to Titania by the prince's mother.

After having seen Demetrius (who has gone in pursuit of Lysander and Hermia to stop their intended marriage) act cruelly to Helena (who was once engaged to Demetrius, but later rejected for Hermia), Oberon orders Puck to apply the juice to Demetrius' eyes to make him fall in love with Helena. Puck is prone to making mistakes, and thinking that Lysander is Demetrius, he smears the love juice on the eyes of Lysander. Lysander happens to see Helena upon waking up and falls deeply in love with her, abandoning Hermia, his intended bride.

As the night, and the play, progress, Puck attempts to undo his mistake, but he only makes things worse, with both Lysander and Demetrius ending up in love with Helena, who is convinced that they are mocking her in their pursuit. Hermia becomes so jealous that she tries to challenge Helena to a fight. Puck may be fun-loving and quick-witted, but the pleasure he gets from their confusion reveals a darker side to his nature, one capable of cruel tricks for the sake of enjoyment.

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