The character of Puck (or Robin Goodfellow) in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of unrecognized importance, if I may be so bold to say. He is one of the only characters who cross between the natural world and supernatural world. He is a pivotal character, though he is not exactly foregrounded as a prominent or “main” character. He does, however, contribute to a major plot twist (administering the love potion to the wrong man).
“Night and silence. Who is here? / weeds of Athens he doth wear” (2.2.76-77).
This quote shows the obscurity that surrounds him (“night and silence”) as well as his quick assumption that Lysander is the Athenian man for whom he is looking. His impulsiveness results in the ensuing drama that causes everyone to fall in love with the wrong person.
“Churl, upon thy eyes I throw / all the power this charm doth owe” (2.2.82-85).
I just thought this part was funny because immediately after assessing Lysander’s clothing, Puck jumps on the opportunity to spray him with the potion and comes up with this silly little saying. It’s a great blend of comedy, dramatics, and theatrical musings.
While flipping through my class notes on this play, I noticed the question: “Is order restored by the end of the play?” Well, was it? I think that Shakespeare ended the play as it was intended to be closed. And by this, I mean that the plot came back into and order of intended chaos at the hand of the author. He finds order within disorder on a comedic level in the okay, and Puck’s ending speech signifies this.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a play about a bunch of different dreams; an oblivious haze seems to hover over the plot, demonstrating the confusion that comes with the blending of the natural and supernatural forces in the characters’ lives. Magical mischief clouds the minds of the young. Puck sums this up perfectly in his speech, deeming the entire play a dream. Just as within Hamlet, in which there was a play within a play, there is a play within Midsummer as well. What is more, Midsummer consists of many dreams within one big dream (if we follow Puck’s suggestion to pretend that what we saw was a dream). This makes it very metadiscursive. Puck comments on the ridiculous nature of the events that have transpired between these lovers at the hand of external, magical forces. Were these chaotic events symbolic of love being psychotic? Probably. How can one not create a chaotic work of art while he or she is basing the work thematically on young love? The heart wants what it wants, and oftentimes it wants what it is forbidden to have.
“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” (5.1.281).
Was this section of Act V necessary? I think it was. I think it had a nice reinforcement factor for the thematic comedy of the play. Puck’s speech reinforces the idea that dreams are not real, and they cannot hurt you, but they can be used as a means of escaping the natural world. He takes the audience into the play (at least, that’s how I read it) in his speech, addressing them and telling them to think of the play as only a dream if they did not enjoy it. It totally goes against the laws of nature that he tried to put back into balance at the end of Midsummer. He once again tries to blend the unreal with the real… Hasn’t he learned his lesson?!