Puck as a “rude mechanical”

             While reading “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” by William Shakespeare it became apparent to me that the actors of the play “Pyramus and Thisbe” might not be the only “rude mechanicals” of this Shakespearian masterpiece. In fact, I believe that the very person who called these players “rude mechanicals” is one himself. Puck (also known as Robin Goodfellow) might be of the fairy realm, but his actions and purpose are eerily similar to that of the merchant players.

            The first part of this hypocritical statement is “rude”. As we discussed in class, there are many different definitions to the word rude that range from lower class to uneducated and everything in-between. It is evident that while Puck isn’t a human character, he is still of a lower class than Oberon and Titania, as he is forced into doing work as ordered by Oberon. He takes orders just as any merchant would take orders from those above him, and therefore is of a lower class. Also, his nickname Puck means “mischievous or evil sprite” (Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary). This personality trait of mischief is often something that is associated with people who are uncultivated and have nothing better to do, as the lower class is so often perceived. Being uneducated, another “rude” trait, is something that comes up when Puck gives the potion to the wrong person. Rather than checking to make sure he has the correct person, Puck finds Lysander and says “Who is here? / Weeds of Athens he doth wear. / This is he my master said / Despised the Athenian maid—” (lines 76-79). He makes the assumption that any person wearing Athenian clothing must be the correct victim and doesn’t think to observe the characteristics of the person he is about to give the potion to. Not checking to make sure he is doing the right thing shows that he is uneducated and foolish to some extent. Through being uneducated, uncultivated, and of a lower class in the fairy realm, Puck can be considered “rude” in his own way.

            The second part is “mechanical” which would refer to being a piece or a machine of sorts that does work for others. It has already been stated that Puck does the work for Oberon and is in that way a piece for Oberon to play with and get work done through him. But it also is important to look at the way that Puck is a mechanical of the story. His job at the end of the play is to say “If we shadows have offended, / Think but this and all is mended: / That you have but slumbered here, / While these visions did appear; / And this weak and idle theme, / No more yielding than a dream,” (lines 1-6). Shakespeare uses Puck as a mechanism to tell the reader that this was all just a crazy dream and that none of it ever happened. Another big part of being a mechanical is the fact that Puck does most of his work within the story with his hands. He puts the potion in the eyes of Lysander with his hands, he turns Bottom’s head into that of a donkey by using his magic and his hands, and he eventually fixes all his wrongdoings by again inflicting potions on people with his hands. Between working with his hands and being the mechanism which people use to get their work done, Puck truly is a mechanical.

            I wonder to what extent others think this is also true. For me, reading about the players and reading about Puck formed almost an unavoidable parallel. Even though the fairy realm and the human realm are two separate entities within the play, there are many similarities between the “rude mechanicals” that are the players and the “rude mechanical” that is Puck himself.

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4 thoughts on “Puck as a “rude mechanical”

  1. michaeldrago

    Interesting interpretation of the character, one which I didn’t really consider as I was reading the play. But it is always interesting to see the ways in which characters can be hypocritical in their judgment of themselves and others; we spoke in class about Helena’s hypocrisy in accusing Hermia of being a bad friend, and Puck’s judging of the Mechanicals might well be another example.

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  2. sabrinabyrne

    I am very interested in your conclusions about Puck as a “Rude Mechanical” in the supernatural world. I agree with your reasoning’s as to why he could be considered this in the play. He does have similarities to the lower class men in the natural world, as they both serve their King and they are both uneducated and do not think things clearly. Both men wanted to do things for their King to show their loyalty to their masters. I like that you bring Puck into the picture, but what about Titania’s fairy followers? I would say they too are just like Puck and the lower class men from the natural world. They follow Titania around, making sure they do whatever she asks. It is fascinating how this subject of talk did not arise during our discussions in class since we did spend a good amount of time talking about the class structure. Shakespeare not only followed class structure in the real world, but carried it over into his fantasy world of fairies and mystical creatures.

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  3. Margaret Hack

    Yes, Puck is the parallel of the rude mechanicals as he serves Oberon. However, there might some distinguishing elements between the two. The artisans are looked down upon by both the men and women of the natural world, but Shakespeare doesn’t let us see the relationship between Titania and Puck. Who would be superior? The king’s right hand man, or the queen? Puck is also superior to the mechanicals; he impacts the destiny of mortals and has the power to do so, exhibiting his rank over the natural realm and thus creating a type of pluralism in his social status. His class depends on the realm in which he is taking part in; he can shift from one status to another.

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  4. gerouc1

    I have read and seen this play, probably over a dozen times and I don’t know why this never really occurred to me. Even though Robin uses verse, showing his higher status in the fairy world, like the following lines for example,

    “On the ground
    Sleep sound:
    I’ll apply
    To your eye,
    Gentle lover, remedy.
    When thou wakest,
    Thou takest
    True delight
    In the sight
    Of thy former lady’s eye:
    And the country proverb known,
    That every man should take his own,
    In your waking shall be shown:
    Jack shall have Jill;
    Nought shall go ill;
    The man shall have his mare again, and all shall be well.” (Act 3, scene 2)

    This section, like many of Robin’s lines and speeches could still be considered mechanical when thinking strictly about the movement of the lines.

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