A Midsummer Night's Dream

Pdf fan dd71f526917d6085d66d045bd94fb5b55d02a108dd45d836cbdd4abe2d4c043d Tap here to download this LitChart! (PDF)

Robin Goodfellow (Puck) Character Analysis

A type of fairy called a "puck," Puck is Oberon's faithful servant, but is also mischievous and enjoys nothing more than playing tricks and causing trouble. He has all sorts of magical abilities, from changing shape, to turning invisible, to assuming different people's voices, to transforming a man's head into an ass's head. He is not, however, beyond making a mistake, as his mix-up between Demetrius and Lysander makes clear.

Robin Goodfellow (Puck) Quotes in A Midsummer Night's Dream

The A Midsummer Night's Dream quotes below are all either spoken by Robin Goodfellow (Puck) or refer to Robin Goodfellow (Puck). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of A Midsummer Night's Dream published in 2004.
Act 2, scene 1 Quotes
Either I mistake your shape and making quite,
You are that shrewd and knavish sprite
Called Robin Goodfellow. (19)
Related Characters: Robin Goodfellow (Puck)
Page Number: 2.1.33-35
Explanation and Analysis:

The setting of the play shifts from the human center of Athens to the mystical forest. There, a fairy encounters another figure and inquires about his identity.

Though this passage might seem to be a perfunctory interaction between two characters, it also develops important themes relating to deception and identity. The fairy, for instance, introduces recognition by way of mis-recognition: The line “mistake your shape and making quite” serves as an odd and inverted greeting. When the fairy does seek to identity Robin, he begins not with his name but with a description of how he is “shrewd and knavish”—both terms that connote deception and lack of predictability.

Robin’s name is itself rather slippery. The supposed moral constancy implied by the name “Goodfellow” directly contrasts with the previous description of him as being “knavish,” and the fairy will soon bestow on this "Robin Goodfellow" the nickname of Puck. This interaction thus shows how fickle identity becomes in the forest setting. By directly juxtaposing Act One’s urban affairs with this transition into the mystical realm, Shakespeare sets this space starkly apart—as an environment for the characters to take on new identities.

A+

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other A Midsummer Night's Dream quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!
Act 3, scene 2 Quotes
When in that moment, so it came to pass,
Titania waked and straightway loved an ass. (33)
Related Characters: Robin Goodfellow (Puck) (speaker), Nick Bottom, Titania
Related Symbols: The Love Juice
Page Number: 3.2.35-36
Explanation and Analysis:

The first being that Titania sees when she awakes is a bewitched Bottom who now has the head of a donkey. Puck explains those events to Oberon with what might be best described as delighted glee.

These lines fulfill Oberon’s earlier hope that Tatiana would spy something “vile” when she awoke. Indeed, his wish seems to have been fulfilled far beyond his hopes. For she has fallen in love not only with a “vile” human but actually a partial animal: an “ass” both in name (Bottom) and body. That Puck conveys this information with his characteristic singsong tone presents it to be lighthearted. But beyond that levity, he also adopts the distanced perspective of a theater director or storyteller. Puck describes Titania’s actions—“so it came to pass”—as if they were performed by a character in a different tale. Thus he presents himself and Oberon as the creators of the plot events being watched by the audience. Shakespeare forefronts, in this way, how people can function as playwrights, scripting their lives and those of others from a distanced point of view.

Lord, what fools these mortals be! (117)
Related Characters: Robin Goodfellow (Puck) (speaker), Hermia, Helena, Lysander, Demetrius
Page Number: 3.2.117
Explanation and Analysis:

Puck has just seen Helena being pursued by Lysander—and both are about to enter the stage with Demetrius. He correctly expects that the two will compete for her love and looks forward to the show.

This line corroborates the way Puck sees himself as a theater director for the events that transpire—as opposed to a character directly involved in the narrative. Describing the other characters as “mortals” sets up a clear divide between the supernatural forest creatures and the normal humans. And considering them to be “fools” places them in a position of subservience: They are following the pre-designed games of Oberon and Puck rather than acting of their own independent accord. As a result, Puck is able to look on the behavior of Helena and her two new lover’s with pure whimsy, for their issues exist in a distanced and, for him, meaningless realm. Shakespeare thus shows that adopting a removed perspective allows one to aestheticize and find humorous what might otherwise be a dramatic or painful series of events. And, of course, the audience of the play gets an extra thrill of delight as they – the ultimate viewers with a removed perspective – watch Puck watching the "mortals."

Act 5, scene 1 Quotes
Not a mouse
Shall disturb this hallow'd house:
I am sent with broom before,
To sweep the dust behind the door. (297)
Related Characters: Robin Goodfellow (Puck) (speaker)
Page Number: 5.1.404-407
Explanation and Analysis:

As the play draws to a close, Puck enters alone and reflects on its denouement. He avows to leave behind a tranquil environment.

Earlier, Snug mistakenly worried that the audience of his play would mistake it for real. Here, Puck acts as if the play in fact is real and promises to sweep up after it and scrupulously clean the space of anything from the play that remains. Puck thus reiterates both how all that has occurred will soon fade into the past and be "unreal" to the audience that watched the play, but also that the play will leave remnants behind with the audience. In other words, he asserts both the plays unreality and its reality, and in so doing once again highlights the magic of theater, which is to find a common ground between reality and unreality in which actors, characters, and audience can co-exist.

These lines also subtly allude to the physical space of a theater. After Shakespeare’s play has ended, all will indeed be silent, and custodians will presumably have to sweep it with a “broom.” Puck thus verifies that he has been playing the metaphorical role of stage assistant to Oberon throughout their play within this play. And he cleverly describes the very space in which the audience sits as “this hallow’d house.” Shakespeare thus likens the ephemeral nature of this play to the broader experience of attending theater—in which great actions are staged for a moment but then soon return to quiet absence.

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 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, goodnight unto you all.
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends. (430)
Related Characters: Robin Goodfellow (Puck) (speaker)
Page Number: 5.1.440-
Explanation and Analysis:

Puck is left alone on the stage at the play’s end to address the audience directly. He recommends that they think of what has transpired as a dream.

This final monologue verifies the parallels that have been made between the performance of theater and the experience of a dream. Puck likens the actions to “visions” and trivializes the action by describing it as a “weak and idle theme”—as something that would appear ephemerally, in one’s dream. In that case, it would be easy to “mend” any offense because the consequences of that offense would be non-existent. Puck insists on his own honesty, and he challenges the audience to call him a “liar” if the play indeed does not fade away like a dream. These lines thus corroborate that the events are supposed to be seen as transitory, a perspective that would allow one to view from a distance, as art, all that has occurred.

By invoking his original name “Robin,” Puck also marks the shift back from the forest dreamscape into reality. Recall that the fairy bestowed that name on him in the first supernatural scene in the play. Thus by taking back his own original identity, Puck signals to the audience that they will now resume their normal human endeavors beyond the confines of Shakespeare’s work. In this way, Shakespeare presents the theater as itself a way to escape normal human concerns for a moment—to take on new identities in a metaphorical dreamscape or forest environment, before returning to reality.

Get the entire A Midsummer Night's Dream LitChart as a printable PDF.
A midsummer nights dream.pdf.medium

Robin Goodfellow (Puck) Character Timeline in A Midsummer Night's Dream

The timeline below shows where the character Robin Goodfellow (Puck) appears in A Midsummer Night's Dream. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 2, scene 1
Love Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
...suddenly asks if Robin is the mischievous fellow who goes by the nickname "sweet puck." Puck happily admits it, and brags a while about his mischief. (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
Puck quiets as Oberon and Titania enter. Oberon tells her, "ill met by moonlight, proud Titania"... (full context)
Men and Women Theme Icon
...Titania is gone, Oberon vows to punish her for not obeying him. He calls to Puck, and reminds him of the time when Cupid aimed to hit the virgin queen of... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
...sleeping eyelids, they will fall madly in love with the next living thing they see. Puck promises to circle the world in forty minutes and bring Oberon the flower. He exits. (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
After they exit, Oberon promises that soon Demetrius will seek Helena's love. Once Puck returns with the love-in-idleness flower, Oberon tells him that "A sweet Athenian lady is in... (full context)
Act 2, scene 2
Love Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Once Hermia and Lysander fall asleep, Puck enters, complaining that he's searched the forest and hasn't found the Athenian youth he's looking... (full context)
Act 3, scene 1
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Meanwhile, Puck, invisible, enters. Puck is amused by the laborers' constant mistakes, and decides to stay and... (full context)
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
...and missing their cues. The play calls for Pyramus to exit at one point, and Puck follows Bottom offstage. When Bottom returns, his head has been replaced by the head of... (full context)
Act 3, scene 2
Men and Women Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
...Oberon wonders whether Titania has woken and with whom or what she's fallen in love, Puck enters and tells Oberon that Titania has fallen in love with a monster. He explains... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
But just as Oberon asks about Puck's success with the Athenian youth and Puck says he used the potion as Oberon asked,... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Oberon realizes what has happened and scolds Puck: "What hast though done? Thou hast mistaken quite / and laid the love juice on... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Oberon puts the love ointment on Demetrius' eyes as Puck returns with the warning that Helena is on her way and trailed by the lovelorn... (full context)
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Oberon suspects Puck of having intentionally caused this mayhem. Puck swears he made an honest mistake, though he... (full context)
Act 3, scene 3
Love Theme Icon
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Through Puck's trickery and his ability to assume any of their voices, the four lovers all end... (full context)
Act 4, scene 1
Love Theme Icon
Men and Women Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Oberon and Puck enter. Oberon says that he now feels sorry for Titania, especially since she gave him... (full context)
Act 5, scene 1
Love Theme Icon
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Puck enters, followed by Oberon, Titania and their fairy followers. They dance and sing to bless... (full context)
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Everyone exits but Puck, who delivers an epilogue, in which he advises the audience that "If we shadows have... (full context)
Act 5, scene 2
Love Theme Icon
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Puck enters, followed by Oberon, Titania and their fairy followers. They dance and sing to bless... (full context)
Plays Within Plays Theme Icon
Dreams Theme Icon
The Supernatural Theme Icon
Everyone exits but Puck, who delivers an epilogue, in which he advises the audience that "If we shadows have... (full context)