How do I compare and contrast the characters of Puck and Bottom? In what ways do they epitomize opposite roles in A Midsummer Night's Dream?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Puck and Bottom both have important roles in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, because both of them advance the plot and underscore the themes.

Although Bottom is mortal and Puck is not, there are plenty of similarities.  First of all, both Puck and Bottom provide a kind of serious comic relief.  Each is a comedian in his own way.  Puck is playful and energetic, and Bottom is dominant and self-centered.  Puck is trying to be funny, but his fun often comes at the expense of others.  Bottom, on the other hand, is a more serious sort—except that almost everything he does is considered hilarious by the audience.

Both are subservient, but barely. Puck is Oberon’s henchman, but like Bottom he is not that easy to control.  He tries to follow orders, but can’t help having a little fun along the way.  The ass-head is a perfect example of Puck stepping beyond his orders for his own amusement.

What hempen home-spuns have we swagg'ring here,

So near the cradle of the fairy queen?

What, a play toward! I'll be an auditor

An actor too perhaps, if I see cause.  (Act 3, Scene 1)

Like Bottom, Puck is not usually content to stand back and watch.  Bottom wants to play every role, and Puck wants to be involved in every action.

There are some opposite roles here too.  Bottom, the mortal, pushes the limits by interacting with the fairies.  Puck does the same thing, but his goal is usually to keep the mortals from interfering with the fairies.  While Bottom has no idea what he is doing, and does not even seem to realize what is happening half the time, Puck knows the score exactly.  Bottom does not plan, he responds.  Puck, on the other hand, plans and waits for opportunity.

The main way Bottom and Puck epitomize opposite roles is that Bottom is visiting in the world of the fairies, and Puck is a constant fixture.  Puck has found a way to make a home for himself, and therefore feels comfortable interacting with both mortals and fairies alike.  Bottom never knows what is going on.

I have had a

dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was.

Man is but an ass if he go about to expound this(210)

Methought I was—there is no man can tell what dream. (Act 4, Scene 1)

Bottom does not seem too disturbed by the fact that he cannot understand what happened to him, so it is easy enough for him to explain it away in a dream. Like Puck, he puts his whole heart into everything he does.  Yet while he longs to be involved, he does not necessarily want to be in control.  Puck, on the other hand, is an instigator.

The main theme these two exemplify is that the world is what we make of it.  You can take lemons and made lemonade, so to speak.  Each of these characters makes the most of his or her situation, and does not fret when things go wrong.  They are energetic and playful, but they have good hearts.

sensei918 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Shakespeare's fantasy romance, A Midsummer Night's Dream, the characters of Puck and Bottom seem to have little in common. In reality, however, one could argue that they are very much alike. Bottom the weaver is full of himself, fancies himself to be a great actor, and plays the role of the fool, providing much of the comedy for the play. Puck, Oberon's henchman in the faerie kingdom, also thinks quite highly of his abilities and is proud of his usefulness to Oberon, yet he, too, plays the role of fool.

The main difference between the two is the fact that Puck is consciously the trickster and prankster. He acts foolish for a specific purpose - to carry out Oberon's plans. Bottom does not know he is the fool and the butt of many jokes. Yet, because of Oberon's spell on Titania, Bottom is raised up to the level of a god and treated like a king, if just for a little while.

Another way in which they are similar is that they are both actually "working class." Puck takes orders from Oberon; Bottom is a craftsman who works for others. Neither is really free to pursue what he might want to do outside of his obligations. This is what makes Bottom's affair with Titania all the more wonderful for him and why Puck pushes at the limits of what Oberon tells him to do.

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A Midsummer Night's Dream

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