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A Midsummer Night's Dream

by William Shakespeare
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In what way does Puck's spirit dominate the mood of the play, in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream?

Puck sets the tone of the play by creating the playful, comic mood and atmosphere through his deviousness, mischievous behavior and his final lines.

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Puck's spirit, or energetic, devious nature, dominates the playful, comic mood of the play through his mischievous, manipulative antics. His final lines of the play particularly create a very comic and joyful mood. We learn that Puck is a particularly devious and mischievous fairy from his fellow fairy's comments about...

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Puck's spirit, or energetic, devious nature, dominates the playful, comic mood of the play through his mischievous, manipulative antics. His final lines of the play particularly create a very comic and joyful mood.

We learn that Puck is a particularly devious and mischievous fairy from his fellow fairy's comments about him in the first scene in which he appears. His fellow fairy asks him if he is the "shrewd and knavish sprite" who frightens village maidens, steals cream, messes with the grinder in the mill, as well as other devious antics (II.i.33-39). The term "shrewd" can be translated as malicious or spiteful while "knavish" means "mischievious," showing us just exactly what a rogue little fairy Puck is.

While Puck is indeed mischievous, he genuinely mistakes Lysander for Demetrius as Oberon only tells him that he would "know the man / By the Athenian garments he hath on" (II.i.268-269). Puck had no idea that there were two Athenian men in the forest that night. His simple mistake sets the tone for the entire play, which is both comic and playful. He adds to the comedy and the irony of the situation by letting it be known just how much fun he is having in viewing the consequences of his error, as we see in his lines:

Then will two at once woo one.
That must needs be sport alone;
And those things do best please me
That befall preposterously. (III.ii.119-122).

In this passage, the term "sport" can be translated as "pleasant pastime," showing us that he thinks viewing the two men fight over the one woman and the two women fight with each other is a great deal of fun (Random House Dictionary). Also, the term "preposterously" can be translated to mean "foolishly," showing us just how foolish he thinks the humans' behavior is.

Finally, at the end of the play, Puck further sets the final, satisfying, happy mood of the play by showing how the fairies have made amends for their antics, especially his own antics, as we see in his final speech:

Gentles, do not reprehend.
...
Give me your hands, if we be friends,
And Robin shall restore amends. (V.i.425, 432-433)

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One way Puck dominates the play is that he is the initiator of the actions that cause all the various confusions and problems. While he is Oberon's servant, executing Oberon's wishes, it is Puck who, for instance, administers the potion thus directly causing the problems. This trouble-making "spirit" of Puck's is well documented in Act I, scene i when he and Titania's Fairy discuss his exploits:  

PUCK
Thou speak'st aright;
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon and make him smile
When I a fat and bean-fed horse beguile,

Puck is the troublemaker of the night to whom trouble is a jest (joke) and to whom mischievous antics are stock-in-trade. It is this spirit of good natured trouble-making that pervades the play from beginning to end. For instance, when Helena and Hermia are arguing in the Forest in III.ii, they insult each other in the "spirit" of Puck, calling each other "puppet" and "canker-blossom."

HELENA
What, will you tear
Impatient answers from my gentle tongue?
Fie, fie! you counterfeit, you puppet, you!

It might be said that Puck in some ways acts as a narrator of the play as he seems to be everywhere and involved in everything and, therefore, seemingly commenting on everything. It is this seeming omnipresence that facilitates Puck's spirit dominating the troublesome yet playful mood of the play.

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The mischevious character of Puck dominates the mood of the play Midsummer Night's Dream through the tricks he plays on the mortals who become lost in the forest outside of Athens on the eve of Theseus and Hippolyta's wedding.  Even when we first meet him in Act 2, it is clear that Puck is happiest when he's causing mischief for mortals. He tells the fairy he meets: "I am that merry wanderer of the night," going on to list his "crimes" in a gleeful manner. Puck underscores the silliness of the various groups of mortals, be they upper or lower class. When he says "Lord what fools these mortals be," the audience is encouraged to understand that he sees them as both a nuisance and as entertainment - sport to relieve his boredom.  Even though he is commanded by Oberon, Puck retains enough independence to act on his own. When he sees Bottom and the mechanicals rehearsing near Titania's bower, he determines to teach them a lesson at the same time that he is assisting Oberon in playing a trick on the Fairy Queen.  

When he accidentally puts the love-juice into the eyes of the wrong young Athenian, instead of being sorry, he is proud of himself and wants Oberon to be proud too. Still, he is not necessarily malicious. In the epilogue, he appeals to the audience to "give me your hands if we be friends, and Robin will restore amends."

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