A Midsummer Night's Dream by William Shakespeare

A Midsummer Night's Dream book cover
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What are some ways that Puck's presence, however brief, altered the outcome of A Midsummer's Night Dream? What would have happen differently if Puck had not been in the play at all?

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This "shrewd and knavish sprite" does indeed drive many of the incidents and outcomes of the plot of A Midsummer's Night Dream. In fact, he may even be considered the most important character in the play despite his relatively little time on stage. His actions are often the catalyst for the comedic confusion and chaos that ensues and drives the major action of the story. Several times throughout this play, Puck comes on stage to create a degree of chaos, has a good laugh, and runs off while the audience gets to watch the ridiculousness that follows. However, because Puck is still good-natured at heart, he cleans up his mess in the final act to ensure a happy ending.

Sometimes Puck's consequential actions are done on behalf of others, namely his master, Oberon. When he uses the love potion on Titania, this is done at the behest of Oberon. It is also under Oberon's direction that he uses it on the young Athenian lovers. However, by confusing Lysander for Demetrius, the comic confusion that follows takes place.

Other times, Puck's actions are pranks that he does for sheer amusement. Puck takes great pleasure in tormenting humans. Frightening the mechanicals and turning Bottom's head into that of an ass, seems to serve no purpose other than to give the spirit a good laugh.

It is all these shenanigans of Puck that drive the action of the play. The confusion of the Athenian lovers and the quarrel between Oberon and Titania are all caused or exacerbated by what Puck does to them. However, it is also Puck who sets everything right in the end. By reversing the effects of the love potion on the Athenians he sees to it that they are all rightly paired up at the end of the play.

If Puck were not a character in this play, it would have lacked all the absurd comedy for which it is famous. It would have just been a series of lovers' quarrels, Oberon and Titania's, and the Athenian youths', likely without any resolution and possibly ending in tragedy.

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