In William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, what is the significance/relevance/importance of the passage from Act 2, Scene 1 beginning "Either I mistake your shape and making quite" and ending "But, room, fairy! here comes Oberon"?
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In Act 1, scene 2 of William Shakespeare’s play A Midsummer Night’s Dream, one of the fairies associated with Titania recognizes Puck, a fairy in the service of Titania’s husband, Oberon. Their words to one another are significant for a number of reasons, including the following:
- Puck is apparently well known among the other fairies; his name and reputation precede him. Already, then, Puck is singled out as special.
- Puck has more than one name; the other fairy calls him “Robin Goodfellow,” one of his traditional appellations and a name that helps make him sound especially English and that associates him with specifically English folkore (unlike the more classical-sounding names of Titania and Oberon).
- The questions asked of Puck by the unnamed fairy tell us a great deal about Puck’s mischievous character and playful reputation. Puck is the play’s chief trickster, and the questions from the other fairy already help suggest that identity.
- Once again, the fairy’s questions help associate Puck with life in the English countryside; he is not some mysteriously foreign fairy.
- When Puck responds to the other fairy’s questions, he confirms many of the claims the other fairy has already made about him and he elaborates upon those claims. These two speeches, then, go far toward characterizing Puck very early in the play, before he has yet had much chance to demonstrate his character.
- Puck’s response emphasizes his sense of humor – a trait especially appropriate to a comic play:
Puck. Thou speak'st aright;
I am that merry wanderer of the night.
I jest to Oberon and make him smile . . .
- Puck’s ensuing description of himself emphasizes that he is a practical joker – a role he will very much play in this drama. He is not a delicate, feeble little fairy but is full of robust energy and enthusiasm. He takes great pleasure in his own antics.
For a fuller analysis of Puck as trickster, see the essay below.
- Puck seems to enjoy playing tricks on simple folk; he is a character who is full of life and who brims with a whimsical attitude; he is one of the most important comic elements of this play, and this is our first chance to meet him.
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