Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 589
1. How did Puck earn his reputation?
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2. Why is Oberon angry with Titania?
3. What is her argument with him?
4. What is it Oberon sends Puck to find?
5. How does Oberon intend to punish his wife?
6. Why does Helena pursue Demetrius?
7. Why does Demetrius want Helena to leave him alone?
8. How is it that Oberon is able to overhear them?
9. What does Oberon decide when Puck returns?
10. How does Oberon instruct Puck to recognize Demetrius?
1. Puck earned his reputation as a hobgoblin by playing pranks, some mean, on both humans and animals as we can see by the fairy’s declaring, “…you are that shrewd and knavish sprite….” The name Puck, which is not Robin Goodfellow’s actual name, means hobgoblin and often is used interchangeably with the hobgoblin’s actual name.
2. Oberon is angry with Titania because she refuses to give up the changeling she has brought with her from India. While she has had many affairs, it is her insistence on keeping the boy that enrages her husband. Oberon, himself, declares, “I do but beg a little changeling boy…” and, more directly, “Give me that boy….”
3. Titania is angry with her husband because she does not want to give up the changeling and she feels Nature “From our debate, from our dissension…“ is turning itself upside down. She maintains that if he would simply allow her to keep the boy the arguing would end and Nature would be able to return to normal.
4. Oberon sends Puck around the world to find a flower called “love-in-idleness” with which to make a love juice. He is going to use this love juice in his plan to punish his wife for keeping the changeling and force her to relinquish the boy to him.
5. Oberon intends to punish his wife by anointing her eye with the love juice while she sleeps so that she will fall in love with the first creature she sees upon waking. He plans to release her from the spell only when she agrees to give him the changeling.
6. Helena pursues Demetrius because she loves him and will “…follow thee and make a heaven of hell to die upon the hand I [Helena] love so well.” Demetrius had wooed and won her before Egeus chose him as a son-in-law and before Demetrius fell in love with Hermia. Helena cannot accept that Hermia, who loves and is loved by Lysander, is also loved by Demetrius.
7. Demetrius wants Helena to leave him alone because he is in pursuit of someone himself. He is looking for Hermia and Lysander so that, “The one I’ll stay; the other stayeth me,” since he thinks he is in love with Hermia and, more importantly, Egeus has chosen him as Hermia’s husband.
8. Oberon is invisible, so Helena and Demetrius speak freely in front of him since they do not know he is there. Oberon states that “I am invisible, and I will overhear their conference.”
9. When Puck returns, Oberon decides he will help Helena, “a sweet Athenian lady …in love,” by having Puck anoint Demetrius’ eye with the love juice just as he, Oberon, will be doing to his wife, Titania. Oberon hopes that Demetrius will fall in love with Helena as she is with Demetrius, whom Oberon calls “a disdainful youth.”
10. Oberon instructs Puck to recognize Demetrius by his “Athenian garments” and gives no further clue as to his identification. This is an excellent example of one of Shakespeare’s devices to complicate the plot laid out in Act I.