Although Shakespeare wrote many well-received plays, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is one of the most popular by far, and its engaging love story and comedic tone are undoubtedly the biggest factors contributing to the production’s success. However, while the love square between the four young Athenians is the central plotline of the play, Shakespeare included many humorous elements that alter the story’s course drastically. The misunderstanding between Oberon and Puck over the Athenians accounts for well over half of the play, and if not for the Mechanicals’ production of Pyramus and Thisbe, audiences never would have been introduced to the wonderfully bombastic Bottom. Beyond the purely utilitarian purpose for the fairies and Mechanicals, though, is an excellent and unlikely comedic partnership between Robin Goodfellow and Nick Bottom. Both characters, while radically different, strengthen the play through their assorted antics and interactions.
Puck, the Lord of Misrule in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, is mischievous and more than willing to have a laugh at others’ expense, even when the trick has gone too far. Despite Oberon’s chiding, Puck shows no remorse after his careless mistake when applying the flower’s juice on the wrong Athenian’s eyes. Puck merely observes the chaos he creates, and revels in every moment of it. Neither the disarray brought into the four lovers’ lives nor the possible consequences of his actions ever affect what Puck does next. He may be loyal to Oberon, his king, but Puck lives to watch the world fall into madness. This demonstrates his impish character, but not necessarily his twisted sense of humor. Not until he encounters Bottom does Puck’s true nature emerge.
Pompous, egotistic, and comically erroneous is his word usage—Nick Bottom is the perfect victim for one of Puck’s tricks. The antithesis to Puck and his blithe demeanor, Bottom is shown to be overzealous and even unconsciously arrogant. Bottom, instead of actively causing mischief like Puck, is instead unintentionally humorous because of his many fallacies and misfortune. Bottom’s role is supplementary, but regardless of his status as a side character, he remains at the forefront of many of his scenes. Aside from his starring role in the Mechanicals’ play, Bottom is also the casualty of Puck’s greatest prank: changing Bottom’s head into that of a donkey’s and forcing the fairy queen Titania to fall in love with the now zoomorphic Bottom.
This event, apart from being hilarious, establishes the relation between the fairy’s realm and the human’s domain. Whereas the humans are ignorant of the fairies existence, the fairies are intimately aware of the humans and their way of life. The fairies, while not directly involved in the matters of humans, will interfere with the natural course of things...