William Shakespeare starts with a seemingly unresolvable conflict in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The main characters are lovers who are either unrequited in their love or hassled by the love of another. These lovers are inevitably paired. How does Shakespeare make this happen? He creates many subplots that, before long, are all snarled up into a chaotic knot. So, what actions does Shakespeare take to resolve these new quandaries? He ends up trusting a single key entity with his comedy. It’s only then that he introduces a special character into his world: a mischievous fairy whom is known by the name of Puck. Puck is the catalyst for all these subplots and, indeed, for the entirety of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Try to take Puck out of the play. Is there anyway for the play to survive? No, without the character of Puck, A Midsummer Night’s Dream would be very different from the play as it is today.
The progression of A Midsummer Night’s Dream depends on Puck in many ways. Working backwards, there are two major instances throughout the play that would be forever changed with the loss of Puck. What would happen if Puck were only there for the beginning of the play? Half of the comedic quality of the play would disappear without Puck’s farcical reaction to Bottom. For who, but Puck, would see Bottom and dislike his attitude enough to give him the head of an ass? Taking away this disfigurement would also cause King Oberon to feel less sympathetic towards his Titania when she falls in love with a mere mortal, instead of the monster. Though this
would have cost the play its comedic tone, there is a question of even greater import. Where would the play go without Puck altogether? King Oberon, in a power struggle with his lovely wife, Titania, devises a plan to gain possession of the changeling child she protects. This plan is dependent on Puck. Were it not for Puck, who would King Oberon use to fetch him the flower containing the ever potent love-juice? As it is said, King Oberon has quite a bit of power over Puck; Puck only ever listens to his King Oberon. Therefore, Oberon is very secure in his decision to ask Puck. Without Puck, it is safe to assume there is none whom Oberon would trust with the task, save himself. And if Oberon were the one to distribute the love-juice he would surely not mistake the Athenian youth, thereby cutting out half of the play.
Even if Puck is in the play, if he is changed in any way, the play would mutate as well. Shakespeare has many trickster characters; Puck is one of those troublesome sprites. Unlike some, however, Puck is one of the more benign pranksters of Shakespeare’s. This is seen when he is placed beside Maria, Shakespeare’s prankster of Twelfth Night. Maria is conniving where Puck is cunning. They both use practical jokes as a source of amusement. They both want a good laugh. However, Puck does not discriminate where Maria does. It does not matter to him whether his victim is fairy or mortal....