William Shakespeare wrote A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the end of 16th century. But the play is still popular and is still successfully staged in different theaters. The phenomenon of Shakespeare’s works lies in the fact that all the characters the author had depicted look real with their emotional worldviews and eternal problems. The main theme of this play is love. Undoubtedly, it is the most popular theme of plays, songs and novels at any times throughout the world. Greek tragedies and Roman comedies, modernist novels and Renaissance stories are dedicated to this theme to some extent. Shakespeare devotes a lot of his plays to love. Besides, almost all his Sonnets are dedicated to this topic.
Love is never too old to be written about. But what is more amazing in the Shakespeare’s plays is a character of fool often met in his works. Despite of being heterogeneous by the nature, all the Shakespeare’s fools and clowns have something in common: they are always minor characters and are not fool at all. From the first sight it seems that the character has no wisdom at all and audience laughs loudly at his jokes. A clown or a fool in Shakespeare’s plays has a deeper insight; he understands the nature of people better than anyone else in the play. He either uses is or just put the main character to earth. The example of the fool in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is Puck or Robin Goodfellow.
Puck is not the major character of the play. Yet, he is the driver of it. It is he, who puts the plot into motion and creates it. He is King Oberon’s jester and servant. Apart from his direct duties he also likes playing on humans. And this time his pranks lead to surprising consequences. Though he appears only in the second act of the play the storyline wouldn’t have been moved without the ideas of this little creature. According to the King’s Oberon order:
Fetch me that flower. The herb I showed thee once.
The juice of it on sleeping eye-lids laid
Will make or man or woman madly dote
Upon the next live creature that it sees (Shakespeare, 541-544).
And Puck runs to find the magic flower for his master: “I’ll put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes” (Shakespeare, 548-549). The task was not hard for the little creature. This readiness he went to make a wish of Oberon characterizes him as a good and diligent servant. But it is not his main feature. First of all, Puck is a fairy and fairies are known for their witty jokes. And he decides to make fun over people he met in the forest: Lysander, Demetrius and Helena. He applies the love potion to Demetrius instead of Lysander. This hurts Hermia, who is in love with Demetrius. And it also causes and adventurous night for four lovers in the forest.
Being satisfied with this trick Puck thinks of another prank. He notices a group of amateur actors, who are preparing a play in the honor of Theseus, duke of Athens and Hyppolita, his fiancée. One of them, Nick Bottom turns his attention. Nick is too proud of himself, he thinks he can act anyone in the play, his self-confidence is extraordinary. Practically, he is a bad actor and makes terrible mistakes while pronouncing his lines. Puck decides to punish the weaver for his arrogance. He turns him into a creature with a donkey head. Puck did not reveal his motifs to the audience but it is clear that it is another funny joke for him.
Another plot-driving activity made by the fairy is an application of love potion to Tytania, the wife of Oberon. But unfortunately, the first man Tytania saw after awakening was Bottom with donkey head. The Queen immediately falls in love with him and follows him in the forest. In this situation Puck can be characterized as a careless person. Though he found the flower as quick as possible, he does not think of the consequences his actions might have. He mistakes lovers, apply his magic to ordinary man only because he does not like Nick Bottom and make fun out of his Queen without a fear of being punished. Obviously, it is an example of Shakespeare’s fool, who performs in an insane way and does not obey norms and rules.
Puck’s actions create a plot of the comedy. Besides, during the play he possesses one of the symbols of A Midsummer Night’s Dream – the love potion. The flower took its power to make people fall in love because once a Cupid’s arrow struck in it. And therefore the juice absorbed the magical abilities of the arrow. But in the play the juice is not use properly. The application is rather confusing than persuading the audience in the pure nature of love. The potion becomes the symbol of chaos in human’s life, of blind love and its undeniable power. Love makes people to behave irrationally and it’s what Shakespeare demonstrates in his play. And Puck interacts with this symbol in the most active way among all other characters. It is his chaotic behavior leads to misunderstandings in the play. He applies potion to Demetrius and to Tytania.
Though he is not the main character of the play, he remains of the key one. He has the sense of humour, he is restless and wit and he has the ability to appear in the right place and time. Besides, he does not feel guilt of his actions though he is the only responsible for all the misfortunes of the play heroes. Puck is too joyful and optimistic to think of his guilt and sorrow. Furthermore, Puck probably is not able to fall in love but he is always in the thick of all the events dealing with love. This makes Puck to some extend herald of the main theme of the play – the unexpectedness of love and surprising consequences of people’s behavior under the conditions of love. The fairy has the power to make people feel love. And it appears that it is very mighty tool. It changes the life of characters. Luckily, the potion does not work long and after a night Demetrius as well as Tytania realize that their feelings were not real. This also means that Shakespeare wanted to show that real love cannot be obtained with the help of any potions. It is the wish of heart.