A protagonist is defined as ‘the principal character in a literary work’; the main character, the leading actor or the principal role. Personally I would not describe Puck as a protagonist; it is hard to decipher who Shakespeare intended to be the main protagonist because the play follows threestory lines: the lovers, the rude mechanicals’ play and the disruption between Titania and Oberon. Each story has its own main characters; however, Puck features and is involved in each of them. On describing Puck I prefer the term central character, or the most significant character, Puck is in control of the plot and outcome of the play.
We are first introduced to Puck in Act 2 Scene 1 on hisencounter with one of Titania’s fairies. The fairy describes Puck as ‘that shrewd and knavish sprite’ (II.1.33) and goes on to name his previous mischievous antics. Puck agrees with the fairy and further recounts his mischievous antics, ‘and sometimes I lurk in a gossip’s bowl’ (II.1.47). The antics which Puck gets up to present him as a naughty, rascally sprite, ‘mislead night-wanderers,laughing at their harm,’(II.1.39) Puck’s antics create amusement for him, and furthermore they highlight his mischievous, rascally character. In superstitious Shakespearean times the typical audience believed in fairies and sprites. Therefore Puck’s role as a mischievous sprite would have been convincing and perhaps just as plausible for today’s audience; it is easier to associate the causes andoutlines of such a plot with a ‘knavish sprite’ rather than fate, accident or fortune. The association of fairies and magic within the story makes it much more exciting, and within this Puck is most definitely the central character, he uses his magic to manipulate and cause amusing chaos within the play. Puck’s rascally, inventive and waggish spirit sets many of the play’s affairs into motion andfollowing his initial appearance the action within the play begins, brought on by his naughty pranks and disastrous, untimely mistakes. However, although Puck’s behaviour is naughty we must also remember that Puck also displays loyalty and obedience through obeying his order’s from Oberon, he ‘jests to Oberon’ and ‘makes him smile’ whilst providing his services. Puck’s obedience can be observed in Act 2Scene 1 when Oberon asks Puck to fetch the flower known as ‘love-in-idleness’, ‘I’ll put a girdle round about the earth in forty minutes!’(II.1.175) Puck gets straight to work, aiming to please his master.
Some may criticise Shakespeare’s choice of name for Puck, ‘Robin Goodfellow’, and to back this up they claim that Puck is not actually an entirely good character, contrasting with the Good inGoodfellow. However, I feel that this name is interesting and well chosen. In Shakespearean times Puck was the name given to a demon, goblin or troublesome fairy, so the name Goodfellow contrasted with the Shakespearean audience’s beliefs.
Through out the play Puck is rarely the main focus on stage, he generally appears in the background of each plot causing mischief, for example, he appearswhilst dropping the love potion on Lysander’s eyes:
‘Thou shalt know the man
By the Athenian garments he hath on.’ (II.1.263)
Unfortunately, although abiding by his master’s instructions and following his description, Puck unfortunately mistakes the Athenian, for Oberon had intended Demetrius to be fooled by the love potion not Lysander. This simple,unlucky mistake adds further complications to the lovers’ story. On realising Puck’s mistake Oberon quickly has it corrected, thus Demetrius has his eyes dabbed with the potion. This error on Puck’s part , completely changes the direction of this love puzzle: to begin with both Demetrius and Lysander love Hermia and poor Helena’s love for Demetrius is unrequited. Puck has caused chaos, ‘made...